Now that basketball season is underway, local fans of both the sport and Michigan wine can enjoy quite the crossover episode: a partnership between Lake Leelanau–based Soul Squeeze Cellars and the Detroit Pistons.
The collaboration includes a Soul Squeeze–branded bar at the Pistons Performance Center in Detroit, a co-branded wine called Motor City Squeeze coming soon, and a special wine club.
“It’s unique and it’s exciting,” says Luke Pickelman, who owns the winery with his wife, Faye. “We’re excited about … the exposure for both Soul Squeeze and for our region’s branding.”
Soul Squeeze, a small, boutique winery Up North, became an official wine partner of the Pistons after a chance encounter at Hour Detroit’s Food & Wine Show in Detroit last year.
“Some of the Pistons’ people were there, and they came across us and really liked our wine, really liked the brand,” Pickelman says.
The following week, the Pistons organization reached out to Soul Squeeze to gauge the winery owners’ interest in a partnership.
“We didn’t know what to think of it, because we’re little, and they’re the Pistons, you know?” says Pickelman, noting that he and his wife are longtime basketball enthusiasts and big Pistons fans.
“What they wanted was to partner [with] and showcase a Michigan winery, and I thought that was really cool, because they don’t have to do that,” he says. “They can go on to bigger names, or they can work a deal out with a lot of people, but they … wanted to focus on a Michigan brand, a small, boutique winery, and so we appreciated that. That’s how it started.”
The collaboration between the Pistons and Soul Squeeze is in high gear now. A Soul Squeeze–branded bar serves up the winery’s various vintages in the Pistons Performance Center, where events are held. There’s also the wine club, which includes quarterly shipments and special wines, such as La Perle, a Champagne-method bubbly made with Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, and Chardonnay that is exclusive to the Pistons wine club members. (Visit motorcitysqueeze.com/wine-club to check out the other perks.)
The partnership also entails a co-branded wine blend of Pinot Gris and Chardonnay called Motor City Squeeze. The wine, which will be released Dec. 15 and will be available at several downtown and metro Detroit restaurants and wine shops, Pickelman says, has notes of apple, lemon zest, and key lime.
Sometimes, meeting your heroes isn’t so bad after all.
“They’ve been really good to work with,” Pickelman says of his Pistons collaborators. “They’re really genuine about wanting to promote our region and our region’s wine.”