Q&A with Michigan Wine Superfan Susan Smith

The Ohio resident frequently travels to the Mitten to visit her favorite winery
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Michigan wine superfan Susan Smith (left) with her daughter and mother. All photos courtesy of Susan Smith

Michigan wine’s appeal increasingly stretches beyond the borders of the Great Lakes State.

Just ask Susan Smith, a Michigan wine superfan who lives outside of Toledo, Ohio, who travels up to visit nearby Flying Otter Winery in Adrian, her favorite, as well as other tasting rooms throughout the state. She and her husband, Scott, discovered Flying Otter more than a decade ago during a trip to southeastern Michigan, and they’ve been regulars ever since.

Here, we caught up with Smith to learn more about her favorite winery and wines and get her tips for other tasters.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

What keeps you coming back to Flying Otter?
The setting is so pretty, and it’s so unique. Their tasting room is only open during the good weather, and it overlooks their vineyard. All their wines are made from the grapes that they grow right there. They have entertainment every Friday. I’m a fan of red wine, and they make some really good reds. And we’ve gotten to know people up there. So you go up there, and it’s fun to catch up with everybody.

Susan Smith (right) helps bottle wine at Flying Otter Winery in Adrian.

I take it you know the owners there a bit?
We do. We have become friends with them, yes. Matter of fact, I’ve gone up and helped them bottle a couple times.

Are there any specific wines there that are your favorites?
Of course. [Owner/winemaker Bob Utter] did a Marquette Reserve, and that was fantastic, but right now he’s got a Wingwalker and a Wingman. They’re just good drinking wines. He also does wonderful work with his Frontenac.

Do you have any tips for other people interested in going wine tasting?
Be open-minded about it. Surely, there are going to be ones that you don’t like, but I bet you’ll find one that you do like, because most wineries will make that range of wine from sweet to dry, and there’s usually one in there that you can enjoy. Be open-minded, and talk to the people behind the counter, too. Hopefully they’re knowledgeable enough to let you know what it is that you’re drinking and not just pour you wine.

Sometimes at these small wineries, too, it’s the actual owner or winemaker pouring it, right?
Absolutely. And they love to talk about their wine; they really do.

The pavilion at Flying Otter.

What does an ideal tasting experience look like to you?
The setting has a lot to do with it, the attentiveness [of] the person behind the counter, and then the people that you’re with makes it a lot of fun.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Just go and enjoy. Obviously, the summer months are a lot of fun when you can sit outside. Take your water. Eat some food. Take a friend. Just have a good time.

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