Up on the Leelanau Peninsula not far from Northport, Court Wengreen and Ben Crow are making a name for themselves.
“I’m Green and he’s Crow,” said Wengreen, explaining the origin of the Green Bird Organic Cellars name, the farm and winery they own. The two vintners purchased the former organic Good Neighbor Winery in 2015. They changed its name to reflect a fresh start.
Green Bird Organic Cellars is Michigan’s only certified organic vineyard, orchard and winery. The farm is certified by the United States Department of Agriculture. It grows organic grapes, apples and lavender, but the USDA Organic symbol does not appear on its wines, because sulfites are used to promote shelf stability.
“We use neem oil, seaweed, probiotic culture, fermented herbal teas and kaolin clay,” Wengreen said, detailing their fertilizing and pest-control methods. Nutrient-rich compost and fish fertilizer also are used to enrich the soil.
The result of their earth-friendly approach is an assortment of wines, ciders, beers and lavender products that has customers returning from as far away as Detroit.
“My girlfriend and I were in Sutton’s Bay for our anniversary,” Shane Hudson of Royal Oak said. “We fell in love with it. We had plans to go other places that day but never left. Since then, we go up three to four times a summer.”
Hudson, 29, enjoyed a cream ale during his last visit, but he also partakes in the wine tastings where he has developed a liking for the winery’s Blaufränkisch and Gewürztraminer wines. Hudson said “the atmosphere” attracts him.
“Ben has a way of showing you wines and walking you through it without being pretentious,” Hudson said. “He has a way of breaking it down in layman’s terms, and before you know it, you’re learning all kinds of stuff about his wines and ciders.”
Peter Palmer, a company employee, also identified the Gewürztraminer as a favorite, but like Wengreen and Crow, he says Ciderye — a cider aged in rye barrels — tops the list.
“Our Gewürztraminer has a lot going on, (it’s) peppery, kind of smoky with a floral flavor and all just really harmonize well together, but I really love the Ciderye,” Palmer said.
Wengreen and Crow grow 12 varietal grapes and an assortment of apples, such as Idared, Gala, McIntosh and Honeycrisp.
“It’s very laid back. We just put in horseshoes, too,” Palmer said. “It’s fun to be surrounded by beautiful orchards and vineyards and drink your wine and play horseshoes.”
Find out more: greenbirdcellars.com.
Award-winning poet Julie Bonner Williams lives along the West Michigan lakeshore.