Since opening in 2004, Winemaker Bryan Ulbrich and the crew at Left Foot Charley have produced 10 vintages. On June 14, 2014 from noon – 3 PM, you will have a chance to taste wines from many of these vintages when they celebrate their 10th birthday with the Left Foot Charley Cellar Raid. This tasting will include a minimum of 10 wines along with charcuterie, cheese and “dramatic readings of their back labels.”
The concept for Left Foot Charley was born a decade ago when Bryan was called in to rescue a vineyard that had been recently sold to a new owner and was sliding quickly into a state of disaster. In exchange for his work to save the vineyard, he was able to harvest a small crop and create a single dry Riesling. In the process, Bryan realized that there are numerous small vineyards in our area that are owned and farmed by individuals who do not have wineries. Many of these viticulturists are excellent farmers, and Bryan felt they deserved to see their hard work in the vineyard turned into wine that display our our region’s unique terroir, the range of aroma and flavor produced by the unique soils, climate and farming techniques of these vineyards.
That commitment to reflecting the character of the fruit from many vineyards, gave them the freedom to do something that no other winery had done at that time, break the estate winery model and create the area’s first “urban winery.” Bryan and his wife Jen located their winery in Traverse City in what was at the time still an out of the way place: The Village at Grand Traverse Commons.
It has proven to be a wise choice, creating a clientele that is more balanced than most area wineries enjoy. “One of the most surprising things to me is how much the local population is appreciating and drinking our wines,” Bryan explains. “To see our neighbors and friends coming in is a great thing. It’s not just tourists, Traverse City is drinking our wines – it’s one of the original local foods!”
The Left Foot Charley model has worked, producing an impressive array of wines, a string of medals including two straight Jefferson Cups, and national write-ups including a recent New York Times nod. A decade into Left Foot Charley, Bryan has produced around 100 wines. While it’s nearly impossible to select a favorite, Bryan says, “We have a 2008 Longcore Riesling that’s high on my list right now. 2008 was the quintessential Michigan vintage. We had good heat, but were able to retain acidity. The 2008 Longcore is a medium sweet Riesling and I’m really happy with the way it’s aged. Wines like Riesling with a little sweetness become fascinating when they’ve spent some time in the bottle – rich and full.”
You’ll get to see some of that age if you choose to join him on the 14th, when Bryan will even open his last magnum of 2004 Dry Riesling! The Left Foot Charley Cellar Raid is $20 per person and you can click that link for all the details and keep up with them on their website and on Facebook.