What happens when the sparkling wine wizard of the North, Larry Mawby, and savvy Chef Paul Carlson of 9 Bean Rows get together for brunch? A fun, winter fizz fest!

Featured in the January 2016 issue of Traverse, Northern Michigan’s Magazine. Get your copy.

At Debby and Ray Kuhn’s farm north of Cedar, a weathered red barn and brittle lattice of Marquette grape vines stand in contrast to the white snowscape on this frosty weekend morning. Laughter and the soft crunch of snowshoes send the signal that party guests who had been out exploring the sleeping vineyards are returning to the Kuhns’ stylishly renovated farmhouse.

Inside, a soundtrack of celebratory cork popping is playing out. Leelanau winemaker Larry Mawby is unleashing a flight of bubblies to pair with the late morning spread of smoked trout canapés, macerated fruit parfaits and savory tomato frittata engineered by chef and co-owner Paul Carlson of 9 Bean Rows in nearby Suttons Bay. Carlson and Mawby have joined the Kuhns and friends for a sparkling wine brunch to celebrate a new year, new friendships and the quiet beauty of winter in Northern Michigan.

The Kuhns’ kitchen and dining room are rich with tasty offerings: sweet, salty, sour, bitter and umami flavors that find delicious syncopation with the bright acids, subtle fruit notes and yeasty nuances found in the myriad bottles of chilled bubbly. We draw upon the wisdom of sparkling wine wizard Mawby and savvy local chef Carlson to kick off 2016 with a fun winter fizz feast.

New Year’s Day or anytime, a sparkling wine brunch is perfect for easing the after-effects of rich food and copious cocktails inherent to holiday indulgence. As a decades-long practitioner in the art of crafting bubbly, Larry Mawby says the effervescence is what sets sparkling wine apart as a versatile tool for food pairing and as a uniquely social libation.

“The bubbles, which result from the wine going through a second fermentation, really add a light, refreshing quality, and they work so nicely with food because they cleanse the palate between bites and get you ready to experience a whole new set of flavors,” Mawby pontificates, popping the cork from a bottle of his Blanc de Blancs. “People have an emotional response to bubbles that’s linked to festivity. Whenever we hear the sound of a cork popping we think ‘this is going to be fun.’” To make the point, he pops yet another bottle.

Recipe: Roasted Tomato and Swiss Chard Frittata

Carlson pulls a fragrant roasted tomato and Swiss chard frittata from the Kuhns’ stainless steel oven, then turns to garnish smoked trout canapés with thin ribbons of cucumber and sprigs of fresh dill. “Coming off the roasts and heavy sauces that we build those holiday meals around, my winter brunches gravitate toward a lighter, more Mediterranean flavor set: olive oil, citrus, chiles, bitter greens,” Carlson says. “We want to focus on a table with lots of color and texture in food, with a simple, natural, artful vibe.”

While a strong proponent of using local seasonal ingredients in his restaurant, Carlson concedes that our region poses challenges when sourcing ingredients for a winter brunch menu of light, bright flavors. “You can still access local smoked fish, cheese, bread, preserves and some cellar produce, but your fruit, herbs and greens will mostly have to come from the grocery store,” he says.

Carlson heads off to circulate a plate of deviled eggs garnished with salty marinated anchovies and then lays out bowls of airy, berry-studded parfait.

Recipe: Panettone & Macerated Fruit Parfait

Meanwhile, Mawby, who so clearly enjoys the details of his art, discusses differences between the two primary styles of bubbly. He hoists a bottle each of Sex—his culty, tank-fermented rosé—and Cremant Classic—a dry, yeasty, bottle-fermented vignoles. “The tank-fermented wines are more expressive of varietal fruit flavors and aromas because they’re not aged with the yeasts, so a rosé like this goes great with fresh fruit and young cheeses. In bottle-fermented wines, the yeast and fruit marry into a dry savoriness that complements richer, stronger flavors,” Mawby says, pausing to top off a flute.

As the guests slip into two-fisted food-geek revelry, alternating deviled eggs and Cremant with parfaits and Sex, there’s no question that a brunch spread spanning the flavor spectrum from sweet fruit and pastry cream to salty, umami-rich anchovies deserves a range of sparkling wine options. Mawby stresses that the ideal bubbly party includes ice buckets stuffed with a few bottles of local sparkling wine in addition to international examples like Brut Champagne, Spanish Cava, Italian Prosecco and California blanc de noirs.

“It’s great to celebrate and set the tone for a new year with a convivial gathering of food, wine, friends and neighbors,” Mawby says, “but really you should spend all 12 months celebrating with bubbly.” We agree.

Recipes: Deviled Eggs + Smoked Trout on Toast

Sparkling Wine Cocktails

  • 3 ounces M. Lawrence US
  • 1/2 ounce local cherry concentrate
  • Individually frozen tart cherries

Add cherry concentrate to the bottom of a flute or coupe and top with sparkling wine. Garnish with frozen cherries.

  • 2 1/2 ounces M.Lawrence US
  • 2 1/2 ounces orange juice
  • ice cubes
  • 1/2 ounce M.Lawrence Rosso

Combine sparkling wine, orange juice and ice cubes in a blender and blend until slushy. Transfer to glass and top with 1/2 ounce sparkling Rosso.

King of Bubbly Larry Mawby tells us how his brut rosé bubbly “Sex” got its name.

Northern Michigan Wine