Read on for a Q&A with Channing Sutton, General Manager at 45 North Vineyard & Winery in Lake Leelanau. Find the original spread in the June 2015 issue of Traverse, Northern Michigan’s Magazine.
Leelanau native Channing Sutton first found wine along the Rhine during a student exchange in Havixbeck, Germany. After a psych degree in Georgia, internship under Master Sommelier George Miliotes, and a professional wine romp through California and Oregon, Channing came back in 2009 and is running the show at 45 North. We sat down over a flute of Fandango to discuss improvisation, cold hardy hybrids and how to approach the summer tasting circuit.
What resources are available to Northern Michigan wineries when harvests are limited to non-existent, like in 2014?
Grapes, unlike cherries, apples or corn, aren’t eligible for general crop insurance. In situations like these we still try and bring the best wine we can from what nature has gifted us. Many wineries also have the option to order grapes from fellow growers out West, and that can allow us to have fun with grapes like syrah, mourvedre and cabernet sauvignon that typically can’t grow here. We very openly teach our guests to understand what’s behind these wines.
You’re one of the first to work with the new cold-hardy hybrid varietals developed at University of Minnesota. How’s that going?
Back in 2010 we planted Marquette, LaCrescent and Frontenac Gris. They are beasts! These vines can withstand -28 degrees, and they produce high tonnage per acre even when young. Their yield in 2014 was remarkably large at 40 percent versus the 15 percent we got from our classic vinifera. The 2014 vintage of 45 White has the LaCrescent in it, and personally it is my favorite vintage of our classic house wine since 2011.
What should we look forward to when visiting Leelanau tasting rooms this summer?
Try new grapes, expand your palate and learn how incredibly creative and talented our Michigan winemakers are. Quality, consistency and a superior drinking product will still be there; just don’t be afraid to butcher the name when you order that interesting hybrid grape. Viva El Fandango!