Meet Our Vintners

Along your journey in Leelanau Peninsula Wine Country, you’ll discover breathtaking views, stylish wines and passionate vintners with eclectic backgrounds that include fourth-generation farmers, doctors in horticulture, corporate businessmen and entrepreneurs. Together, they represent the largest and oldest wine trail in Michigan and have garnered Leelanau Peninsula international attention as a world-class destination.

larrymawbyLarry Mawby
Mike Laing
L. Mawby Vineyards

Founding winemaker Larry Mawby, at left, discusses critical winemaking decisions with Mike Laing. At Mawby, Larry is responsible for the L.Mawby sparkling wines, and Mike is responsible for the M.Lawrence sparkling wines.

leelutesLee Lutes, Winemaker
Black Star Farms

As the head winemaker for Black Star Farms, Lee oversees winemaking operations for the two processing facilities on the Leelanau and Old Mission Peninsulas. These facilities were created in 2007 to separately specialize in red and white wine production. He also directs the distillation program that produces European style fruit brandies and dessert wines.

Lee is a proud self-taught winemaker, which he eventually came to via experience in the restaurant industry as well as extensive international travel.  He was an assistant winemaker at a small Piedmont winery prior to moving back to Michigan, where he was born and raised, and returned home at a time fortuitous with the growth and expansion of the industry. He is an avid supporter of all things Michigan, and proudly specializes in Pinot Noir and Riesling.

tomknightonTom Knighton
Blustone Vineyards

thepresident-236x300Matt Gregory
Chateau de Leelanau

danmatthiesDan Matthies
Chateau Fontaine Vineyard & Winery

tonycicconeTony Ciccone
Ciccone Vineyard & Winery

After retiring from his career as an engineer, Silvio “Tony” Ciccone moved from Rochester, Michigan to establish Ciccone Vineyard and Winery in 1995. Planted, harvested and produced by hand, Ciccone’s estate wines are smooth and fruit-forward and speak to Tony’s Italian heritage where wine-making was learned from his father who was born and raised in Pacentro, Italy. Ciccone Vineyard is small and family-run, and, in keeping with tradition, his daughter, Paula Ciccone, makes wine alongside him.

jaybriggsJay Briggs
Forty-Five North Vineyard & Winery

Jay is the heart of Forty-Five North. You can find him in the production building most of the time except when the guys are sneaking out to sample at other wineries, breweries, or cideries. Jay’s exuberant personality brings a lot of fun and laughs to the winery. He might not be too serious, but he is serious about his wines. He enjoys experimenting and creating new products like the Wild Cider and Citra Cider.

samsimpsonSam Simpson
Good Harbor Vineyards

paulhamelinPaul Hamelin
Verterra Winery

christianguestChristian Guest
Willow Vineyard

Christian Guest has been the winemaker at Willow Vineyard for 18 years. He founded and managed the 96-acre Seven Lakes Vineyard in Holly, Michigan for eighteen years before coming to Leelanau County in 1996 to begin a consulting business that has advised several wine-growing ventures that operate today. His knowledge and continued application of barrel aging regimens for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay have elevated Willow Vineyard’s reputation as a favorite among wine drinkers who appreciate classically styled wines.

nathanielroseNathaniel Rose
Nathaniel Rose Wines

A biochemistry major from Western Michigan University with a surprising amount of winemaking experience for his young age, Nathaniel strives to utilize classical winemaking techniques in conduction with the technical understanding of how flavors and aromas naturally come into being in wine. While some may see his methods as archaic, it results in true artisan, small-batch, hands-on winemaking. In retrospect, his reservations with the contemporary wine making methods seems to have been a blessing. Nathaniel is essentially making wine the same way it has been made for centuries, with minimal additions of sulfur, and not much else.

thebraymersThe Braymers
Laurentide Winery

davejoanalbertDave and Joan Albert
Boathouse Vineyards

Steve Kozelko
French Valley Vineyard

Dr. Steve Kozelko grew up in Traverse City and has lived and worked in the region his entire life. He is a wine enthusiast, and in 2000 he purchased the 75-acre farm on French Road in Cedar with the intention of planting grapes. His first harvest was in 2003, and the grapes of French Valley have been winning awards ever since.  In May of 2016, Steve opened the first Tasting Room, renting space from his partner Pam Leonard at the Vineyard Inn on Suttons Bay. Here guests enjoy tasting great wine with breathtaking views of the Bay. Steve also has a “day job”; he is a dentist and owns Harborside Dental in TC, where he has been in practice nearly 40 years. French Valley’s Winemaker is Charlie Edson of Bel Lago. Charlie has been making wine for 50 years, experimenting and growing grapes in Leelanau County. Bel Lago is located just south of French Valley Vineyard on Lake Leelanau.

