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Did you know that Michigan is the fourth largest grape-growing state and the seventh leading wine-producing state in the United States? The state has a long history with this crop.
Wild grapes were reported to be growing in Michigan as far back as the late 17th century. These grapes were first used to make wine before massive plantings of widely available varietals, such as Concord, Delaware, and Norton’s Virginia, were undertaken.
Joseph M. Sterling established Michigan’s first winery, the Pointe Aux Peaux Wine Company, in Monroe County in 1868. Thereafter, vineyards were planted throughout the state, both for wine and fruit juice. A leading grape of the time was Concord, mostly grown in the southwest. This became a key crop when Prohibition took effect in 1920, as wineries that were able to survive sold their grapes to supply Welch’s grape juice company. Michigan was the first state to vote to repeal Prohibition in 1933.
Once it was legal to make wine again, the wine industry continued to grow and Michigan reclaimed its position among other wine-producing states in America. In the late 1940s, the local industry gained a boost through tax policy: Michigan wines made with 75 percent Michigan-grown grapes were taxed at only four cents per gallon while wines from other places were taxed at 50 cents per gallon.
Interestingly enough, while Monroe County, home to Michigan’s first winery, sits on the southeastern shore of Michigan near Lake Erie, today nearly all the wine produced in the state comes from within 25 miles of Lake Michigan on the western side of the state. This is due largely to plantings of European vitis vinifera varietals in the 1960s in the Leelanau Peninsula and Old Mission Peninsula. This prime growing region in the northwestern part of the state produces what is known as the “lake effect.” Lake Michigan acts as a moderating influence for surrounding temperatures, due to the fact that water changes temperature at a much slower rate than air and maintains it (whether warm or cool) for a longer period of time. This helps prevent roots from freezing and allows the grapes to remain on the vine longer. Riesling is the most planted wine grape in Michigan, with Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, and Cabernet Franc also having a significant presence.
The last two decades have seen rapid expansion of the Michigan wine industry. Today Michigan contains five American Viticultural Areas and over 160 wineries. Two of these AVAs, Leelanau Peninsula and Old Mission Peninsula, sit along the 45th parallel. This is the same latitude as the renowned wine regions in Willamette Valley in Oregon, Piedmont in Italy, and Bordeaux and Burgundy in France. World class wine can also be found in abundance in the Tip of the Mitt, Fennville, and Lake Michigan Shore AVAs.
With its rich history, breathtaking locales, and delicious wines, Michigan should be a destination for all Oenophiles.
Shady Lane Cellars is a boutique estate winery that sits at the base of Leelanau Peninsula, just minutes from downtown Traverse City in Suttons Bay, Michigan. Founded by Dr. Joseph O’Donnell, Shady Lane Cellars’ first estate vineyards were planted in 1989 on the site of an early 1900s fruit farm. Their tasting room opened in 1999, making them one of the original 12 wineries in the Peninsula.
Under current owner Richard Fortune, who purchased the winery in 2013, Shady Lane is SIP (Sustainability in Practice) certified. Farming and caring for the land have been part of Shady Lane’s stewardship for a long time; from their use of compost to build healthy soils and plants to their careful vineyard management that nurtures diversity within their vineyard ecosystem. Their wines are a pure reflection of the variety, place, and vintage.
Winemaker Kasey Wierzba, a graduate of Michigan State University and Napa Valley -trained, uses her passion for creativity and a strong sense of detail to hand craft Shady Lane Cellars wines. Kasey took over as head winemaker in 2016 and guides the fruit to create a beautiful, clean expression of Leelanau Peninsula’s cool climate viticulture. Shady Lane’s proximity to the 45th parallel blesses Kasey and her team—Vineyard Manager Andrew Bles, Assistant Tasting Room Manager Nicole Thomas, and General Manager Rich DeBlasio—with the perfect mix of sunlight and natural conditions to yield exceptional grape growth. With high-quality fruit and skilled professionals, it is no surprise that Shady Lane Cellars produces outstanding wine that earned five medals at the Judgement of Michigan in August 2021.
We strongly encourage you to pay them a visit, purchase their wine, and follow them here:
Beginning with its first releases in 2017, Detroit Vineyards in downtown Detroit has hit the ground running. A newcomer—its tasting room opened in May 2019–Detroit Vineyards is already a star in the Michigan wine galaxy.
Winemaker Chris Southern cut his teeth in wine production and winery operations in some of the finest regions on the globe: Paso Robles, Washington, New Zealand, South Africa, Napa, and Sonoma. Chris took over Detroit Vineyards in September 2019 and sources his grapes from Domaine Berrien and Karma Vista in the Lake Michigan Shore AVA, Tabone on the Old Mission Peninsula, and Engle Ridge and Altonen on the Leelenau Peninsula. This approach allows Chris to select the best fruit, which is the key to making great wine.
