Michigan Wines Achieving New Heights

Tasting Notes

Judging the 2018 Michigan Wine Competition this year gave me more reasons to be impressed with wines being produced across the state.  The quality continues to reach higher levels, many of which deserve to be recognized on a global level.  White wines, including Auxerrois, Riesling, Grüner Veltliner, Gewurztraminer, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Blanc, Vignoles, and Chardonnay have long been appreciated here.   There are red varieties, including Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Sangiovese, Blaufränkisch, Marquette, Refosco, Teroldego, Lagrein, Chancellor, Chambourcin and Noiret (crafted as a stand-alone variety or part of a blend), that are equally compelling, and deserve accolades as well.  Shining stars tasted during this year’s Michigan Wine Competition included:

Mari Vineyards 2016 Bel Tramonto; Old Mission Peninsula:  This beautifully composed blend of Merlot, Sangiovese, Cabernet Franc and Refosco is complex and well defined.  Alluring aromatics pave the way to a richly textured wine boasting mouth-coating flavors of blueberry, red cherry, graphite, wild blackberries, almond paste, savory herbs, and a thread of minerality.  Delicious now, while balancing acidity and firm tannins (joining the bountiful fruit) also suggest age-worthiness.   SRP:  $45 (Double Gold/Best of Class.)  The Mari Vineyards team also took home Double Gold honors for their 2017 Malvasia Bianca, and a Gold medal for their 2016 Troglodyte Bianco (a blend of 50% Pinot Blanc, 40% Grüner Veltliner and 10% Sauv Blanc). www.marivineyards.com

Mawby Vineyards & Winery NV Sandpainting Brut Rosé; Leelanau Peninsula: Engaging with its yeasty aroma and pinpoint bead, this impressive traditional method sparkling wine is crafted of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and a touch of Vignoles. Well balanced and expressive, as vibrant layers of green apples, fresh apricot pastry, summer strawberries, raspberries, and a generous measure of orange and lemon enliven the palate.  Finishes with plenty of length and vibrancy.  SRP:  $31 (Gold/Best of Class.) Mawby’s NV Talismon sparkling wine also gained a Gold medal.  www.lmawby.com

Verterra Winery 2017 Dry Riesling; Leelanau Peninsula:  This beautifully expressive dry Riesling is captivating.  Opening with a charismatic stone fruit and river rock aroma, it broadens delectably on the palate with layers of green apples, minerality, white peaches, chopped herbs, a pinch of sea salt, and citrus accents.  Zesty through the persistent finish.  SRP: $18 (Double Gold/Best of Class.)  Verterra’s team also achieved Double Gold for their 2017 Pinot Blanc, and Gold for their 2017 Rosé of Cab Franc. www.verterrawinery.com

Left Foot Charley 2017 Blaufränkisch Rosé; Michigan:  This full-flavored dry Rosé is brimming with red and black fruits and spice, from first whiff through the spirited palate, to the long-lasting finish.  Juicy red cherries, tart cranberries, black raspberries, white pepper, boysenberries, and subtle earthiness join savory herbs and a twist of orange peel. Bright and energizing with bracing acidity that keeps it ever so vivacious.   SRP:  $18 (Double Gold/Best of Class.)  www.leftfootcharley.com

Bel Lago Vineyards & Winery 2017 Sparkling Auxerrois; Leelanau Peninsula:  This shimmering sparkler, composed of 90% Auxerrois, 5% Pinot Noir and 5% Chardonnay, opens with pizzazz!  Fragrant aromas of citrus blossom and a lively bead of tiny bubbles captivate the senses.  It bursts forth with flavors of fresh pineapple, blanched almonds, crisp pear, and lemon lime on the palate.  The balance is finely tuned, and the extended finish is refreshing. SRP:  $22 (Gold.)    Bel Lago Winery also secured three additional Gold medals for their 2016 Chardonnay, 2017 Pinot Grigio, and NV Leelanau Primavera semi-dry white wine.  www.bellagowinery.com

