Northern Michigan wineries are growing chardonnays that reflect generations of commitment to growing fruit on both the Old Mission Peninsula and the Leelanau Peninsula. Revered by some as the perfect grape and maligned by others as the housewife’s anesthesia, chardonnay is an oeno-chameleon whose tenacity and abundant crop yields are exploited in commercial swill, but whose profound capacity to express flavors of manifold fruits and minerals also make it a sublime foundation for the world’s priciest wines. Loved by winemakers for its textural versatility, chardonnay can be round and supple or lean and bracing according to style. With the excitement of spring release time, we map out the local chard scene, highlighting a few producers and their interpretations of this noble grape.
With strong nods toward traditional Burgundian technique, winemaker Lee Lutes offers a rockin’ lean, un-oaked sur lie chard under the Arcturos label as well as a richer barrel-fermented wine from the Isidor’s Choice vineyard.
With one bottling, the Lads shoot for the chardonnay equator, sourcing balanced fruit and fermenting in unique large French oak tanks to maximize aromatics and impart a pleasant ghost of wood.
Treated with glass and steel, just like a Norman Foster building, the wine is likewise bright, angular and fully exposed.
Winemaker Charlie Edson swings for the fences with a big, creamy style that is barrel fermented and aged sur lie in French and American oak.
Bowers produces a lovely middle-weight unwooded chard as well as the rounder, more intense RLS Reserve that’s suitable for cellaring.