High Praise

Michigan’s Larry Mawby named one of the most admired people in the North American wine world

From any perspective, it is a striking collection of people, one in particular worth noting because he is one of our own.

Vineyard and Winery Management, the wine world’s equivalent to Road & Track, has named Michigan’s Larry Mawby one of the 20 most admired people in the wine world in North America. The widely read publication reports on industry news, research, new techniques, and more.

Mawby is one of the early pioneers in the Michigan wine industry. His L. Mawby wines have been around for 35 years. He introduced sparkling wines in Michigan, making very serious champagne-style bubblies by growing grapes used in France along with North American hybrid grapes.

Mawby’s most popular line is M. Lawrence, inexpensive sparkling wines with names like Fizz, Wet, and Sex. His more serious, ponderous wines are champagne-styled Talisman, and L. Mawby Blanc de Blanc and L. Mawby Blanc de Noir.

Through trial and error and a lot of patience, Mawby showed the world that delicate, sophisticated sparkling wine was achievable not just in sunny California, but also in much colder climates such as Michigan. He did it in the 1970s and 1980s, when there was only scant technical literature in English relating to issues specifically for growing champagne-style grapes in colder climates.

Years ago, when Michigan had maybe a dozen wineries versus the nearly 110 it has today, I asked him how we would know when Michigan was on its way to being a great wine state, which he had always believed.

Mawby scratched his chin for a few seconds and responded: “When we reach oneness without sameness.” Since then, I’ve always referred to him as Michigan’s Zen wine master.

The magazine noted that it wanted to avoid doing a “most influential” and “most powerful” list. It wanted the list to be from others in the industry telling whom in wine they respect most highly.

Mawby shares the limelight with an interesting list that includes Eric Asimov, the New York Times wine writer; winemaker Cathy Corison of Corison Winery; New York sommelier and educator Kevin Zraly of Windows on The World in the World Trade Center, which came down on Sept. 11, 2001; Ted Baseler of Ste. Michelle Wine Estates; Andy Beckstoffer, owner and supplier of famed California vineyards; Randall Grahm, founder of Bonny Doon Vineyard; Carolyn Wente, owner of Wente Vineyards; and more.

There are others on the 20 most admired list with strong connections to Michigan and who have come here to judge at the annual Michigan Wine Competition, run by the state’s Grape and Wine Industry Council. (Full disclosure here: I am the chief judge and superintendent.) They are Dan Berger, California wine writer and publisher of Dan Berger’s Vintage Experiences; Johannes Reinhardt, the winemaker at New York’s Anthony Road Wine Company who made the wine served at the Obama inaugural lunch last year; and Jim Trezise, president of New York Wine & Grape Foundation.

It’s very good to see Mawby and Michigan in such illustrious company.