Northern Michigan: Vino File

Mike Laing: Co-owner/Vintner, Big Little Wines

Ann Arbor native Mike Laing taught math for six years in Chicago and Abu Dhabi before moving north to apprentice at L. Mawby and develop his family’s vineyard in Leelanau County. Currently working as the winemaker for Mawby’s M. Lawrence wines, Mike and his brother, Peter, launched Big Little Wines in 2011. We sat down with Mike to talk local bubbly and the art of pairing wine with popcorn.

What did you learn making wine at Mawby that has shaped Big Little

We’ve developed a love for full-bodied lees-aged whites, and so we’re learning about how our vineyard can produce them. Mawby taught me a lot about the importance of yeast strains and how they interact with both still and sparkling wines.

How are grapes like riesling and pinot gris defining our bubble scene? 

Both of these varietals have great aromatics and lend themselves very well to the Charmat method, which focuses on exaggerating the fruit. Pinot gris ripens consistently every year and gives richness and body to sparkling wines, whereas riesling imparts acid freshness.

Best bubbly pairing ever?

For me something that’s both sweet and salty is the perfect complement to sparkling wine. I love buttered popcorn with a little sprinkle of sugar, bacon-wrapped dates or, in the summer, melon wrapped with prosciutto.

This article and additional photos are also available in the January issue of Traverse, Northern Michigan's Magazine. Get yours today!