Michigan Wine Series: Mari Vineyards

I recently wrote a post How we spent 27 hours in Traverse City and mentioned that we had visited Mari Vineyards.  We have driven past Mari on our last few trips up the Old Mission Peninsula and today we finally got a chance to stop.

The building is done in Tuscan Villa style which I love. The wooden door you see peeking out of the hillside also makes you wonder about what secrets that it keeps. We were about to find out.

After entering the archway above, we found ourselves in a covered patio.  One of the ladies who worked there was busily stoking a fire in the outdoor fireplace.  As cozy and inviting as this was on that cold morning, I was too anxious to see inside.

Once inside we made our way to the bar for a Tasting.  The first thing you notice when approaching the bar is the mural on the wall.  It is an image of the Winery at the Summer Solstice made entirely out of corks.  13,698 to be exact!

Mark is a Cabinet Maker and the first thing HE noticed was the very long live edge countertop.  When he asked Madi our Hostess about it, she said that it was created from a giant Ash tree that had been cut down on the property when they were building the facility.  That tree was also used to make some of the tables in the Tasting Room.  She went on to tell us how a lot of the materials used during building were either from the property or reclaimed items.

Having a glass of the Troglodyte Rosato

Madi told us the story of how the vineyard was started by Marty Lagina and his family who wanted to produce wines made from Tuscan style varietals not traditionally grown in this area of Michigan.

The first planting for the vineyard was in 1999.  They have 70 acres of which 60 are grapes and 10 are various other fruit.  Interestingly when they planted, they had to hurry through some areas due to a shipping issue and rows 7 through 9 are a mix of a few different varietals.  A happy mistake that makes for delicious blends.

Because Michigan does not have a long growing season and is a cooler climate than places like California, they use hoop houses over some of the grapes to increase the temperature by up to 12 degrees.

Marty Lagina and his brother Rick star in the History Channel show “The Curse of Oak Island.”  It is a show where they search for treasure on an island in Canada.   I was so intrigued that I have since started watching the show from the beginning. 

They also have another show “Curse of the Civil War Gold” in it’s first season.

My Tasting

  1. Gewurztraminer – A crisp and herbacious white.
  2. Dry Riesling – This dry Riesling presents with a high level of acid and citrus.  Almost like a Pinot Grigio would.
  3. Troglodyte Rosato – A Pinot Noir, Riesling & Gewurtraminer Blend.  Light and full of flavor.  You know I love a good Pinot Noir Rose.
  4. Troglodyte Rosso – Also a Pinot Noir Blend, but with Teroldego and Merlot for a richer flavor with plenty of depth.  This was my favorite tasting today.
  5. Merlot – A robust Merlot with chocolate and fruit flavors.

I ended up with a bottle of the Troglodyte Rosato and a bottle of Scriptorium Riesling which was Mark’s pick.  Although I preferred the richer taste of the Troglodyte Rosso, I felt the Rosato was a better choice for sharing with Mark.  He prefers semi sweet whites or light bodied reds while I enjoy a more robust red and bone dry whites.  We are always opposites in everything we do.

Our intention was to simply do a tasting and select a bottle to take home.  Madi suggested that we might want to take a Tour of the 31,000 square foot facility.  We were eager to do so.  This place seemed to have a lot of mysteries to address.  We felt a bit like Willy Wonka as we got on an elevator from the Tasting Room to the lower level.  Not really sure what we were getting ourselves into.

Our first stop on the Tour was this little shrine to the humble beginnings for the Lagina family.  There is a collage of old photos from their early immigration days and the first wine making tools and equipment that they used.  Never forget your roots!

Moving on we went through the Production Facilities.   Having worked in the wine industry for some time, I have had the chance to tour production areas at several wineries.  This one takes the cake.  Very large and well organized.

Our next stop was the Barrel Room.  Except here it was more like Barrel Hallways.  I have never seen this many barrels assembled in any one winery in Michigan before.  It was very impressive.  It seemed to stretch on forever.

Madi said the walls were made of 14 inch thick concrete.  Wow.  I think this is like a bunker or bomb shelter.  Definitely where I want to be if there is a storm.  Just leave me a glass and a “barrel thief” (an item used to extract wine from the barrels).

The halls of barrels stretched out like arms from a circular center area with a floor tile that looked as if it came straight off of a Treasure Map.  One area was gated for storing their private wine collections as well as those of some other people.

When we got closer and looked down, we discovered the Latitude markings on the floor. We also found that they had buried a Time Capsule in the floor.

This was all so DaVinci Code!

When we looked up from the center circle there was a domed area that looked like a compass just over our heads.  The middle looked like a camera lens surrounded by a flower.

It was an oculus that allowed light from outside to shine down into the lower level.  This place was one surprise after another.

I was so glad we took the time to take the Tour.  When we got to the end of one of the hallways, we came to a large wooden door (like the one peeking out of the hill in the first photo).  The place had been built in a way that when you opened the doors on the Summer Solstice the light would enter just right through the doors. So much thought, planning and attention to detail went into building this place.  Amazing.

 

A special thanks to Madi for being a great Tour Guide and making this a fantastic visit. She knew as much about the business, the building, and the history as she did about the wines.