Today we’d like to introduce you to Mike Laing. Them and their team share their story with us below:
Michael was born and raised in Ann Arbor, MI. He studied Mathematics Education at Miami University from 1997-2001. Upon graduating, he worked as a high school math teacher in Barrington, IL for four years. Michael left Barrington in 2005 and taught high school math overseas for two year in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates at a private American School. During this time Michael traveled extensively and had a great time learning another culture and meeting great people.
His winemaking career began when he left the Emirates and came home to work with his parents on the family farm. He was looking for a break from teaching and a chance to participate in business with his family. Michael’s parents planted grapes in Leelanau County in 2003. They started selling their fruit to Larry Mawby in 2005. In 2007, home from overseas, he started working for Larry Mawby. In early 2008, Michael went to Marlborough, New Zealand to work at a custom winemaking facility. He worked making Pinot Noir and then decided that the wine business was definitely his next career. Since his return from New Zealand in May 2008, Michael has worked for Larry Mawby, who taught him how to make sparkling wines. Mike and Pete (his brother) operate MAWBY with the help of their parents Stu and Sharon Laing. The Laing family now owns MAWBY outright and is excited to take the brand into the future.
In addition to his work at MAWBY, Michael also owns a boutique brand of wines with his brother Peter called bigLITTLE Wines. These two projects keep Michael very busy. However, in his free time Michael enjoys cooking, running, biking, swimming, playing ice hockey, golf, canoeing, hiking, and hanging out with his wife and two sons.
Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not, what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
Farming is a struggle in general because you are forced to deal with forces outside of your control. Luckily, we have a great vineyard manager in Megan Budd and she provides a lot of knowledge, hard work, and expertise in the care of our vineyards.
Staffing has been a concern through the pandemic and beyond. The workforce has shifted/changed, expectations are different mainly for employees and that has been hard to deal with in a way.
Determining what products to make, how much, where to source fruit from, etc… are all challenges but fun parts of the business to work through.
As you know, we’re big fans of you and your work. For our readers who might not be as familiar what can you tell them about what you do?
MAWBY makes sparkling wine exclusively. This provides us with a focus for our staff, our customers, and the trade. We take pride in the production and presentation of our products.
MAWBY is a sparkling wine experience with vineyards and a tasting room located in the rolling coastal hills of Leelanau County adjacent to Lake Michigan. MAWBYness is also a feeling of being, an everyday celebration, a toast to life. All MAWBY sparkling wines and ciders are produced by fermenting twice to exacting standards. The second fermentation in a closed vessel produces a natural effervescence, our bottled wines are not carbonated. MAWBY produces a range of sparkling wines with tastes to suit most any palate, each uniquely approachable, each with their own personality and purpose.
Networking and finding a mentor can have such a positive impact on one’s life and career. Any advice?
Find those people who are a.) masters of their craft and b.) easy for you to talk to. Get to know them and share your passion. Chances are they are more than happy to share their story and help you realize yours.
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