WRITER | CANDIE CONAT
PHOTOS | THE RUSTY PELICAN
If you haven’t visited the Rusty Pelican in Gaylord, it is a trip worth taking!
The story of the Rusty Pelican actually begins in Illinois, where Northern Michigan native Cassie Meredith was living at the time. Since she wasn’t from the area, she looked for a fun side job that would allow her to meet people and ultimately settled on a job at the Galena Cellars tasting room.
Working under their sommelier, Meredith gained valuable experience and a passion for American-made fruit wines – fermented alcoholic beverages made from fruit other than grapes, with additional flavors of flowers and herbs sometimes added. When the time came to move back to Northern Michigan, she stowed her newfound love and knowledge for a later date when the right opportunity would present itself.
Time passed. Then, one morning, Meredith had an epiphany. Why wait? Why wait to launch a retail wine shop and tasting room focused on fruit wines – one not affiliated with a single winery but with many small-batch regional wineries? Her husband, Mike, agreed. It was a new concept when they started five years ago. “It has been an ever-changing experience that just keeps getting better,” Meredith says.
The Rusty Pelican is home to a large selection of wine, mead, beer, champagne, port, and more, not to mention unique wine accessories, foods, spices, and condiments. Everything is made in the US, with an emphasis on Michigan- and Florida-made products, though you will find treasures from throughout the country.
The Merediths’ goal is to showcase wines you may not be familiar with, such as the Key Limen Wine from Florida Orange Groves, made with 100% Florida key limes, and Mike’s favorite, the Black Gold Semi-Sweet made with marion blackberries from Washington state. “Black Gold is robust, full of flavor, and closely comparable to red wine as far as feel on the palate; it has a bittersweet taste and smooth finish.” Cassie has proudly converted Mike from a devoted beer drinker to a guy who happily enjoys a glass of Black Gold.
Personal service is something the Merediths pride themselves on. They enjoy the camaraderie and friendships forged over a flight of wine and a sampling of snacks. Their daughter has contributed to The Rusty Pelican as well, designing the logo that can be seen throughout the shop.
Every guest gets an education about each wine as they go through a tasting. Meredith takes pride in dispelling the many myths about local wines while helping new and seasoned wine drinkers alike find a new favorite. A point of pride is that many customers find they have a broader appreciation in wines than they realized simply because she helped them “step outside their wine box.”
Meredith enjoys showcasing fruit wines from around the country, but most importantly, Michigan wines. With wines from places like the Nicholas’ Black River Winery, Seasons of the North Winery, and Thunder Bay Winery, along with meads and beer from Kalamazoo American Brewers, she does a fine job of doing just that.
The Rusty Pelican Wine Shop
240 W. Main, Gaylord MI 49735
(989) 448-8697 / TheRustyPelicanWineShop.com