Datus Kelley planted Isabella grapes on Kelley’s Island in 1842 and founded the wine-growing industry on Kelley’s Island. Kelley’s son-in-law, Charles Carpenter, began operating the first commercial winery on the island in 1850. The impressive solid stone walls of the ruins of Kelley Island Wine Company were built in 1871-1872 and had the capacity to store 500,000 gallons of wine. Old equipment and cellars can still be seen at the ruins today.
Frank Hauser worked for Kelley’s Island Wine Co. until he established his own winery, Monarch Winery, in 1904, on the former site of Sweet Valley Winery after it moved to the mainland. Monarch Winery is also in ruins, but in 1981, Kelley’s Island Wine Company was reborn and continues as the only winery on the Island today. The old Kelley Island Wine Co. plaque behind the bar boasts that it makes “Pure Native Wines” from island grapes. The modern “Australian Outback” building built by Kirt and Robby Zettler is nothing like the old castle-like winery. The Zettlers offer vinifera wines, as well as Sunset Pink and Coyote, a nod to those sweet island wines.