Thursday, June 20, 2013

Michigan's Award-Wining Left Foot Charley Winery Expands Distribution into New York

The 2011 Dry Riesling from Left Foot Charley Winery in Traverse City has been placed on the “Summer of Riesling” wine lists at Paul Grieco’s Hearth Restaurant and three Terroir Wine Bar locations throughout Manhattan. The promotion kicks off June 21 (the first day of summer) and runs through September 21 (the first day of autumn).

"We been honored to receive numerous medals and trophies in competitions for our wines over the years, but the market is the real competition and in a city with such a vibrant wine scene as New York, earning a spot with the world's best is the ultimate gold medal,” says proprietor/winemaker Bryan Ulbrich. “Having a restaurant with quality and vision like Paul Grieco's choose your wine for their list is humbling and exhilarating. Our farmers work diligently for quiet satisfaction and a splash like this is a great recognition of their close relationship with their vineyards."

Grieco created the “Summer of Riesling” concept in 2008. That year, the ONLY white wine that customers to his restaurants could get was Riesling – 30 different wines by the glass and 100 by the bottle – a radical move that has paid off handsomely. Now, more than a dozen other restaurants have jumped on board with the promotion.

With only 500 cases produced, Left Foot Charley’s 2001 Dry Riesling it is a rare find for anyone in NYC. It is being distributed by Bonhomie Wine Imports – a well respected importer and distributor of fine wines in Manhattan.

The fruit for this award-winning wine is grown in three vineyards that exemplify viticulture in Northern Michigan. Spread out along Old Mission Peninsula, Leelanau Peninsula and Antrim County, these vineyards surround the deep water of Grand Traverse Bay.

Ulbrich says he’s also in discussions with distributors in Chicago and Minnesota interested in showcasing Left Foot Charley wines. With wines that consistently sell out, many may question Ulbrich’s reasoning for looking outside of Michigan when it comes to placement.

"We are telling a story that is bigger than a single wine or economic event,” Ulbrich says. “It requires patience to make wine and grow markets. A small step like this is really about the next five to seven years, not this quarter's financial statements. We want our wine to be tasted on the real-world stage because it reflects the beauty of our land and environment. As the world gets their opportunity to taste rare Michigan wine, they will begin to seek us out and reputation will grow. Like most decisions in the winery, this is about the future. We can survive without multi-state distribution but where's the fun in that? Michigan swings above its weight and it is time to let the world know it."

With more than a dozen years of winemaking to his credit at a handful of Northern Michigan wineries, Ulbrich launched his first 200 cases of Riesling under the Left Foot Charley label in 2004. He and his wife, Jennifer, opened Northern Michigan’s first urban winery in tasting room in 2007 on the grounds of the historic Northern Michigan Asylum, now known as The Village at Grand Traverse Commons – noted as one of the largest historic re-use and re-development projects of its kind in America. Today, Left Foot Charley produces about 4000 cases of wine from small vineyards in the Grand Traverse region.

Left Foot Charley also functions as a custom crush facility, producing wine for other area wineries. Since 2004, the winery has expanded is custom case production from 170 cases to 11,000 cases in 2012. Working with 25 regional farms, Ulbrich has continued to reinvest in equipment and personnel over the years – doubling their full-time staff to seven in an effort to provide a more consistent hospitality experience for tasting room visitors.

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