PAW PAW, Mich. (WOOD) — St. Julian Winery & Distillery in Paw Paw has finished another phase of its renovations and purchased new equipment, a project it started around six years ago.

“We made a decision to … increase not only the scale of the enterprise, but also the quality of the products that we produce,” John Braganini, the chairman of the executive team and one of the owners of the winery, said. “… It’s been a long journey, and we’re still not finished, but I’d say we’re about two-thirds of the way there.”

The winery on Kalamazoo Street near Commercial Avenue has replaced over 1 million gallons’ worth of tanks, purchasing various sizes of tanks ranging from 4,500 gallons to 25,000 gallons. They also installed four 70,000 gallon, 85-foot-tall silos, vice president of winemaking and another owner Nancie Oxley explained. The new tanks are better suited to control temperatures during fermentation.

  • A tank being moved at St. Julian Winery & Distillery in Paw Paw. (Courtesy St. Julian Winery & Distillery)
  • A tank being moved at St. Julian Winery & Distillery in Paw Paw. (Courtesy St. Julian Winery & Distillery)
  • New tanks at St. Julian Winery & Distillery in Paw Paw. (Courtesy St. Julian Winery & Distillery)
  • New tanks at St. Julian Winery & Distillery in Paw Paw. (Courtesy St. Julian Winery & Distillery)
  • A new catwalk at St. Julian Winery & Distillery in Paw Paw. (Courtesy St. Julian Winery & Distillery)
  • Inside St. Julian Winery & Distillery in Paw Paw. (Courtesy St. Julian Winery & Distillery)

St. Julian installed two new refrigeration units and three crossflow filters. The filters are more eco-friendly, Oxley said, as they have no media waste.

Using a grant from the Michigan Department of Agriculture, St. Julian also bought a second centrifuge.

Crews put in new flooring at St. Julian Winery & Distillery in Paw Paw. (Courtesy St. Julian Winery & Distillery)
Crews put in new flooring at St. Julian Winery & Distillery in Paw Paw. (Courtesy St. Julian Winery & Distillery)

“We were delighted to receive that grant to continue our premium winemaking,” Oxley said.

All of the new equipment helps the winery become more efficient and produce better-quality wine. With the centrifuge, crushed grapes can go into the fermentation process fairly quickly, whereas before they had to settle for 48 hours.

Along with the new equipment, St. Julian’s main cellar was redone.

“If you were at St. Julian even two months ago and did a tour, it looks much different than what it does now,” Oxley said. “… The efficiency is undeniably some of the best that we have here in the state of a workflow for wine and how it works through the winery, which feeds not only fermentations, but also into our bottling line. And it looks great too.”

Crews added a cat walk, creating a safer system to get to the top of each tanks as compared to the ladders crews used to use, and put in new flooring and drains. They also replaced the roof and added skylights.

New tanks at St. Julian Winery & Distillery in Paw Paw. (Courtesy St. Julian Winery & Distillery)
New tanks at St. Julian Winery & Distillery in Paw Paw. (Courtesy St. Julian Winery & Distillery)

“It’s been great for our cellar workers to have that natural light aspect in the cellar versus having it be a dark dungeon,” Oxley said.

Altogether, the renovations at St. Julian Winery & Distillery has totaled around $10 million. More improvements will be coming, like improving its bottling line and expanding its distillation.

Braganini said it’s important to him to continue improving the winery that’s been in his family for 102 years.

“I would like to see this company continue on for generations to come,” he said. “I think we have a great thing going here and I think that we serve the community well. … I think we’re contributing greatly to the beverage industry as well as to the people that work here.”

Oxley said she hopes the winery, which took home several awards in this year’s Michigan Governo’s Cup competition, will help put Michigan on the map in the industry.

“Michigan is a young wine industry in terms of what they’re doing all over the world. We know that they make great wines in Europe and everybody talks about California wines, and that’s what they see in the grocery store,” she said. “We just want to put Michigan on the map. And in order to do that, we had to continually push ourselves with investments, with innovation, with creativity and with our business performance measurements. And as we continually do that with this team, I think the sky’s the limit. So we’re all excited here to keep on going to the next a hundred years.”