Liquidity

Rove Vineyards: Enjoying the View

By / Photography By Gary L. Howe | February 06, 2018
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Creighton and McKenzie Gallagher are anything but rovers. While their winery is named Rove (more about this later), they are extremely focused on producing high-quality wines from home-grown fruit. At 34, the husband-and-wife team are not only some of the youngest winery owners in Michigan, they are also among the busiest.

Creighton Gallagher has agriculture in his genes. Having grown up on a family cherry farm working alongside his nine siblings, Creighton knows first-hand that farming is hard work. While he spent a bit of time as an accountant after graduating from Grand Valley State, he soon realized he missed the five-generation family farm where his tasting room is today. In 2007 and 2008 he worked on the bottling line at Brys Estate Vineyard on Old Mission Peninsula. Creighton and the winemaker, Coenraad Stassen, became friends while playing rugby—a fortuitous friendship, as it turned out, if there ever was one.

McKenzie Gallagher wrote her MBA thesis in strategic management on the topic of operating a winery. Their business plan for the winery was a direct consequence of that thesis. McKenzie knew she was on track “when [veteran winemaker] Larry Mawby reviewed my paper and was very complimentary about it,” she says.

As the cliché goes, they were “destined to be together.” Meeting each other through Creighton’s brother and McKenzie’s sister, they were both designated drivers at the same New Year’s Eve party. Their first official date soon after was at a Brys Estate wine dinner. Serendipitous is putting it mildly. “We fell in love with each other hard and fast, and also with wine. We’re farmers, it’s in our blood and runs in our families,” says McKenzie.

A bit later, in 2010, the opportunity to live their dream materialized. John Gallagher, the patriarch of the Gallagher clan, agreed to part with 15 acres of the family farm. After purchasing the parcel, which just so happened to have cherry trees that needed replacing, Creighton and McKenzie planted the property with fruit of a different kind: wine grapes. The stunning south-facing vistas provide a perfect spot for grape cultivation.

McKenzie and Creighton appreciate their good fortune. “We’ve been blessed. We’ve also worked very, very hard to create what we have here. Pulling cherry trees, planting and nurturing vines, building the tasting room, raising four children and hosting guests is all in a day’s—and night’s—work,” says Creighton, “although the challenges of 2014 and 2015 were unbelievable.” The winters of 2014 and 2015 are known as the “polar vortex winters” and were devastating to local grape growers. Starting a winery isn’t for the fainthearted.

THE NAME AND LEGACY - WHAT’S IN THE NAME

The word “rove” means to wander about with no specific destination in mind. Many Irish-American immigrants fled Ireland not only during the Great Famine of 1845–52 but also in the 1600s and 1700s due to turmoil and conflict in their native land. They left home and family for a new world with no guarantees and only the hope and determination for a better life.

This departure from Ireland is broadly known as the “Flight of the Wild Geese.” While some historians narrow the definition to Irish soldiers only, many others paint a broader picture of the flight to America and the rest of the world. As McKenzie explains, “some of the ‘wild geese’ landed in the world’s best areas for winemaking. They characterized themselves as ‘wine geese,’ an association of Irish winemakers. We feel a bond with these ancestors and named the winery to reflect our connection with them.” The wine geese inspire the Gallaghers. Like the immigrants of the past, they too took a leap of faith in starting a new venture that neither of them had any experience in, much less expertise.

The winery’s logo was designed by friend and graphic designer Maria Kinney, who wanted to reflect the Gallaghers’ admiration and kinship with the “wine geese.” The logo is elegant in its simplicity and accurately represents the history of their heritage.

LOCATION AND ATTITUDE

Situated 1,165 feet above sea level, the highest perch in Leelanau County, the Rove Estate Vineyard and Tasting Room is a noticeable addition to the Leelanau land scape. Open since May 2016, the sleek modern facility above M-72 can’t be missed when driving by from either direction. Designed by Brian Howard, the Royal Oak–based architect who has designed other Traverse City favorites, the angled-roof structure is inviting and approachable.

