Michigan? YES, Michigan!

Mid-America, Tasting Notes

Michigan may not be the first place that pops into your head when wine comes to mind, but it ought to be on your list of wine trail to explore. According to the Michigan Grape and Wine Industry Council (www.michiganwines.com) there are 73 wineries producing more than a million gallons of wine annually in this cold climate wine mecca from Vinifera, Hybrid and Native American grapes. This is significant growth, up from just 10 wineries in 1980 and 42 wineries in 2005. Most of the grapes are grown within 25 miles of Lake Michigan. In 2009, Michigan wines won coveted Gold medals at thirteen highly acclaimed wine competitions around the country. Among the top grape varieties grown in Michigan are Riesling, Chardonnay, Vidal Blanc, Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and Cabernet Franc.  It was here I actually discovered one of the best examples of Pinot Gris I have ever tasted; yes that’s right, made in northwestern Michigan. Earlier this month at the 2010 Michigan Wine Competition it scored a Gold Medal and Best of Class award.  Read on about this well made wine and my other favorites:

Black Star Farms 2009 Arcturos Pinot Gris: Gorgeous floral aromas waft from the glass and lead to crisp apple and summer melon flavors with a touch of fresh herbs blossoming on the palate. This 100% Pinot Gris from the 7 Hills Vineyard (Old Mission Peninsula appellation) showcases beautiful purity of fruit with brisk acidity balancing the juicy fruit. Gold Medal and Best of Class, Dry White category.

Black Star Farms 2009 Arcturos Riesling: Another Gold Medal and Best of Class award for Black Star Farms, this time in the Semi-Dry White wine category.  This Riesling opens with delightful aromas of citrus and a fragrant bouquet of spring flowers and stays focused on the palate with succulent white peach and nectarine flavors wrapped around a firm core of acidity; a nice touch of minerality adds complexity.

Forty-Five North Vineyard & Winery captured Gold and Best of Class in the Rose category for their 2009 Blanc de Pinot Noir. The beauty of this mouthwatering Rose begins with the brilliant rosey pink hue, and it bursts open with fresh strawberry and red raspberry flavors weaving harmoniously on the palate; well balanced with the perfect touch of sweetness. Think biting into a fresh picked sun ripened strawberry; juicy and lifted on the palate, balanced and refreshing with a good level of acidity.

Bowers Harbor Vineyards 2007 Cabernet Franc, Erica Vineyard: From the Old Mission Peninsula AVA, this stunning Cab Franc is a fine example of how well Cab Franc can be crafted in Michigan (it’s one of my favorite red varieties here). Earthy wild berry and dark cherry aromas fill the nose and expand on the palate with tantalizing layers of bittersweet chocolate, freshly ground spices, a touch of tobacco and subtle oak notes – full and complex with a long, lingering finish. GOLD medal and Best of Class, Dry Red category.

Uncle John’s Fruit House Winery Franc N Cherry: If fruit is your panacea you’ve got to add this to your list of must try libations. It really takes your taste buds for a ride with the tangy cherry flavors. Crafted from Cabernet Franc and Cherry; this lively juicy wine is playful (its frolicsome label gives you a first hint of that), but also has a bit of underlying serious earthy notes. Imagine biting into a freshly baked sour cherry pie followed by a walk in the forest. Gold Medal and Best of Class, Fruit Wine Category.

Cherry Creek Cellars took home a Double Gold in the Semi-Dry Red category for the 2008 Raceway Red. A juicy blend of Cab Franc, Chambourcin and Chancellor, this nicely made wine really sings. Forward cherry and spice aromas open the door to the purity of fresh berry and cherry flavors that shine brightly on the palate. Its sweetness is obvious but not over the top, and the soft, round mouth feel is offset with enough acidity to keep it vibrant and balanced.

Burgdorf’s Winery 2007 Morado: Crafted from the Native American Concord grape (Vitis Labrusca), this Gold Medal winning wine is vibrant from the welcoming brimming with fruit aromas to the pure juicy fruit at the core.  The essence of Concord comes alive.  Those that steer away from dry or tannic wines will find a joyful palate pleaser with this true to its varietal roots Concord wine.

Tabor Hill Cab Franc Port took home the Gold in the Fortified Grape category.  Inviting aromas of dark berry a hint of nuttiness rise from the glass and lead to a viscous mouthful of decadence; tantalizing chocolate covered berries laced with caramel.  Rich, delicious and velvety smooth through the persistent, memorable finish – what a way to cap off a delightful evening!

Don’t miss the boat on Michigan wines. Wine trails abound from the southwestern AVA’s of Lake Michigan Shore and Fenville to the northwestern AVA’s of Old Mission Peninsula and Leelanau Peninsula.  Discover firsthand the purity and crispness of these wines crafted from cold climate grapes, and the passion of the producers behind them.