Eventually I tore myself away from Chateau de Leelanau to paint the next breathtaking view, heading off to Good Harbor Vineyards.
I met Debbie, Sam and Taylor Simpson several years ago. Debbie and her son, Sam — who is Good Harbor’s winemaker — brought me to one of their properties to talk about art and wine. The rolling vines seemed to go on forever, and the hills and even Lake Michigan peeks out on a clear day. I dreamed of this land, this exact spot, and I longed to paint it. On a warm sunny early summer evening, I did. It was all I hoped for and more. Utterly enchanting.
Debbie and her late husband, Bruce, started this winery, one of the first four on the peninsula back in the 1970s. Bruce is a legend up here, having taken many young winemakers and owners under his wing. Along with Larry Mawby, many refer to these two as the “grandfathers” of the region, and all speak of the pair with affection and fondness.
When Bruce passed away several years ago, Sam and his sister, Taylor, were faced with the choice to carry on the family business and tradition far sooner than they expected. Both have grown beautifully into the role as the heads of Good Harbor, and have even maintained the tradition of helping out their neighbors through their vineyard management company. They have even purchased a second winery of their own up the road at Aurora Vineyards. (This development is so recent that it’s the reason why I held off on this blog for a few days — they were still finalizing the deal!)
They are an impressive team, this brother and sister, and lucky for me, their vineyards are take-your-breath-away beautiful. Debbie is still active at Good Harbor, but looks very much to her talented children in terms of the future. I think I see Debbie on a beach somewhere with her feet up soon, a glass of Chardonnay in her hand, knowing all she and her husband built is in great hands.
Life “On the Michigan Wine Trail” is sentimental, emotional, exciting and, of course, a visual feast. The people are good, hardworking stewards of this land. It’s a joy and a pleasure making my way around the wineries of the Leelanau Peninsula Vintners Association and hearing the stories behind this land I paint. It makes all the difference in connecting me to the landscapes as I translate them to canvas and paper. I hope to bring you all along with me and make you just a bit more connected to the land, too. Wine is, after all, a story of that land and these people in a bottle. Uncork it with me on Project 24!