Kristi Nichols-Shopbell of 3 North Vines
As a lifelong Michigander, Kristi Nichols-Shopbell grew up with a love for the state’s natural attributes, from its four seasons to the plentiful ways to enjoy the water. Kristi attended Michigan State University and met her husband Nate in a wine tasting elective class.
That serendipitous meeting led to a shared dream of making wine together for a living. In 2007, the couple purchased farm property in Croswell and planted grapes a year later. Opening its doors in 2014, 3 North Vines has grown to offer a variety of wines and hard ciders at its vineyard and tasting room.
Seven years later, Kristi and Nate expanded the business to include a second location – a taphouse and eatery in Lexington. Their family has also grown, welcoming two sons who are growing up on the Croswell vineyard property.
Where did you grow up in Michigan, and when did your interest in wine begin?
I have always lived in Michigan and have always stayed because it's my home. I grew up in Marine City, where I fell in love with the water. As kids we were swimming in the St. Clair River all summer long. After graduation from high school, I went to MSU for five years majoring in plant science, and met my husband Nate Shopbell, also a Michigander who grew up in DeWitt. In college I took a couple of electives and wine tasting was one of them. The wine tasting class started Nate and I on a tour of Michigan vineyards, and eventually into wine making.
What brought you to where you're living now in the Thumb region?
After college we moved to Plymouth, Nate worked in Dearborn, and I worked in Ann Arbor. That was where we started our planning and learning about starting our own vineyard and winery. We opened 3 North Vines because we had a passion to work for ourselves and we loved vineyards and working outside. Additionally, we really liked the end product of the wine. After several years and lots of searching we found a property in Croswell that met our needs. It had the right weather, proximity to the lake, soil conditions, and close to a tourist town.
How did the winery get its name?
Nate and I met at 3 North Wonders Hall at MSU. We have overcome so many challenges to get where we are that our bedrock relationship is really the true hero of the story.
What was your experience working with the Small Business Development Center?
I have worked with SBDC since 2009 having many wonderful counselors along the way. I was also lucky enough to be offered a spot in the Fast Track Business class in 2013. Recently, SBDC has provided resources for growth like access to specialists in our industry and professionals to help with our website.
3 North Vines opened its taphouse location a couple of years ago. How has your business grown over time and what led to expanding to the Lexington location?
We have always loved the downtown Lexington location. When it was turned into a tasting room many years ago by the Blue Water Winery we always loved going there. It was after we managed to safely stay open during the summer of 2020, it created a good position to expand. At that time, we were presented with an opportunity to join Ryan Mulurinen from Fieldstone Winery to partner on the taphouse location. Since then, Ryan has moved on to bigger things.
What does it mean to you to be a part of Michigan's thriving wine and beer scene, particularly in the Thumb Coast area?
We love Michigan; the east side of the state is home to me. It's exciting to be a small part of a thriving craft beverage community.
Similarly, how do you view your role as a driver for tourism to the Thumb Coast area?
3 North is excited to bring people from all over the world to visit us in Croswell! We have hosted a wedding for a couple. The bride was from Metro Detroit and the groom was from Austria. It was exciting to host their beautiful wedding and have guests coming from around the world. On a regular day we pull from all over the state and Midwest. 3 North offers not only a winery but the vineyard where many of our grapes are grown.
What sets Sanilac County and its community apart from other areas of the state?
We have small town living, with great schools, and we are close to larger urban areas too. We have a thriving arts community, unique festivals, and lots of summer camps. But the natural beauty of the lake, streams, and fields are second to none.
Do you have a favorite wine/cider/beer that you make?
It's like having a favorite kid, but I really like the dry wines.