Each month, Traverse, Northern Michigan’s Magazine culinary columnist, Stacey Brugeman, is responsible for carefully curating a list of recommended beverages featured in ‘From Our Cellar.’ Her beer, wine and cider selections are featured monthly in print and online at MyNorth.com. Go behind the scenes of our most recent spring staff tasting.
This was it. I was the new girl heading to my first work event. Filled with nerves and excitement, I was ready to meet up with some colleagues who I had only seen via screen over the past few months. Starting a new job is always tough, but starting that job during a worldwide pandemic is absolutely overwhelming. One thing that made my transition to MyNorth and Traverse so much easier was the warm welcome I received from my new co-workers.
That same warm welcome was waiting for me as I arrived at Stacey’s gorgeous homestead. As I pulled in, I was greeted with vineyard views to my left and the most charming, historic, Victorian farmhouse to my right. I was quickly handed a glass of her “house bubbles,” the bigLITTLE Tire Swing Brut, which pictured a tire swing much like the one I was currently looking at in her front yard. We turned the music on, started chatting and waited for the rest of the editorial team to arrive.
Shortly after our foursome was fully assembled, we took our house bubbles and headed out to Stacey’s front lawn. As we walked out we were greeted by sprawling views of one of the oldest vineyards in Leelanau County on one side and peekaboo views of Lake Michigan on the other. We arrived to the most perfectly set up table lined with cozy blankets for each person, vintage dishes with crackers, tasting menus held down by Northern Michigan rocks, a copy of “The Oxford Companion to Wine” and bottles of the beer, wine and cider we were about to taste. We immediately knew we were in for something great, especially since Stacey was hosting.
Stacey, who is also newer to MyNorth and Traverse, is our food and beverage writer who recently returned home to Michigan after 22 years of urban living and food writing and editing. She’s written for national publications including Food & Wine, Saveur, Travel + Leisure, Eater and Denver’s 5280, where she served as the restaurant critic—and now we have her all to ourselves in Northern Michigan. And I’d say she’s adjusting quite well, according to the work she has already produced and the home she has established—including the chicken coop that led to two fresh eggs making their way home in my pocket at the end of the night… but that’s a story for another day.
As the first (official) cork popped, Stacey carefully explained the best way to taste each item and what to look for. From there we swirled, smelled, sipped and held our wines up against the white paper tasting menus to see their coloring.
Stacey pre-selected all of the beverages based on the recommendations of sommeliers, cicerones, cider geeks and other professionals who work both on and off-premise throughout Michigan. You may have already seen some of them featured (or soon to be featured) in Traverse and subsequently online at MyNorth.com under the name “From Our Cellar.” Her monthly picks carry a lot of weight since she seeks out recommendations from pros across the state, has nearly 20 years of experience herself and is helping highlight the best of the best in Northern Michigan.
I could obviously tell you my thoughts and profiles on each wine, but I’ll leave that to the professional since I’m absolutely sure “beefy” isn’t a proper term to describe a full-bodied rosé. I will tell you one thing though; Stacey found a way to pick seven bottles we all loved and will recommend to friends and family moving forward. My personal favorite? The 2017 Mari Vineyards Row 7. I’m a red fan through and through, so this was an absolute treat. It was bold, smooth and only created due to an accident when planting. While this unknown varietal mix is still a mystery to many, there’s no mystery why it was my favorite of the night.
We spent the rest of the evening talking, singing, sipping and sharing stories. I truly don’t know what I was so nervous about. I left Stacey’s beautiful home with a smile knowing that I didn’t just meet my new collages face to face, I also met new friends.