By Amanda Renkiewicz
When thinking of the best wineries in Northern Michigan, Brys is always at the forefront of everyone’s minds. With arguably the most elegant tasting room on Old Mission Peninsula, their building blends exposed brick, rustic masonry, and dark, rich wood for an upscale feeling that is both warm and welcoming. The owners Walt and Eileen Brys were in their retirement years, but soon found the time to be “too retiring”. Instead of settling into slow, they sped up and did what many dream of but few achieve: they opened their own winery. The original site included 80 acres of old cherry orchard, four barns, and migrant quarters, and has morphed into an estate with an inn, a winery, a stunning secret garden, and rows of vines as far as the eye can see.
Today, as an estate winery with 91 acres and over 40,000 vines, Brys Estate remains intimately tied to the land. “The wines we produce are the result of our strong-back and earth-crusted hands,” their website explains. “We keep our heads down and eyes focused on our work. We lovingly tend our vines, much like our children, knowing what they’re capable of. We tenderly coax them, blending science and sweat equity, to achieve a greater yield and higher quality.” Their determination has yielded excellence in wine, with many awards, recognition, and an awe-inspiring legacy.
Becoming part of Brys is like joining a family. Their gracious tasting guides and staff soon know you by name and are thrilled to welcome you back. Within their wine club are five separate options ranging in bottle selection and pricing: Reserve, Cask, Vineyard, Barrel, and Select. Each offers complimentary tastings, discounts, and access to their Artisan Series menu. This special series of wines were created for the sole purpose of bringing wine lovers the top quality that each varietal has to offer. Using 90% gravity flow and no filtration, the wines showcase the highest complexities of both aroma and mouth feel. As a wine club member, doing a comparison tasting between the Artisan Series and the traditional list is a must. While the Reserve wines are truly delicious, the Artisan wines tend to have a very different, smooth finish.
Additional benefits include the list of exclusive wine club member events. Casual mixers allow people to mix and mingle with fellow Club members on the newly expanded Upper Deck while enjoying unparalleled views of the vineyard and East Grand Traverse Bay. The ticketed event includes a dedicated seating area, two glasses of wine per person, cheese & charcuterie, and exclusive library wine tastings. In August, a Farmhouse Tasting with Artisan Wines was featured, where guests sampled Artisan series wines on the porch of the Brys Estate family farmhouse while enjoying hors d’oeuvres and learning more about the history of Brys Estate. For the competitive, the September event called The Nose Knows allowed members to elevate their wine knowledge and gain a deeper understanding of food and wine pairings during a darkened tasting in their cellar. In October, a Fall Vertical Wine Tasting will review the effect of aging by sampling 3 unique vintages of Riesling, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot side-by-side. Along with tastings and a souvenir crystal logo glass, autumn inspired hors d’oeuvres will be served on the Upper Deck, allowing guests to experience peak fall color at Brys Estate.
Brys also has achieved culinary perfection through Patrick Brys and “Patrick’s Pairings”. His videos and recommended recipes are each matched with a Brys wine and have thousands of views (the video for Bacon Basil Pasta with the Reserve Pinot Noir has over 100,000 views alone!). His appetizers, soups, main dishes, and more are all precisely detailed, easy to make, and major crowd pleasers. These recipes are available for everyone on the Brys website. Recommended recipes include Winter’s Eve Gnocchi, described as a comforting dish with soft pillows of gnocchi tossed with a rich cream sauce, refreshing bites of apple and celery, toasted walnuts, and little morsels of sharp cheddar that combine to form a super simple yet elegant meal worthy of any dinner party. A staple in their own home is the Roasted Tomato Soup with Baked Grilled Cheese. The cozy combination has flavors of roasted tomato and sharp cheddar, and is masterful with the Cabernet Franc. It’s a hit for adults and kids alike (I’m told it pairs just as well with apple juice)!
At Brys Estate, they combine tradition with a fearlessness to challenge convention. They were unafraid to start making red wine even when other local vintners were espousing white wines. Their family-like atmosphere seeks to share their love of the land, its bounty, and our connection to it. They promise quality by always doing things the right way, from nurturing their plants year after year, hand harvesting grapes from their own land, and lovingly handcrafting their wines in small batches. It’s this promise of quality that is captured in each and every glass to be enjoyed and shared with family and friends.
After all, Brys explains, “We put our own name on the bottle because we believe deeply in what’s inside.”
Event Photos by Brys Estate