The uninterrupted view from the wraparound porch is panoramic, and promises long-lasting sunsets looking out toward Lake Michigan. The site is also perfect for viticulture. The vines stretch away from the deck on southern-exposed slopes with bountiful sunlight, cool breezes and well-drained soils.

In the tasting room the Gallaghers have created an extremely family-friendly environment. There are games for both adults and children. Fire pits and a snowshoeing/ hiking trail are available year-round. Live music is featured many Friday evenings. The high energy and positivity feels infectious.

THE WINES

The estate currently grows nine different varietals of vinifera grapes. The wines are crafted from grapes grown on the estate whenever possible, as noted with the term “estate” on the labels.

The wines are approachable, easy to enjoy and delectable. A couple of them are unusual blends of grapes. When was the last time you enjoyed a blend of half Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Blanc? Or a cuvée of Gewürztraminer and Pinot Gris? Stretching the boundaries of the usual is natural for this winery. Give them a taste, step outside your comfort zone, you’ll be very pleased you did!

Remember Creighton’s rugby friend Coenraad Stassen? The Gallaghers are fortunate to have him as their winemaker. The theme of family and friends truly echoes throughout their story. According to McKenzie, “Coenraad is an incredible mentor and a very good friend. We’ve learned so much from him.”

One of their goals is to have Creighton gradually take over the winemaking from Stassen. Adding another 15 acres of grapes is another goal. They also plan to build a production facility on their hilltop property in the next five years.

McKenzie and Creighton are, by all accounts, busy. With four children under the age of 10, the Gallaghers are one industrious wine family! As both of them will share with you, it hasn’t always been easy. Mother Nature can play cruel tricks on a fledgling operation. Raising four young children while growing grapes, constructing a tasting room, building a business and being in hospitality is “a lot in your glass.”

The Gallaghers are a testament to the quote by T.S. Eliot that graces their T-shirts and wine labels: “Only those who risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.” They have followed their dreams with help from family and friends. They need very little sleep! Most of all they personify the spirit of hard work, tenacity and how, as Creighton says, “the sky’s the limit!”

IF YOU GO:
Rove Estate Vineyard and Tasting Room

7007 E. Traverse Hwy. (M-72)
Traverse City • 231-421-7001
RoveEstate.com

Tasting Notes

2016 Blanc Estate
50% Sauvignon Blanc, 50% Pinot Blanc
Bright and citrusy
Aromas of lemon peel and fresh grass
Interesting and complex
Pair with salads, light fish dishes, goat cheese

2016 Riesling Estate
Elegant and fresh
Classic peaches and petrol nose
Silky and supple
Pair with trout, fish tacos, Asian chicken dishes

2016 Chardonnay Unoaked Estate
Fun and fruity
Juicy kiwi and pineapple aromas
Bright acidity and balanced creaminess
Pair with Caesar salad, turkey, truffled risotto

2014 Cabernet Franc/Merlot
50% Cabernet Franc, 50% Merlot
Easy and friendly
Nose of cinnamon and spice
Toasted oak and dark berries
Pair with vegetarian lasagna, beef roast, herbed chicken en papillote

Tasting Notes

2016 Blanc Estate
50% Sauvignon Blanc, 50% Pinot Blanc
Bright and citrusy
Aromas of lemon peel and fresh grass
Interesting and complex
Pair with salads, light fish dishes, goat cheese

2016 Riesling Estate
Elegant and fresh
Classic peaches and petrol nose
Silky and supple
Pair with trout, fish tacos, Asian chicken dishes

2016 Chardonnay Unoaked Estate
Fun and fruity
Juicy kiwi and pineapple aromas
Bright acidity and balanced creaminess
Pair with Caesar salad, turkey, truffled risotto

2014 Cabernet Franc/Merlot
50% Cabernet Franc, 50% Merlot
Easy and friendly
Nose of cinnamon and spice
Toasted oak and dark berries
Pair with vegetarian lasagna, beef roast, herbed chicken en papillote

Article from Edible Grande Traverse at http://ediblegrandetraverse.ediblecommunities.com/drink/rove-vineyards-enjoying-view
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