NV L. Mawby, Leelanau Peninsula Sparkling Wine Brut Blanc de Blancs Methode Champenoise (Cuvee 140: April 2007/December 2009, Bottle 585 of 1122)
Sex. It's how I first got to know Lawrence Mawby. Young, inexperienced, and looking for something cheap, I turned to him--well, actually, his second-label M. Lawrence wines, which included the off-dry "Sex" rose. I was relatively new to the wine game, but had recently tried (through the generosity of relative strangers at the time) the 1990 Salon. Which meant, without dispute, that the rest of my life would be spent looking for sparkling wine that tasted like that (the odyssey continues). And while I wasn't quite sure why Champagne was so expensive, I knew I had to have it. (Again, sex seems to be the natural corollary.) What little money I could save those days wasn't going to anything else. And it sure wasn't going to "sparkling wine" from Michigan, no matter how far north, or how high in altitude, or how close it was to the latitude of Champagne. Michigan? They made football, cherries, and TP'ed my alma mater. Muck Fichigan. But on those nights where I had to bring a wine, as broke as I was, to dinner, Sex was in my price point. To most who'd never tried it, it wasn't very good, but no one's first time ever is. So I moved into his more typically dry "US" sparkling wine. I was hooked. Diversity between the rose and brut, decent flavors, I may never need prosecco again. Every now and then, I'd see the "L. Mawby" wines. Twenty-two, twenty-five, sometimes forty bucks. Yeah, right. As if. He'd convinced me with the relatively free samples, but they were no gateway. I would rather be sober. Those labels, though, talking about disgorgement dates, tirage, methode champenoise. I mean, how'd they even heard of these things in a UP town of 600 people? Well, what everyone carrying these wines knew that I didn't was that Mawby's been making wine for a long time. Sparkling wine, specifically, since 1984 under this label. I've come across them time and again, sipping glasses at wine bars in the Midwest, and at last I finally bit on a bottle. For as simple as it is, it grows on you. Sharp with ginger, a bit of pie crust, chalky city crabapple, and loads of smoky lime, the wine seems determined if nothing else. Weak, overall pretty boring, but also mysterious. I keep thinking to myself, is he doing this on purpose? Is this some sort of thesis on Michigan chardonnay? Do I buy her because she's wearing pearls--all the French and junk on the label--or do I call her younger sister with the run in her stockings? Well, the L. Mawby is of another breed. A forgettable part of some very historic lineage. And the M. Lawrence wines like Sex and US? They're shining examples of something much more common. So, I won't pick, except to say that during this entire review, I didn't mean to talk about the wine I didn't drink tonight, and yet I couldn't help myself. The ginger in this wine gets stronger on the finish. No surprise, really. I think, deep down, I've always been more Mary Ann.