Northern United Brewing Company in Traverse City is serving up something new with the recent release of its “Bonafide Wine” collection -- crafted primarily with grapes grown on the Old Mission Peninsula.
Most of the grapes for the line are grown either in the nearby estate vineyards of Peninsula Cellars or the 3-acre Bonafide Vineyard – one of many properties in the area developed by peninsula natives and childhood friends Jon Carlson and Greg Lobdell. Their desire to collaborate with like-minded, passionate and talented people led them to build a partnership with another Old Mission Peninsula childhood friend and classmate – local grower and Peninsula Cellars winemaker, John Kroupa. Although the men have been friends since the ripe age of 7, it has been over the past three years that they have cultivated their relationships to produce the award-winning Bonafide brand.
“One of the things that drew us to John as our winemaker is his reputation and tradition as a grower – a farmer – on the peninsula,” says Carlson. “He knows the intimate features of the land here – the curves of its hills, the make-up of its soil, the cool breezes that blow in off the bay and the heat that the summer sun delivers – and he uses that knowledge and his passion for what he does to create these amazing varietals of wine that are absolutely delicious.”
• Peninsula Red: A blend of Cabernet Franc, Lemberger, Baco Noir and Marchel Foch, the medium body wine boasts fruit flavors like black current, blackberry and blueberry, with a hint of beef jerky.
• Cabernet Franc Rose’: Like a glass full of strawberries, blended with raspberries and a hint of watermelon, one might also detect an edginess of spicy herbaceous flavor reminiscent of rhubarb-custard pie.
• Chardonnay: This unoaked wine boasts sweet spices, with hints of cinnamon and ripe green apple in the background with the crisp finish of ripe pear. The lack of oak exaggerates the fruit components to really showcase the grape. **Bronze Medalist – Michigan Wine & Spirits Competition 2010.
• Peninsula White: A blend of Cayuga, Riesling and Pinot Blanc bring out the light tropical fruit tones of this semi-dry wine. One will detect peaches, apricot, lemon curd, orange, pear and grapefruit and a hint of candy (think green sweet tarts).
• Pinto Grigio: With hints of lime and citrus flavors, this wine is clean and crisp. The lingering finish of lime and light minerality make this an enjoyable four-season wine. **Silver Medalist – Michigan Wine & Spirits Competition 2010.
• Dry Riesling: Opening up with light tropicals and a background of floral notes, this wine expresses itself with hints of apricot and pineapple, without the sweetness. **Bronze Medalist – Michigan Wine & Spirits Competition 2010.
• Gewürztraminer: Classic rose petals and white pepper spice carry through on the palate of this youthful and lively wine. A light sweetness rounds out the mouthfeel.
• Late Harvest Riesling: Like tropical fruit candy, with a spicy edge similar to a ripe mango, this wine is like a summer sweet fruit salad in a glass.
Keeping things local – whether it be produce or people – is a personal value that these men all share. Their focus on conservation and sustainability supports a growing trend in farm to table philosophy.
“Peninsula Cellars uses more labor-intensive practices than many farms,” Lobdell says. “All their grapes are harvested by hand, whereas other farms use mechanical harvesters to shake the grapes off the vine. This causes trauma to the fruit and increases waste, as many more grapes fall to the ground. They also use people, instead of pollutant-producing machines to take care of pulling or hoeing weeds and minimize chemical use in their vineyards and gardens, thus reducing the farm’s overall impact on the environment.”
Kroupa holds a horticulture degree from Michigan State University and in late 2006 took on an ownership stake in Peninsula Cellars – which was founded by his parents, Dave and Joan Kroupa. The family also produces about 1.5 million pounds of cherries annually, at its Old Mission Peninsula farms.
Lobdell and Carlson have been working together on various development and design projects since 1995. Their focus has been to repurpose historic buildings around the state of Michigan, recycling them for a second chance at life. Their projects are almost exclusively centered around the culinary industry – and their portfolio includes restaurants, wineries, breweries and distilleries in Traverse City, Ann Arbor and Royal Oak. In all aspects of their operations, they’re dedicated to maintaining a sense of local pride and partnerships with regional producers who are driven by the same business philosophies.
Northern United Brewing Company encompasses the North Peak, Grizzly Peak and Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales craft beer brands; the Bonafide Wines collection; and the soon-to-be-released Civilized Spirits line. NUBC’s philosophy focuses on a dedication to conservation, inspiration and locally sustainable practices. All of the beers, wines and spirits under these brands are produced at either the new 5600-square-foot facility on Old Mission Peninsula adjacent to Mission Table (former Bowers Harbor Inn) restaurant or at the original Jolly Pumpkin facility in Dexter.
Find NUBC products at stores, restaurants, and bars all throughout Michigan, including: North Peak Brewing Company, Mission Table and Jolly Pumpkin Brewery, Blue Tractor Restaurant and Bar, all in Traverse City; and Jolly Pumpkin and Grizzly Peak, Blue Tractor BBQ and Brewery, in Ann Arbor. Bastone, Blue Tractor Brewery and BBQ.