I’ve lived in Michigan my whole life and I quite like it here. However, I don’t much like our flag. In the first place, it depicts two bipedal ruminants—an elk and a moose—neither of which are actually bipedal ruminants, but both of which are actually gigantic quadrupedal rodents with hooves. Such a symbol makes PETA-pumping animal activists go all warm and gushy until they notice that the smaller image between them is a dude with a rifle.
Compounding this is the fact that, although flags should be made of bright colors and soul-stirring emblems like rising suns or a crosses cramponnée, they should never contain words, because who can read words on something that by its nature is meant to be waving in the wind fifty feet overhead? Yet the Michigan flag not only contains a bunch of words, they’re written a strange, alien tongue that looks like somebody inserted that awful ipsem lorum dummy text while trying to think up a genuine motto. Between squinting and hemming and hawing, by the time you give up on trying to read our flag, the Michigan National Anthem is over.
But I digress. This story begins with the reasons that I never display the Michigan flag and ends with a couple of kids I know have been waving it vigorously since they launched their website in 2009.
I say ‘kids’, although Cortney Casey raises her eyes when I suggest that she’s prime ‘hipster’ age, assuring me that at 34, she’s too old to be one. Not that I thought she was a hipster in the first place; if I did, I wouldn’t be waving her flag, I’d be burning it on the steps of the Michigan Capitol building.
Along with her husband Shannon, Cortney first ran the notion of an all-Michigan wine tasting room up Shelby Township’s flagpole to see who’d salute—and the response was overwhelmingly patriotic. So, this year, they’ve grown their retail family to two, opening a second tasting room on Woodward and Webster,at the cusp of Royal Oak and Birmingham.
The business model that has proven so successful for them involves partnering with various Michigan wineries and providing tasting flights of select, home-grown wines, accompanied—if it suits your druthers—with ‘small plates’ of Michigan-made cheeses and chocolates.
The couple have proven themselves ample taste-smiths over the years with their popular Michigan By The Bottle podcasts, and have arranged the flight menu in easy-to-digest wine categories like ‘Oaked Dry Whites’ and ‘Fruit-Forward Reds’ along with brief notes so that neophytes can have a logical experience among the styles they prefer while geeks can have a discerning one, hopefully discovering gems among styles they don’t. My wish list might include a section reserved specifically for hybrids; a category of grape that has not only formed the backbone of a sustainable wine industry in Michigan, but which has arguably come as far in the past couple decades as has vinifera.
Among the outstanding selections to be found on the list are 2 Lads’ Cabernet Franc; a luscious, cassis-dribbling beauty with gentle tannins and genuine varietal character by winemaker Cornel Olivier. Chateau Aeronautique’s Pinot Gris is a heady, appley and pearish mouthful; a benchmark for what this cool variety can do with Michigan TLC. I’m also a huge fan of Chateau de Leelanau’s Cherry Wine—a Balaton-based fruit wine that raises the bar on this oft-maligned bevvie.
An all-Michigan tasting room as conceived of by the Caseys is a concept with legs as remarkable as those in a glass of Sandhill Crane Sur Lie Chardonnay, and I anticipate the Royal Oak location will be as successful as the first. And, will hopefully lead to a third outlet, which I am currently in negotiations with them to have opened up in my living room.
Run that one up the flagpole, Caseys, and I’ll guarantee a dawn-to-dusk salute.