- January 21, 2007 · 2:41 pm
Forty-Five North Winery is a lifelong Grossnickle dream that has now come of age. Northern Michigan, especially Leelanau and Grand Traverse Counties are an exceptionally beautiful area and a special place for the Grossnickle family. We have visited for 45 plus years and have owned a cottage on Little Traverse Lake since 1983. Skiing, hiking, boating, and fishing have produced memories for Lori, Steve, Brian & Hildy, Eric & Alanna, Katie, their many friends and now Mica and Katarina. Visionaries in the early 80s realized that the Cherry Capital of the world, being a micro climate, could also produce vinifera, i.e., grapes indigenous to the old world. And, it shares its position on the 45th parallel with Bourdeaux, France. Since 1983 our eyes have witnessed the blossoming of a wine industry and a true AVA (American Viticultural Area). The dream was to join the cadre of 13 winemakers and their wineries.
Before starting I had one of my best high school friends, Maynard Johnston, M.D., visit, taste, and give his opinions. He is part owner of a Napa vineyard and has been in the California wine business since the early 1970s. Maynard’s credentials are deep, having judged for the California Fair as well as many other areas, rubbing elbows with the likes of Robert Parker, Scott Harvey, and Kevin Zraly. Obviously his opinions are highly valued and he tasted what he described as some world class wines. One then needs to find a winemaker with the expertise and the local knowledge of the AVA, and Forty-Five North is fortunate to have Doug Matthies in that role. He has worked with Chateau Fontaine, a Matthies’ winery as well as Good Harbor Winery. I personally love his Pinot Gris, but he certainly has major experience with the other whites and reds of Michigan.
Thanks to John Peppler, a personal friend and realtor, the next step was finding and purchasing 100 acres of some of the most beautiful Leelanau County real estate, the Dean Robb farm which is located exactly on the 45th parallel, hence the winery’s name, Forty-Five North. Dean, also a personal friend and an attorney, has been most supportive of the winery project. The 10,000 foot production building is completed and production will begin this fall with purchased grapes. Our first plantings this spring will include 5 acres each of Pinot Gris, Riesling, and Chardonnay. We are hoping to have a tasting room by 2008, the motif being that of northern Michigan and honoring the greatest generation ever. Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good, and last fall we purchased a beautiful painting by Mary Fuscaldo that epitomizes the beauty of the vineyards in Leelanau. Serendipitously it was chosen for this year’s wine trail brochure and she has graciously allowed us to use it on our labels. We are in contact with several other local artists and we plan to start an artist’s series for our labels. Please come visit, taste, relax, enjoy the north, and feel assured that 100 plus acres will always remain as you recall them, pristine North. Rest assured we will endeavor to make the winery as organic as possible.
Steven Grossnickle and family