It is almost a sin, if we don’t stop at MAWBY Sparkling while we are up in the Traverse City area of Michigan. You can find Mawby out near Suttons Bay and whether you know it as L. Mawby Vineyards or M. Lawrence, one thing is for sure you will have a fun time visiting the winery and tasting/drinking the wines. I have probably written about Mawby the most of all the wineries in Michigan and part of that is because my Bride has fallen in love with their products. In 1973 Larry Mawby founded Mawby Vineyards with a small parcel of land. He had a passion to make wine and that passion led him to now only making sparkling wines from the Nineties on to date. In 2009, he began a partnership with the Laing Family; but I have often heard with respect from the other wineries that Larry Mawby is considered the “Godfather” or the “Dean” on winemaking in the region. In conversations over the years with winemakers they all hint at, but never describe the heart and largesse the man has, as well as his love for the local wine industry.
While he is a passionate winemaker and a conservationist, he has whimsy and fun at the winery. The tasting room is built on a hillside and parts of the roof line are almost adjacent to the slope of the hill, so there is a sign asking “No fiddling on our roof.” We have never been there when it hasn’t been busy, there are the tour busses, but mostly when I look at the parking lot, it is individual cars there to do some tasting and most of the time buying. Because the winery makes sparkling wine in both the Charmat Method that is so common in the New World, but they also make wine in the Classique Method, but they stress that they do not make aerated wines. The winery is open year-round, because some of the wines take from one to seven years to produce, and some of the wine is Non-Vintage which allows them to maintain a certain taste and style year after year, just like they do in Champagne, France. While I have never been to France, I would venture to say that the tasting rooms there are not as jovial and carefree as at Mawby, and when one tips the host/pourer the sound of bells fill the air and everyone knows that somebody was happy with their experience.
The day that we were there, they were serving tastings from ten different sparkling wines and three ciders (which are also sparkling), the wines just like the tasting room are never still. I also didn’t pay any attention if there was a fee for tasting or a limit, because I knew going in that my Bride was on a mission to get some wine. The first wine that we tried was from the proprietary “Winemakers Selection” and never to be repeated. The Freestyle is a Semi-Dry Rosé made from fifty percent Chambourcin and twenty-five percent Marquette and twenty-five percent La Crescent (a complex hybrid developed by the University of Minnesota and released in 2002 and Saint-Pepin and Muscat Hamburg are two of the grapes that were used). The wine had a distinct deep pink color and a nice sweet finish that most people could have without any problems. The next wine was the Sandpiper Semi-Dry NV, which we have had before, and is only available at the winery, it is aged in Stainless Steel and undergoes two fermentations and it a blend of Chardonnay, Vignoles, Cayuga, Riesling, Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and Traminette. I think that this could be the perfect everyday sparkler as it would pair easily with most dishes. We then tried the Green Semi-Dry NV also done in the Charmat Method and is a blend of Cayuga and Riesling in a more fruit forward taste and finish. The Us NV was a classic blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, aged in Stainless Steel, then later blended with some reserve wine, aged and with an added dosage to maintain a certain finish and bottled. I would recommend this wine to anyone that likes a nice traditional tasting sparkler with some fruit in the finish, but dry and crisp. We had the Grace Brut Rosé NV done in the Classic Method using Pinot Noir grapes which were pressed whole cluster and fermented in Stainless Steel and then blend with reserve wine, bottled and aged and at degorgement a small amount of Regent is added to the bottle. This wine reminded me of the classic “Pink Champagnes” of my youth with some great taste and a very pretty soft pinky-salmon color. The last wine that we did at the tasting was the Talis Brut Estate Grown Traditional Method NV, a blend of Vignoles, Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and Chardonnay grapes that were hand picked and pressed whole cluster. The juice was fermented in Stainless Steel and blended with reserve wines kept in a solera system of oak barrels, and then fermented and aged in the bottle with the classic degorgement. The wine had the pretty soft “gold” color with a deep rich taste and finish, evoking some toast to the pallet. A wonderful time was spent there and I guess the staff thought I was old, as they carried the cartons to the car for us and we were on our way home.