Northern Michigan Wine: With the Old Mission and Leelanau Peninsulas approaching harvest, we take a wide-angle look at the essential vinifera (read wine grapes) that make up Northern Michigan’s exploding oeno-scene. Embracing the nuances and challenges of cool climate viticulture, our local wineries and grape growers have focused on nine core varietals and the subsequent site planting, clonal selection and crop protections needed to produce quality, world-class wines. The 2010 and 2011 vintages of Northwest Michigan reds and whites have swept a slew of medals at regional, national and international wine competitions and attracted prestigious attention from critics like Jancis Robinson and leading industry publications such as Wine Spectator and Food & Wine. Read on as we sip our way through nine exemplary local varietal wines—five whites and four reds—found on retail shelves, restaurant lists and tasting room menus.
Seventh Hill Riesling’s precision reflects the pedigree of this Old Mission vineyard. Expect ripe stone fruit and mineral to sing in the wine’s rich texture and slight sweetness balanced by mouthwatering acidity.
Pinot Gris 2011 Chateau Fontaine Pinot Gris
Pear, golden delicious apple and citrus accent this bright and effusive pinot gris that offers harmonious weight and freshness.
Gewürztraminer 2011 Verterra Winery Medium Sweet Gewürztraminer
A little residual sugar helps uplift the persistent flavors of lychee and pineapple that lie beneath pretty floral overtones.
Pinot Blanc 2010 Peninsula Cellars Pinot Blanc
From the Kroupa estate vineyard on Old Mission, this crisp pinot blanc acknowledges its Alsatian roots with apple, pear, wildflower honey and a subtle almond aftermath.
Chardonnay 2011 Brys Estate ‘Naked’ Chardonnay
This sexy chardonnay, sans oak, shows tropical fruit indicative of the ripe vintage. Texturally, the wine shows lemon curd creaminess from lees contact and finishes dry and bright.
With even ripening and enough time on the vine, merlot thrives in our local vineyards. This reserve bottling from Chateau Grand Traverse spent nearly two years in barrel and shows velvety black cherry, tellicherry pepper, cocoa and spice.
Pinot Noir 2010 Two Lads Pinot Noir
Two Lads nailed the fickle and vintage-sensitive pinot noir with their 2010 bottling. Dark cherry, sweet wood smoke, violet and loamy aromas transition to concentrated red cherry and vanilla on the palate.
Cabernet Franc 2010 Black Star Farms ‘Arcturos’ Cabernet Franc
Bottled only in exceptional vintages, this may be Black Star Farms’ best incarnation of cab franc to date. Briary wild berry, tobacco and sweet herbs accented with spicy barrel character.
Blaufrankisch 2011 Shady Lane Blue Franc
The dynamic underdog grape, this Austrian varietal, in the hands of winemaker Adam Satchwell, explodes with blueberry and blackberry fruit, peppercorn and cigar box spice. Rich on the palate with soft tannins, the wine is sublimely versatile.