Several Northern Michigan winemakers are in Washington for the 2010 Riesling Rendezvous, showing off their world-class Rieslings alongside those from famed wine regions like Alsace, Germany and Austria July 11-13. (Click here to check out our preview story on the event.)
Bryan Ulbrich, owner and winemaker at Left Foot Charley in downtown Traverse City, kindly offered to help us live vicariously by providing updates from the front lines. Here’s the first installment, received Sunday evening:
We landed safely in Seattle on Saturday and ended up on an airport shuttle with wine writer Deborah Grossman. Of course, we talked shop and passed out maps and business cards. It’s always fun to change people's perception of “the Mitten.”
That night, we met Sommelier Yasher Shayan at the great Sea Star restaurant. After two rounds of oysters, bubbly, Gruner Veltliner, local Pinot and wild salmon, Yasher graciously offered to chauffeur us around the Woodinville wine region. We spent the midday watching the World Cup final at eight different wineries, tasted great wines, met several owners and winemakers and bought a few bottles, too.
Woodinville is essentially a collection of wineries in a strip mall and warehouse environment. It's striking how different the Michigan tasting rooms are. I recognize that Washington has the chateau environment, too. But I was struck by how easy it all seemed. They don't have to explain and justify why grapes grow here. We spend so much effort trying to convince everyone that Michigan wine is real. As an urban winery, I totally understand the minimalist perspective.
I was stunned by how their tasting rooms are there only to present their wines, which are damn impressive. They don't have to impress with their surroundings because the customers accept that wine can be made well in areas outside of Bordeaux and the Napa/Sonoma complex. But then again, I guess that's why we are here: to demonstrate why Michigan is such a great, honest value, once again.
Left Foot Charley