Northern Michigan has offered the best of a vacation end point for three generations of Grossnickles. The Traverse City area provides the midwest with perhaps the best in hiking, swimming, boating, golfing, and a just plain relaxing atmosphere for all ages. And hence, was visited almost every year since the sixties.
After leaving the U.S. Navy and establishing an ophthalmology practice in Indiana, we as a family re-acquainted ourselves with the area and bought a lake front property on Little Traverse Lake in Leelanau County in 1983. At the time, there were only a few wineries in the area and, since that time, we have seen the industry flourish and gain respect across the country. As the cherry capitol of the U.S. and its unique peninsular micro-climate, Leelanau County truly is capable of growing vinifera grapes just as much as another area along the 45th parallel 4500 miles to the east, Bordeaux, France.
After the head of the California State Fair wine judges, Maynard Johnston, an old high school friend, confirmed the quality of wine production in Leelanau County, it only seemed reasonable to start a winery. With the help of John Peppler, a realtor in the county, a perfect piece of Leelanau, the 100-acre Dean Robb farm was purchased in 2006. The 45th parallel passes directly through the vineyard and hence the name of the fourteenth winery in the county, Forty-Five North Vineyard & Winery. A total of 37 acres of grapes have been planted along with three acres of red raspberries. A state of the art production facility was built that can accommodate a 20,000 case per year production. Jay Briggs is the Winemaker, Alanna Grossnickle is the General Manager, and Channing Sutton is the Tasting Room Manager. As we enter our third year in production, we're proud to say many of our wines have already won many gold, double gold, best of class, and best white wine awards in several competitions and it's our goal to carry this momentum for years to come.
The Tasting Room
I and others have tasted in many winery tasting rooms, and to be sure, some tasting experiences are indelibly etched in our memory. To this day, I fondly remember tasting in the original caves dug in 1870 for the Coppola winery and can recall the wonderful bouquet and taste of their reserve Cabernet Sauvignon. On the other hand, I can recall, but will not name the lesser experiences, yet they are etched as well. The major role of the tasting room then becomes an extension of the wine itself, pleasant surroundings and personnel complement one's sensory experiences and help lock in an overall grade. Having grown up in the midwest, I fondly recall my experiences in and around my home in Indiana, barns and antiques, parts of nostalgic panache of childhood memories.
Thusly, a barn as a tasting room seemed only appropriate, and not contrived as French, Italian, or even Californian. We began the process with the dismantling of an antique barn in Wyoming, MI, which was moved and re-assembled on the winery premises. However, because of structural concerns and commercial building codes, this is being completed as an Agricultural building, but yet still over 120 years old.
Our new tasting room is a new structure from Beam Barns, LLC, that is hewn by the Amish in Ohio and will be re-assembled on site as well, 75 feet from the other barn. It is a post and beam structure and, after seeing Justin Carlson's work with other barns, I am confident this will be a very positive tasting experience, rivaling the aforementioned memories. Tim King, also a trusted craftsmen, will be on the project and now that we have Fred Campbell of JML Design Group in Traverse City joining the team as architect, Forty-Five North can offer a top shelf tasting experience for its clients. While our new tasting room is being constructed, we invite you to stop by and taste in our temporary space in the production building—click here for hours and directions.
— Steven Grossnickle, Owner