Grand Rapids entrepreneurs Jonathan Jelks, Jamiel Robinson and recording artist Willie “Willie The Kid” Jackson are partnering to launch Motu Viget Spirits, a wine and spirits company that will develop and release sparkling wine, wine and other spirits in collaboration with local beverage companies.
“The concept is to come up with really good beverages that are affordable but of the highest quality,” Jelks said. “We think it’s an extremely exciting time to participate in the craft spirits industry, and we’re looking forward to developing a type of beverage that is not currently in the market.”
Motu Viget Spirits has been working with St. Julian Wine Co. to develop its first sparkling wine, Motu Viget Brut, which will be available for sale in June.
“We are excited to work with a legacy company this prestigious to create our wine and spirits company,” Robinson said. “St. Julian is a long-standing, family-owned business, highly decorated in the industry that uses 100% Michigan-sourced products. As proud Michiganders, we identify with that sense of pride."
Justin Weeks, marketing director for St. Julian, said developing a sparkling wine for Motu Viget was a natural fit for the winery.
“Their vision for creating quality, yet affordable sparkling wine fits into our philosophy," Weeks said.
Motu Viget Brut will be available at local retailers, bars and restaurants. It is produced and bottled by St. Julian and will be made available through St. Julian’s distribution footprint.
Jelks said Motu Viget is dabbling in the concept of partnering with established beverage makers to get its own feet wet in the industry before establishing a brick-and-mortar presence. He did not rule out the possibility of such down the road.
“Having ownership in the market is very important; however, we want to learn and gain experience with entities who have been around — learn the lay of the land while still developing our own brand,” Jelks said.
While not functionally related to Motu Viget Spirits, Jelks also is developing a new restaurant and bar in downtown Grand Rapids with a group of business partners.
The team, consisting of Jelks and Robinson, as well as Jamal Chilton, Lacy Jones and A.J. Hill IV, plans to open Ambience GR in the space formerly occupied by the bar Raggs to Riches inside the Ledyard Building, 125 Ottawa Ave. NW, according to an earlier Business Journal report.
The goal of Ambience GR is to provide “diverse, quality entertainment in an enjoyable and pleasant atmosphere.” The casual restaurant will serve as a venue for dancing, small concerts, comedy shows and other special events.
Most recently, Ambient GR received a retail incubation grant of up to $45,000 from the Grand Rapids Downtown Development Authority.