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Len Olson left behind a wine legacy

Vineyard in Leelanau County
Flickr user farlane
Vineyard in Leelanau County

Anyone who enjoys Michigan wines should raise a glass in tribute to Len Olson.

Without Olson, Michigan might well not have its 107 fully operating wineries and its 15,000 acres of grapes.

This pioneer of Michigan's wine industry died late last year.

Chris Cook is Hour Detroit magazine's chief wine and restaurant critic.

Olsen founded Tabor Hill Winery in 1970, which became the first winery in Michigan to obtain a license since the end of Prohibition in 1934.

Cook says Olson’s significance comes from his willingness to take risks and try something new. He planted Chardonnay and Reisling grapes, which no one believed could be grown in Michigan weather. He proved them wrong and launched Michigan’s wine industry.

"Olson was one of those visionaries that come along every once in a while. And like many visionaries, he had the drive, he had the belief and he had the idea," says Cook.

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