The Leelanau Ticker asked local wine industry folks what it’s like working on their side of the bar and how they keep guests in good spirits, even in challenging times.
Like many of the world’s famous wine regions — Bordeaux in France and Italy’s Piedmont region, for example — Michigan’s Leelanau Peninsula is on the 45th parallel, making it an excellent area for producing fantastic wine.
One long year after the first case of COVID-19 was confirmed in Michigan, some Northern Michigan businesses have closed their doors permanently and others are still struggling. Yet despite the fear and uncertainty caused by the pandemic, or perhaps in defiance of it, there are also stories of success and hope.
TRAVERSE CITY, MI – With its Celtic décor and the owners’ deep Irish heritage, there’s no doubt you’ll feel a bit of an Old Country welcome when you step inside the tasting room of Rove Estate Vineyard & Winery just west of Traverse City.
The Gallagher family has been farming for six generations in the Grand Traverse area. McKenzie and Creighton Gallagher have carried on the tradition in a way that’s both old and new.
When many think of the Midwest, its diverse wine industry doesn’t always come to mind. “America’s Heartland” is better known for its endless corn and wheat fields, abundant dairy farms and brutal winters. But for generations, farmland has also been cultivated to grow table and wine grapes. Vintners and winemakers create unique, noteworthy wines on breathtaking vineyards.
Michigan’s Climate is perfect for varietals such as Riesling, Pinot Grigio and Gewurztraminer that thrive in cooler temperature. However, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot prove popluar here, too. In addition, the northernmost region of grape growing in Michigan is at the 45th parallel, the same as Bordeaux or Chianti.
Michigan is the fourth largest grape-growing state in the country and its wineries attract more than 800,000 visitors annually (in non-pandemic years, that is!). While you can find delicious fruit wines and great bottles using hybrid grapes, 70% of grapes grown are Vitus Vinifera, these are the noble, well-known international varieties.
“We have always said, we are farmers first,” said McKenzie Gallagher, who built Rove with her husband, Creighton, a sixth-generation farmer. The fact that neither of them started out thinking farming – or wine – would be in their future is something that still makes her shake her head.
“There’s an opportunity any time a business is forced to rethink what they’ve always done. That’s what I’ve tried to embrace,” says McKenzie Gallagher, owner of Rove Estate on M-72 in Traverse City. “It’s a chance to refocus, regroup and kind of change the game.”
“As the highest point on Leelanau Peninsula, you truly get a taste of Northern Michigan with our view. From frozen lakes to the peaks of snowy mountains and dusted sand dunes…the view is covered in white and completely mesmerizing,”
“Our Pinot Noir is going to be a popular wine this winter, and it’s the warm red that you’re looking for,” Jarivs said.
Podcast #306-McKenzie Gallagher of Rove Estate, Traverse City, Michigan -Life Between the vines podcast
“Creighton and McKenzie Gallagher have a long family history in farming, and made that leap in a very short time. We spoke with McKenzie at the very busy tasting room and learned what the future will look like.”
“Not everyone can say that they’ve taken their snowshoes to the highest point in Leelanau County, but those who can have probably more than earned the glass of wine that awaits them inside the tasting room at Rove Estate.” -MLive.com
“Explore Rove Point Trail on skis or snowshoes…Thaw out afterward with warm apple cider and a small plate at the tasting room” -The Record Eagle
“At Rove Estate Vineyard, those south-facing slopes that let the sunshine seep deep into the grapes have a lot to do with not only the flavor of their wines, but they create the perfect destination from which to enjoy them.” -MLive.com
“Rove Estate Vineyard & Winery in northern Michigan is an absolute staple of all things Traverse City, therefore may be one of the most iconic locations of them all.” -Taste the Local Difference
“Rove’s modern-looking white tasting room is perched 1,165 feet above sea level — at reportedly the highest point in Leelanau County — affording its guests a magnificent view of the surrounding greenery.” -Hour Detroit
“Explore Michigan’s diverse wine scene, one of the country’s most exciting developing regions” -The chicago tribune
“This refreshing wine offers up the aroma of boxwood accompanied by pear, anise seed, lemon and green apple notes.” -Chicago Tribune
“Rove Estate Vineyard and Winery has quickly become one of our favorite stops for many reasons.” -TC Wine & Beer Tours