Lawton Ridge Winery 2017 AZO Red; Lake Michigan Shore: If you are one who seeks out red wine with a touch of sweetness, reach for this semi-dry gem, a blend of Chancellor, Chambourcin and Noiret.  Round and tasty on the palate, unveiling juicy flavors of wild raspberries, vanilla bean, boysenberry jam, cherry candy, and savory black pepper spice. Fresh and nicely balanced.  SRP: $14.95 (Gold/Best of Class.) Two additional Double Gold medals were awarded to Lawton Ridge, one for their 2016 Harvest Select Sweet Vignoles, and another for their Pinot Noir/Pinot Meunier based 2017 Rosé.  www.lawtonridgewinery.com

Aurora Cellars 2017 Medium Sweet Riesling; Leelanau Peninsula:  Wet stone aromas speak clearly of what you are about to taste.  Attractively sweet without being cloying, it shows off juicy white peaches, citrus-splashed nectarines, and candied pineapple at the core.  The abundant fruit is framed by racy acidity, and there is a pleasing thread of minerality adding another dimension.  Mouthwatering through the lingering finish. SRP: $17 (Double Gold/Best of Class.)  Aurora’s Blaufränkisch also captured Double Gold, and their 2017 Late Harvest Vignoles was awarded Gold.   www.auroracellars.com

Black Star Farms 2017 Arcturos Gewurztraminer; 81% Leelanau Peninsula, 19% Old Mission Peninsula:  Here is a delicious semi-dry Gewurztraminer that broadcasts classic varietal characteristics at first swirl.  Inviting lychee and orange blossom on the nose are mirrored on the palate, entwining with flavors of a spiced quince tart, and a touch of ginger.  Precisely balanced, with a proficient level of acidity and subtle hint of sweetness.  The texture is silky smooth, and the finish is dynamic and long.  SRP:  $22.50 (Double Gold.)  Black Star Farms’ 2016 Isidor’s Choice red blend (composed of Teroldego, Merlot, Lagrein and Cab Franc), and Arcturos Pinot Noir Blanc also secured Double Gold awards.  www.blackstarfarms.com

Chateau Fontaine Vineyards 2016 Woodland White; Leelanau Peninsula:  This snappy dry white wine, crafted of Auxerrois, is bright and airy.  Aromas of stone fruit and applesauce make way for juicy flavors of nectarine, Red Delicious apples, a sprinkling of fresh chopped herbs and hints of multi-colored pepper.  The acidity level balances the succulent fruit, and the finish displays vivid lemon-lime notes.  SRP:  $13 (Gold.)   Chateau Fontaine’s 2016 Chardonnay, and 2016 Grüner Veltliner each garnered Gold medals as well.  www.chateaufontaine.com

Chateau Grand Traverse 2016 Riesling Ice Wine; Old Mission Peninsula:  Mesmerizing aromas send you right into the glass. You simply cannot wait to taste the first sip—and it’s a beauty.   Honeyed pineapple, stone fruit, Marcona almonds, citrus blossom and candied lime peel interlace, flowing seamlessly across the palate.  Rich and viscous with vibrant balancing acidity, it lingers far beyond the final sip.  SRP (375 ml):  $75 (Double Gold/Best of Class.)  Additionally, CGT secured Double Gold for their Semi-Dry Riesling, and Gold medals for their 2017 Block Twelve Riesling, 2013 Gamay Noir Reserve, 2017 Pinot Noir Rosé Vin Gris, and 2016 Ship of Fools white wine. www.cgtwines.com

St. Julien Winery Solera Cream Sherry; Michigan:  This sumptuous, well balanced wine, crafted from Niagara grapes and fortified with neutral grape spirits, is ever so enticing.  Heavenly aromas of warm apple pie and caramel rise from the glass.  Rich flavors of honey-drizzled baked apples, butterscotch drops, roasted nuts and freshly grated orange zest coat the palate.  Well balanced through the long-lasting finish.   SRP:  $13.99 (Double Gold/Best of Class.)  St. Julien also took home a Double Gold for their NV “On the Town” dry white wine, and Double Gold/Best of Class in the fruit wine category for their NV Sparkling Sweet Nancie Peach.  www.stjulien.com

For details about all the award winners, visit www.michiganwines.com/competition.

A trip to Michigan’s wine regions should be on your bucket list.  There are many impressive producers there to seek out, offering numerous varieties and styles of wines and ciders.  Discover what pleases your palate from the “Great Lakes State”!