Creighton and McKenzie Gallagher
Rove Estate

As fifth-generation farmers of Irish heritage, Creighton and McKenzie Gallagher established Rove Estate to pay homage to the Winegeese and preserve their family’s legacy. Perched at the highest point on the Leelanau Peninsula—1,165 feet—the estate was born from the Gallagher farmland, an integral part of Traverse City’s history for nearly 130 years.

As a child, Creighton spent his summer days working on the cherry farm with his father and 9 siblings. Wishing to break free from the farming lifestyle, he pursued a degree in accounting only to discover that working in a cubicle gave him an unshakable feeling of discontent. Eventually, he developed a passion and craft for wine while working at a winery on Old Mission Peninsula. Creighton returned to his roots in 2010 when he and McKenzie were offered a chance to purchase a portion of the family farm—including a 15-acre block of cherry trees that needed to be replaced. For a couple whose first date included wine-tasting and often dreamt of opening their own winery, the replacement crop was an obvious choice: grapes.

The terroir of the Gallaghers’ farm and diversity in the soil creates unique aromatics and characteristics in Rove’ssmall-batchh artisan wines. Because of the unique elevation at 1,165 feet, the landscape creates the perfect conditions for premium estate-grown grapes: southern-exposed slopes, abundant sunlight, and cool-air drainage with protection from the frost. The estate currently grows nine different varietals of vinifera grapes, including three reds. Rove is committed to using only estate-grown grapes except in the rare instance of crop damage (in such a case, partnering closely with vineyards emulating our landscape, values, and practices).

Rove Estate Vineyard & Tasting Room opened in spring of 2016. In addition to their cherry farm and vineyard, the Gallaghers have four beautiful children and are often surrounded by them at their farm. A nod to the generations of immigrants that tilled and shaped these lands, Rove is home to all those who dare to dream or sail uncharted seas.

Kasey Wierzba, Winemaker
Shady Lane Cellars

Kasey Wierzba has worked under Adam Satchwell as the Assistant Winemaker at Shady Lane Cellars since 2013.  In March of 2016, Kasey was promoted to Winemaker, a role where she will continue to utilize her creativity and detailed focus to craft expressive cool climate wines.

Kasey has both a Bachelor’s degree and a Masters degree from Michigan State University in horticulture with a focus in viticulture and wine making. She spent the first 7 years of her career in Napa Valley where she worked as a viticulturist for Frog’s Leap, Rudd and Far Niente.  Her most recent role was at Far Niente where she worked with their 5 different wineries and was involved with all aspects of their vineyard operation. While at Rudd in Oakville, she worked particularly during harvest alongside the winemaker.  Her first stop in Napa was at Frog’s Leap where she oversaw the vineyard operation of 250 acres working directly with the winemaker.  A Traverse City native, Kasey and her family moved back to the area in 2012.

We are super excited to have Kasey at the helm.  She brings a great attention to detail and focus that shows in the wine she produces.  The core of what we do at Shady Lane will remain closely tied to the traditional styles of wine we have produced, but we also have a renewed focus towards the future and Kasey is a large part of that.  We have a great team and are very excited about the future for Shady Lane Cellars.

Richard Fortune
Shady Lane Cellars

In March of 2013, Richard Fortune became the proud new owner of Shady Lane Cellars.

Originally from Indianapolis, Indiana the Fortune family have been visiting Leelanau County for over 50 years and were familiar with the incredible beauty and richness that it had to offer. After building a home in the county, Mr. Fortune planted his own vineyard on the west side of Lake Leelanau, named Hennessey Harbor Vineyards.