Left Foot Charley
Left Foot Charley
In 2004 Northern Michigan viticulturist and winemaker Bryan Ulbrich was called by the new owner of one of his favorite vineyard sites to consult on bringing it back to health. It would be a big job as the overgrowth, neglected canopy and an impending powdery mildew attack were almost too much to handle. But Bryan, with the support of his wife Jennifer, cancelled an upcoming vacation and took up the task. In exchange they received a share of the Riesling harvest and Left Foot Charley, Michigan’s first “urban winery,” was born in Traverse City, just south of the Old Mission Peninsula AVA.
The zeal with which Bryan tackled bringing that vineyard back is typical of the entire Left Foot Charley project. Bryan doesn’t own any vineyards but he personally farms or consults on every site that he sources and has planted many of them, choosing only the best sites to work with, and his sense of ownership over the quality of farming is total. Today, Bryan works with 18 different sites boasting the best terroir in Michigan. The climate this far North is marginal for viticulture and is enabled only by the tempering effects of Lake Michigan. The best sites reside mostly on the Old Mission Peninsula, a narrow, windswept, wild and hilly terrain that juts Northward for 19 miles out into the Lake. The vineyards here were tilled by ancient glaciers, creating a blend of sandy loam, clay, and gravel soils which are ideal for aromatic, cool climate varieties like kerner, riesling, and blaufränkish.
Bryan works all of the vineyards within his guidelines for responsible farming; manually weeding, composted fertilizers, inclusion of row middle crops for diversity and soil management, and using only organically graded treatments for fungal control. All the fruit is harvested by hand to maintain the purity and freshness of these highly aromatic varieties as Bryan believes that the fruit naturally produced by this unique terroir and extreme climate should dictate the end results, and the hard work of the vines should speak through the wine.