Michigan By The Bottle: Podcasts, Perspectives, and Good WinesBy Kyle Pollock on April 19th, 2013 /
Cortney and Shannon Casey took notice of the growing Michigan wine industry, and like many others, shared a love for wine. It wasn’t until Shannon was inspired by author and entrepreneur, Gary Vaynerchuk’s Online Wine Library, decided to start highlighting the wines of Michigan.
Shannon began blogging and recording himself to create online podcasts. His wife Cortney, who has a journalism background, jumped on board to co-host the podcasts and provide conversation-like content. The two began posting on their site, Michigan By the Bottle (MBTB), while attending wine events around the state.
MBTB began to draw some attention and from some Michiganders, and a little envy. “During events, people kept coming up to me saying, oh I wish I had your job,” Cortney said. “But it wasn’t my full time job at the time so I was like, oh it wasn’t my day job, I just do this on the side.”
What sounded like a dream to others was also to Cortney, but that reassurance kept her moving forward. Together with Shannon, she had created MBTB as a part time project and the growing audience and demand, proved to be a worthwhile the leap to a bigger commitment.
Now full time, Cortney runs the tasting room, opened this past January. This is the first tasting room to bring together multiple previously unaffiliated wineries under one roof. In fact it opens up accessibility to tasting several wines, featuring six wineries across Michigan: Chateau Aeronautique, Chateau de Leelanau, Domaine Berrien Cellars, Gill’s Pier, Peninsula Cellars, and Sandhill Crane Vineyards. Cortney says many of the visitors’ experiences at the MBTB Tasting Room have sent them to go visit the vineyard.
“They get to know what wine really matches them here and they are inspired to go visit the vineyards on site,” she said.
April is Michigan Wine Month, and the tasting room has had a busy April with free giveaways every day from the Michigan Grape & Wine Industry Councils’s two tickets to the Michigan Wine Showcase, to a Chateau de Leelanau VIP + gift certificate. There’s only 11 days left of April to win a prize, but the Tasting Room has an ongoing promotion through October or an MBTB visit could look like a yoga + wine session, live music with local artists, or a wine pairing event.
Michigan Wineries Gaining Popularity
“We’ve only been with MBTB for a few years now, but between everything I’ve heard and everything I’ve experienced I know in the last several years the number of wineries have really increased.”
“I think that some people have kind of renounced Michigan wines because they tried to taste a super sweet wine 10 years ago and their impression is off. But Michigan now has some really great reds and riesling. People who have been to Napa, or other wine countries can’t expect different climates to produce the same kind of wine.”
Cortney continued to share that many wineries feel their wines could benefit from additional aging in the bottle but that financial constraints and customer demand often prompts them to release the reds when they’re still young, so consumers who have the patience can often benefit from, and experience even better wines from, stashing some of those big reds in their cellar for a longer time. It’s best to consult the winemakers or winery staffers if in doubt over whether a particular wine could benefit from aging or is best consumed young. Claudia Tyagi, a friend of Cortney’s, is a master sommelier, one of only around 200 in the world. She mentioned that 30 years ago, when she entered the wine industry, California was where Michigan is now, which suggests that further acclaim and respect for Michigan wines as time goes on is likely.
Michigan will continue to grow and be a future forefront of wine in the U.S. One great distinction from other states they see is the down to earth profile of Michigan family vinyards and wineries. In one of their podcasts, they talk about a wine not just being a good Michigan Pinot Noir, but a part of Dannielle and David, who made the wine.
“When you meet the people that are behind a winery and have a vision for a winery, it makes it that much more enjoyable to drink the wine because you have a sense of the people who put their heart and souls into it,” said Cortney, referring to David and Dannielle Maki of Old Shore Vineyards. Husband, Shannon could only agree, “That’s one of the fun things about Michigan wine, not only are the wines fantastic, but there’s a story behind them and you can get to know these people. That makes it that much more special!”
MBTB has a guitar riff at the beginning of every podcast, something I see as a taste of Detroit Rock City-a distinction well known in many Michigan craft beer and wine fans.