During the month of February, #Winestudio’s guests were members of the Michigan Wine Collaborative. The member-run organization includes growers, producers, suppliers, educators and more. Together, they provided an insider’s view of the industry and samples for participants. The non-profit’s mission is clear:
To enhance the sustainability and profitability of the Michigan wine industry by supporting wineries, growers and other businesses and individuals connected to the industry – today and for future generations.
Michigan is home to nearly 150 wineries, most located within 25 miles of Lake Michigan. There is a bit more protection from the elements with the lake-effect, allowing for a longer growing season and less likelihood of a freeze after bud-break.
The grapes are similar to those found in other cool climates. Riesling dominates followed by Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, and Pinot Noir. Look also for lesser-known varieties like Gruner Vetliner, Traminette, Vidal Blanc, and Seyval. Note the similarities in varieties to regions like The Finger Lakes which has a similar climate.
Early French settlers took note of the wild grapes when they arrived but the first wine grapes were planted in the mid-1800s. Joseph Sterling opened the first winery in 1870, although his and the seven other wineries open at the time would not survive Prohibition. In 1933, several opened. In 1934, the oldest continually operating winery moved from Canada to Detroit and was renamed Meconi Wines, eventually becoming St, Julian, our guests for the first and second week of #Winestudio.St. Julian has five tasting locations and several labels ranging from wine to cider to vodka. We tasted two:
2017 Mountain Road Riesling Lake Michigan Shore AVA ($19.99) Everything you’d expect from a dry, cool-climate Riesling, and a little more. This was a bit weightier than most, with stone fruit, vibrant acidity, and touch of petrol. Delicious.
2017 Braganini Reserve Grüner Veltliner Lake Michigan Shore AVA ($19.99) I love a good Gruner. Tropical notes, lime zest, green notes. If you like zippy wines with a little attitude, check this beauty out!
Amoritas Vineyards 2016 Rose Crest Vineyard Chardonnay, Leelanau Peninsula ($21) I opened this with my neighbors so they could sample what Michigan has to offer. Super pale in the glass, but nothing pale about the palate. From newer vines, planted in 2013, notes of apple, lemon, balanced acidity and minerality. Versatile and vivacious wine. We all gave it two thumbs up.
Chateau Chantal 2016 30 Year Vineyard Reserve Chardonnay Robert and Nadine Begin began their careers pouring into others in ministry and now pour wine and serve others at their estate on Old Mission Peninsula. Each left a career after decades of combined service in the church to build their dream, a European style winery château. At first, planting an orchard, then vineyards in the mid-80s. They have eleven units at their Bed and Breakfast on 65 acres overlooking Traverse Bay.
From a vineyard planted in 1986, the grapes went through primary and secondary ML fermentation in a mix of French and American barrels. The yield is a wine in which the fruit maintains its voice, the acid softened, the finish mature. I paired it with a curried vegetable soup but it could go in many directions.
Fenn Valley Pinot Griogio, Lake MI shore, ($14) This 240 acre estate is five miles from Lake Michigan near Holland, chosen for its ideal growing conditions. This Pinot Grigio has depth, not something I say often. Apple, stone fruit, white flowers, acidity. Easy to pair or drink solo. At this price point, it is a summer wine to buy by the case.
I should have known. I love cool climate wines, the crisp fruit and vibrant acidity are what I crave in a wine. I should have known by the climate comparisons to favorite regions. I should have known, but I had no idea how much I would love these Michigan wines.
We were already talking about heading to the region for a summer road trip to see friends and see that part of the country. But now, it has bumped way up on the list. The region is beautiful, the wines are fantastic, and the people I connected with on #winestudio were knowledgeable, warm, passionate and have mad GIF skills. Many thanks to all who participated and shared their wines and love of the region.