Meet Ellis, our personal Sommelier. We reached WaterFire Winery nestled in the rolling countryside between Torch Lake and Grand Traverse East Bay just before it opened. The place was so small we wondered if our maps program directed us down the gravel drive of someone’s cottage except for the fields of grape vines that surrounded the tiny Winery/AirB&B.
We waited until the top of the hour and then entered the shop. We were the first customers of a windy, rainy, cloud covered day that allowed brief bolts of sunlight to illuminate and create dazzling views of the area. We like wine; All kinds. I lean into semi-sweet while Carrie, Becky and Howard stay pretty close to the dry reds. We knew going in that WaterFire had four wines, all white, all dry.
Being the Midwest’s first certified sustainable Vinyard it became obvious why their selection was small; with one exception all their grapes are grown onsite. When she’s not acting as sommelier, Ellis also works with the owners in the grape fields pruning vines and harvesting grapes. Inviting us to sit for our tastings she would come to us!
We sat in front of the fireplace and enjoyed the history of the vineyard and a brief explanation on the definition of ‘sustainable’ while Ellis poured our tastings. The four wines and one hard cider were truly a joy to taste. Two were Rieslings that were quite different in taste and shared everything except the year of harvest. Ellis explained that temperature, rainfall, pests and bacteria that the vines battle in their natural course, (remember, no harsh pesticides or herbicides)play into the flavor that the grapes produce. We chose the 2016 Rieslings to bring home. Once we had our final tasting another set of couples had entered the winery and received Ellis’ warm welcome. She allowed me to take her picture and we exchanged greetings with the new tasters as we walked out into the growing sunshine on a bright, cloudy Michigan fall afternoon.