Michigan winemakers in the national spotlight

Three Grand Traverse region winemakers have recently been recognized by wine industry authorities.

Vineyard & Winery Management magazine has recognized Larry Mawby of L. Mawby Vineyards in Suttons Bay, Mich., as one of the 20 most admired people in the North American wine industry. Larry has been a prominent leader in the development of the wine industry in the Grand Traverse area since the mid-1970s. He has worked closely with Michigan State University Extension and local fruit industry groups to further the cause of growers and winemakers in the area to produce quality grapes and world-class wines recognized in Michigan, the United States and the world.

Mawby is noted for thoughtful insights on vineyard management and winemaking, always focused on sustainability, and he has a keen ability to foresee production and marketing trends. MSU associate professor of viticulture Paolo Sabbatini contributed to the article and provided this quote from Mawby who provided Paolo with this advice when starting out his career: “Paolo, work in extension projects that our industry will understand in five years, and work in research projects that we will understand in 10 years.” This award is much deserved and we are so pleased that Mawby continues to work and innovate in our region as a leader always interested in helping neighboring wineries improve.

Into Wine, an online publication that provides wine recommendations and other wine information, included two Michigan winemakers on their listing of the 100 most influential U.S. winemakers for 2013. Lee Lutes of Black Star Farms came in at number 65, and Byan Ulbrich of Left Foot Charley placed at number 98. Both started their Michigan winemaking careers at Peninsula Cellars on Old Mission Peninsula and eventually moved on to other local ventures.

Lutes has been the winemaker for Black Star Farms since 1998. Lutes is a prominent leader in winemaking and the development of distilled products from local fruits. He is also known to play a big role in the marketing and sales of Black Star Farms products. He has often helped with educational programs conducted by MSU and industry organizations, and trained several winemakers and interns during his tenure at Black Star Farm whom are currently employed by other local wineries. Lutes also serves on the Leelanau Horticultural Society Board and the Michigan Wine and Grape Industry Council.

Ulbrich founded Left Foot Charley in 2004. The winery operation, located in a renovated building in the Grand Traverse Commons, is the only winery in the region that is situated in an urban setting. Despite that the tasting room is located in Traverse City, Mich., visitors still have an enjoyable agricultural experience because Ulbrich strives to make wines that are an expression of the individual vineyards and growers that produced the fruit. His wines are top notch and they are rooted in the growers and the lands in which they are made.

Recognition like these awards is a big honor for these individuals as well as our emerging wine industry here in Michigan. Within the state, these winemakers were already fairly well known, but in discussing these winemakers’ accomplishments with Sabbatini, he astutely noted “for an industry producing 0.14 percent of the total U.S. wine production, having 2 percent of the winemakers recognized in this list is a huge achievement!”

Congratulations to the three Michigan winners – we certainly will raise our glasses to you!

Read the full Vineyard & Winery Management article on Larry Mawby’s recognition and Into Wines’ complete list and full comments on Lee Lutes and Bryan Ulbrich.

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