Northern Michigan Living: 2 Lads Winery
By Tom // Posted 3 June, 2009 in: Food + Drink, Travel
Each time I walk into a wine store, I am faced with the problem of somehow deciding which bottle(s) to take home. There are plenty of good ways to do this: talk to the staff, get to know a brand, in-store tastings, etc. Generally though, I go with the most superficial one–the label. No, not the information contained on the label; having tasted vastly different wines from the same species of grape and the same land I know better than to put my faith in varietals or regions. I am looking at the design of the label itself; if I think it looks cool or the graphics/colors appeal to me for some reason I’m pretty certainly walking home with the bottle. As it happens, this is a pretty good system–some books you can judge by the cover.
On a recent trip with family to Michigan’s Old Mission Peninsula, I discovered this rule works for the buildings in which wine is produced, not just the bottles. Most of the tasting rooms in Northern Michigan tend toward the rustic, repurposing old schoolhouses and barns or creating new buildings that are firmly within the farmstead idiom. Which makes it all the more striking when you turn a corner and run into this:
This fancy, modern building houses Old Mission’s newest winery: 2 Lads. Established just a few years ago, 2 Lads produces wines from a few varietals: we tried a Rosé of Cabernet Franc, a Pinot Grigio, and a Cabernet Franc. Merlot, Chardonnay and some Sparkling were also in production but not available yet to try–there should be more this fall. They are working to increase their capacity and variety by establishing new vines, but they chose their location partly because they could get into winemaking immediately with some of the established vines. Oh, and for this view:
In spite of how obviously impressed I was by the 2 Lads’ taste in architecture, there remained the question of the quality of their wine. Had 2 Lads poured all their money into a fancy building on a hill that would appeal to twenty-something hipsters while not worrying too much about making good wine? Not at all. I have been to many wineries on the Leelanau and Old Mission peninsulas and I can say 2 Lads is making the best wines of its selected varietals by far. The only winery making better wines is L. Mawby, which only produces sparkling wines (2 Lads didn’t have any sparkling wines available for tasting).
Most wineries in the area can produce pretty good whites, but what stands out at 2 Lads is the reds. I had previously believed that red wine just doesn’t work in the cold climate of Northern Michigan and that I shouldn’t expect much more than the thin, one-dimensional pinot noirs, merlots and cab francs produced by pretty much everyone in the area. But 2 Lads’ Cab Franc had real body and complexity; the 2007 was still a little fruity, but the potential with a couple of years cellaring for the fruit to subside and the wine to deepen was more obvious than in any bottle I had ever tasted. Winemaking in northern Michigan is relatively new–the first producer was only established about 30 years ago. 2 Lads represents a coming of age.
Judging by appearance, of both their bottles and their building, 2 Lads looks like the premier winemaker of the Old Mission Peninsula. Drinking their wine–even before having several glasses–confirms this is the case.