Left Foot Charley
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Cream’s one and only Michigan producer is Left Foot Charley. It is an honor to represent this winery, which is defining northern Michigan wine. Owner and winemaker Bryan Ulbrich is transforming grapes from small, site-specific vineyards into delicious wines that express purity of fruit and great, balanced acidity.
Bryan Ulbrich moved from the Chicago suburbs to Traverse City in 1993 to craft Riesling. He spent 11 years at one of the area’s pioneer wineries, Peninsula Cellars on Old Mission Peninsula, learning all aspects of production. In 2004, a new vineyard owner called upon Bryan to help him save his Riesling crop from imminent disaster. From this, Ulbrich’s first batch of dry Riesling was born and so was Left Foot Charley.
The winery produces around 6,000 cases (as of 2015) and is located in the former Northern Michigan Asylum for the Insane in Traverse City, Michigan. The urban environment has served to bring the terroir to the people. Left Foot Charley has a committed focus on white wine varietals, hard cider, and sparkling wine.
Throughout Northern Michigan there are numerous small vineyards owned and farmed by individuals who do not have wineries. The grapes are often sent to giant blends. Many of these viticulturists are excellent farmers and deserve to see their work turned into wine. Owning no vineyards himself, Bryan has teamed up with Northern Michigan’s best 18 growers to produce wines that display the range of aroma and flavor found among the glacially tilled hills of our appellations. Lake effect, soil composition, vineyard aspect, and grower mentality shape these flavors. Bryan works only with growers who take pride in their vineyard. As he states, “When they have that pride, they want to taste that in the bottle.” Each vineyard ranges in size from one to six acres. The growers sell only to LFC, and the commitments go beyond simple cash per ton arrangements. Through mutually established goals, their farms are defining terroir in the appellations. In the true nature of partnership, as these wines get discovered and demand for them increases, the growers will be paid a higher price for their grapes. This reflects the true spirit of partnership, for as the winery grows and prospers, so do the farmers.