So you all know I’m a fan of Oregon wines now, but what about supporting our own home state? Which Mitten wines have made me smitten? Well, I was recently asked to do a Michigan wine tasting for the wives of the Senior PGA tour, showcasing which foods pair best with our wines. After much deliberation, these are my selections as the best of what Michigan wines have to offer:
Larry Mawby of Mawby Cellars on the Leelanau Peninsula is one of Michigan’s founding fathers. Since the first crush in 1978, he has been making estate grown and bottled wines. Sparkling wine soon became Larry’s forte, and we are all better for it! With names like Sex, Us, Wet, and Detroit, these sparklers jump off the shelf. It’s Larry’s attention to detail and TLC that keeps people coming back. M. Lawrence Detroit Demi-Sec Sparkling Wine, Leelanau Peninsula, $14.99
Soft and lush, with creamy bubbles. The Muscat gives Detroit a lovely sweetness with a zippy, clean finish.
Ship of Fools
The first to grow Vitis vinifera exclusively in Michigan in 1974, Ed O’Keefe believed that the Old Mission Peninsula was the perfect place to grow cool climate grapes, such as Riesling, Pinot gris, Pinot blanc and Pinot noir. Years later, he and his family run Northern Michigan’s largest and oldest commercial winery and vineyard operation. Though they are world renowned for their Riesling, I chose my favorite, the Ship of Fools Pinot Blend because it is so very unique and true to Michigan’s terroir.
Chateau Grand Traverse Ship of Fools White Blend 2010 – $14.99
Crisp, clean and refreshing, this trio of Pinot Blanc, Gris, and Noir utilizes the best in each grape: Blanc for finesse, Gris for structure and Noir for bouquet and ageability. Citrus and tropical fruit flavors round out the finish.
Having a keen eye for potential, Kerm Campbell and Donald Coe jumped at the opportunity to buy the palatial Sport Valley Farm in 1997. The farm included riding stables, an extravagant estate house and barns, not to mention the perfect topography and terroir for a vineyard! Over the years, they have cultivated two vineyard sights and multiple tasting rooms, becoming an award-winning establishment. Their Late Harvest Riesling is one of my top-selling Michigan wines because it has a generous amount of sweetness but is very well balanced.
Black Star Farms Late Harvest Riesling 2010 – $18.99
Riesling is what Michigan is known for, and this little star is one of the reasons! Honeysuckle and white peach on the nose and palate, the texture is creamy, but the finish has nice acidity.
After a few years of growing cherries, Traverse City’s main fruit, Neurosurgeon Joseph O’Donnell caught wind of the emerging wine industry and began research with Michigan State to see whether his cherry orchard would be better suited as a vineyard. The results came back that indeed wine grapes would do well here. He enlisted the help of Michigan wine pioneer Larry Mawby to help him produce Pinot noir and Chardonnay-based sparkling wines. Though they still make some tasty sparkling wines, their Rieslings are what they are known for. Winemaker Adam Satchwell, who has a wine résumé that resembles the very history of wine itself, has made it his goal to capture the essence of and teach about the terroir of Michigan. I believe he has done just that with their Pinot noir.
Shady Lane Cellars Pinot Noir 2010 – $21.99
The Shady Lane Pinot noir has cherry and baking spice on the nose, with loads of ripe red fruits on the palate and a long, dry finish.
Rooted in the tradition of Michigan wines and looking towards the future, Fenn Valley grows both the French American hybrids that first put Michigan wines on the map and the vinifera the new generation has had so much success with. A good example of this is the Capriccio, a fun, full, fruity wine that combines the old world wines of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc with the new world hybrid grape Chambourcin.
Fenn Valley Capriccio Dry Red Wine – $11.99
Soft and rich, the Capriccio is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Chambourcin. Black cherry and blackberry abound, with a smooth finish that makes this wine terrific for red-sauced dishes. On a hot summer’s day, this wine is great for Sangria!
Last but never least, we have Chateau Chantal. Quite possibly the most beautiful winery in Michigan, its tasting room has a panoramic view of the vineyard and both the East and West Grand Traverse Bay. Although I have always been impressed by its wines, I chose the Chantal Cerise Port-Style Cherry Wine. You can’t showcase Michigan wines without having at least one cherry wine! This wine is dessert in a bottle and embodies Michigan’s winemaking along with our burgeoning spirits industry.
Chateau Chantal Cerise Cherry Port – $29.99
Michigan cherry wine and cherry brandy blended together for a sinfully good dessert wine! Opulent and packed with black and red cherry flavors, this port-style wine calls for decadent chocolate!
Michigan has become one of the top-ten wine-producing states in the nation, and our winemakers are internationally recognized as some of the best. These six wines are just a sample of the 85 different wineries that Michigan has to offer. Some of my other favorites are 2 Lads, Brys, Left Foot Charlie and 45 North. Several of the best wineries have such small productions that they cannot be sold down state, so you will just have to explore our beautiful state and its many terrific wineries!
Next time someone asks, “Yeah, but are Michigan wines really any good?” You can wholeheartedly say, “Yes!”