TRAVERSE CITY — What's a birthday without cake and presents?
Left Foot Charley will mark its 15th year in wine production on June 14 with a week-long series of events, capped on either end by a pair of free concerts on the piazza in front of the business at 806 Red Drive.
The kickoff to the birthday celebration begins on June 7 with music by Delilah DeWylde. Left Foot Charley Operations Manager Meridith Lauzon said the "free family event" will, of course, feature a birthday cake.
"Who doesn't like birthday cake?" Lauzon said.
In addition to music in front of Building 53 — what winemaker Bryan Ulbrich calls the backyard at The Village at Grand Traverse Commons — three new wines will be unveiled: a 2017 Kerner, a 2016 Gitali sparking wine and Roots & Rock, a blend of reds.
"It's going to be great," Lauzon said. "It's going to be a good party."
While a lot of activity is outside the tasting room, Ulbrich said the interior of the facility is getting a facelift. Near the entrance to the tasting room are 70 square feet of live plants from Live Wall, Inc. A new bar top from PaperStone will be installed soon, and new landscaping in front of the The Barrel Room is scheduled for later this year.
"We're buying some birthday presents for the tasting room," said Ulbrich, who said the living wall will serve as decoration as well as a sound barrier. "We're trying to upgrade the customer experience a little bit. The winemaking and the vineyards have been the focus for the first 15 years."
Left Foot Charley is unique in that the winery doesn't grow its own grapes. LFC has relationships with 18 different farms in the area to provide grapes, a third of which Ulbrich said are directly managed by AgriVine, the company's farm management company.
"We kept it at that whole concept of working with individual farms," Ulbrich said. "It's given us a real diversity in our farm capabilities with different soils and different climates."
Following the June 7 event, Left Foot Charley will hold free winery tours from 2-7 p.m. on June 8. Lauzon said these tours should begin about every half hour.
An open mic is scheduled on June 9 from 6-9 p.m.
Dinner with Sugar to Salt is slated for June 13 from 5-8 p.m.
A second concert is scheduled for June 14, the actual date Bryan Ulbrich and his wife, Jennifer, signed the papers and formed the business. The free concert will feature music from Ruby John, Katie O'Connor and Dane Hyde. More birthday cake is expected.
Bryan Ulbrich said Left Foot Charley wouldn't have reached its 15th birthday without all the local support, and events are one way to give thanks.
"It's been a long ride," he said. "We started with one barrel and a tank and now it's a full-on winemaking experience."
In addition to consumers, Ulbrich said an experienced staff helps. He said Left Foot Charley is up to 20 employees and the company is able to offer health insurance for its full-time employees this year.
"We've had a real solid, competent staff," he said. "Meridith is celebrating 10 years and we have another 5-year anniversary coming as well as several at 4-years and 3-years. To have the same people involved in the whole level of production is exciting."
Left Foot Charley has an employee art prize competition scheduled for June 26 from 6-9 p.m. A pair of former LFC employees who work in the art field will serve as the judges for the public event. A people's choice award for the mixed media show is also scheduled.
The artwork is scheduled to be part of a gallery in the Barrel Room.
"Everybody has art talent, they just have to release it," Ulbrich said.
A time capsule is planned that will be opened on Left Foot Charley's 25th birthday in 2029. Lauzon said items will be collected digitally as well as on site during June.
"We want to have people pick their favorite memory from Left Foot Charley or their favorite time at Left Foot Charley," she said.
Ulbrich said the time capsule is a way to reflect on the past while looking ahead to the future.
"The whole idea is to start working on the next 15 years," he said. "We have to keep the fruit growing and the wine flowing."