Fortified wines are made by dosing a fruit fermentation with brandy to slay the yeast, lock in residual sugar and amp the alcohol just enough to chase away a deep winter chill. The North’s bounty of orchards, briars and vineyards means there’s plenty of prime fruit to use in building these tasty libations. Barrel aging, often for two years or more, is de rigueur for giving fortified wines their supple texture and allowing them to soak up sweet and spicy flavor components from the wood. Bust out your vintage cordial glasses and sip these fortified wines made in Northern Michigan.
45 NORTH | NORTHPOR+
A marriage of wine and brandy made from Marquette grapes and mellowed in used whiskey barrels. Copious black cherry, cocoa and coconut.
BLACK STAR FARMS | SIRIUS RASPBERRY
A pure, bright and briary explosion of raspberry sweetness kept lithe with the fruit’s natural acidity.
BOWERS HARBOR | APPLETAGE
Four varieties of frozen apples are pressed, fortified and barrel aged to craft this caramel-ly orchard elixir.
CHATEAU GRAND TRAVERSE | CHERRY RESERVE
Cherry wine chills four years in oak before blending with cherry brandy for a rich, supple reimagining of port.
GREEN BIRD CELLARS | O’DOCE
White grapes from Greenbird’s organic vineyards are blended and fortified into a sweet blond spirit with pear and apricot aromas.
Perfect Pairings: Fortified Wines + Food
Fortified wines will happily fly solo as fireside sippers but don’t overlook their utility on the grazing table.
Dessert – Boost your dessert buzz by pouring dark fruit dessert wines alongside chocolate-based confections. The caramel and vanilla notes in barrel-aged apple or white brandy-based wines sing to fruit tarts and custard.
Charcuterie – Coarse country pâtés often get studded with dried fruit, which can start a delicious dialogue with the black fruit found in cherry and red grape-based dessert wines. White grape and apple-based libations jive best with silky boudin or chicken liver mousse.
Cheese – Use the sweetness in fortified wines to offset earthy, sharp and intensely salty cheeses like aged stilton, Roquefort or raw milk cheddar.
Traverse food and drinks editor Tim Tebeau writes from Petoskey.