Left Foot Charley, nestled up to hills of dense forests that surround Traverse City’s State Hospital grounds, is quickly becoming one of the state’s most interesting and reputable wineries. As Michigan’s first urban winery, Left Foot Charley’s tasting room, located just minutes from the pulse of downtown Traverse City, offers a quirky twist to northern Michigan’s wine culture.
I recently visited the tasting room for the first time, and I couldn’t believe I hadn’t discovered this gem sooner. Inside, there is a tangible energy in the air that feels young, bold, and refreshing. Founded by winemaker Bryan Ulbrich in 2007, Left Foot Charley was created with the mission of celebrating the magic of this special place—northern Michigan—and its potential to be one of the world’s next great viticultural destinations.
I sat down inside the stylish yet cozy tasting room with Meridith Lauzon, who pours wine for Left Foot Charley. Lauzon told me about what makes this winery so unique, explaining that its grapes are grown off-site at several of the richest vineyards around, while the fermenting, aging, and bottling facility, along with its adjacent tasting room, are located right in the heart of Traverse City. Says Lauzon, “We were the first urban winery to show up anywhere in Michigan. We’re so different from everyone else because we’re not on the typical wine route. People enjoy that we’re off the beaten path a bit.” Visitors to the tasting room and production facility, she tells me, can experience all of Left Foot Charley’s flavor and excitement without ever leaving town.
The winery specializes in white wines and has won awards at international competitions for its “Murmur,” a semi-dry white wine, and for its Pinot Blanc. Left Foot Charley is also known for the high quality of its Rieslings and Gewurztraminers. The winery also offers a selection of hard ciders, including a ginger and a cinnamon cider. “All of this year’s new releases have been dominating our sales and our current tasting menu. We also offer wine by the glass, which is especially popular with locals who are looking for a different type of scene.”
When you make a visit to Left Foot Charley, sampling their exciting wine and cider selections is just part of all there is to experience. Unlike most other area wineries, this one serves food, much of which is local, at its Café Leftique. Left Foot Charley also frequently features live music entertainment, collaborates with local restaurants on fabulous wine dinners, and offers a Thursday Happy Hour from 5:00 P.M.-7:00 P.M. Here, $12 will get you a glass of wine or cider and a single dish menu, with each week serving up a different international cuisine.
And of course its location on the grounds the haunting and majestic 19th century asylum, which has been restored as The Village at Grand Traverse Commons, offers a labyrinth of restaurants, galleries, and boutiques, as well as frequent social events. With fantastic vintage wines and all there is to experience and explore at its urban locale, Left Foot Charley is truly one of the most unique wineries in Michigan.