With the help of Cellar Master Antoniues Gregory, Chris makes the wine in their downtown Detroit facility in the former Stroh ice cream plant. Their work has already been validated. At the Judgement of Michigan in August 2021, put on by Michigan Wine Collaborative and Lake Michigan College, Detroit Vineyards took home 3 of the 33 gold medals awarded from over 350 entries.
Guests can book a slot in their Eastern Market tasting room, overseen by Sales and Tasting Room Lead Candace Hawkins, for $20-$25 per guest. They waive one tasting fee with the purchase of three or more bottles. With the quality of wine Chris and his team are producing you’ll leave with at least that many.
For more information, to make a reservation, and to purchase wine, check out Detroit Vineyards here:
Nestled in the rolling hills of the Leelanau Peninsula in Suttons Bay, Black Star Farms is a stunning 160-acre estate that is a must-visit on your wine country itinerary. It’s more than just a winery to pop in for a glass or two. In addition to enjoying highly acclaimed wine in the tasting bars and Terrace Patio, guests can dine at the Hearth and Vine Café, enjoy the property’s hiking trails, visit the equestrian center, and stay at the luxurious Inn at Black Star Farms.
For more than two decades winemaker Lee Lutes has produced some of the finest wine to come out of the Northern Michigan Wine Country. His wine has been served at the White House and feted by Wine Spectator and The Wall Street Journal. The 2017 Arcturos Dry Riesling was judged the best Riesling in the world among 567 entrants at the prestigious Canberrra International Riesling Challenge in Canberra, Australia. New Sotheby’s Wine Encyclopedia calls Lee a pro.
Black Star Farms’ proximity to Lake Michigan on the 45th parallel allows it to take advantage of the “lake effect” climate and therefore grow and source European vitis vinifera varieties like Riesling, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Cabernet Franc. Each is well worth purchasing and enjoying.
Plan your visit, purchase your wine, and follow Black Star Farms here:
Founded by Leonard Olson in 1970, Tabor Hill Winery in Buchanan, Michigan was the first winery in Southwest Michigan in over 30 years.
Today, Tabor Hill is the fourth largest winery in the state with 60 acres and more than 80 varieties of wine grapes. Matt Moersch is the CEO and partner of Moersch Hospitality, which owns Tabor Hill. Matt’s father, Rick, ran Olson’s wine lab and later went on to be the winemaker and general manager. Tabor Hill has truly been a family-owned and operated winery from the beginning.
Visit Tabor Hill and you will discover an impressive wine flight and tasting menu. At the August 2021 Judgement of Michigan, Tabor Hill earned seven medals for their Albariño, Dry Gewuüztraminer, Meritage, Rosé, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, and Sauvignon Blanc.
More than just a place to taste and purchase award-winning wines, Tabor Hill’s restaurant offers a menu that has a combination of locally sourced fresh ingredients and innovative creativity. All this is set amongst Tabor Hill’s stunning vineyard views.
Tabor Hill also hosts weddings, corporate events, and themed parties like Terror at Tabor, an adults-only costume/dance party.
Discover what people in Southwest Michigan already know: Tabor Hill Winery and Restaurant offers great wine, great food, and great hospitality.
Purchase your wine, learn more, and follow them here:
“Free run” is the term for the first juice to come from grapes before they are pressed. It’s the deliciousness that flows as the grape skins burst from the pressure of their own weight on top of each other. Free-run juice is limited and considered to be the best of the best—and that’s precisely why it’s the namesake of this unique spot in Southwest Michigan wine country.
Free Run Cellars of Berrien Springs specializes in small-batch, single-vineyard wines from the Lake Michigan Shore AVA. Owned by Moersch Hospitality Group, Free Run guests experience award-winning artisan wines, live music, and an atmosphere devoted to relation and personal attention.
At the August 2021 Judgement of Michigan, Free Run Cellars won a medal for its Gewürztraminer, and its Meritage has also received critical acclaim. All the wines we have sampled have been wonderful.
Visitors can book a vineyard picnic with table scape for up to 6 guests that includes a selection of three bottles of wine. If you can’t make it to their vineyard estate that guests describe as, “grown-up,” “tranquil,” and “a private feel with beautiful views,” then you can also sample their wines at the Round Barn Estate Union Pier tasting room.
A visit to Free Run Cellars is a great way to spend an enjoyable day. Book your visit, purchase their wine, and learn more here:
Located in the heart of the Lake Michigan Shore AVA, Baroda Founders Wine Cellar offers a full line-up of wine products, from classic varietals (e.g., Cabernet Franc, Pinot Gris, and Riesling) to fruit-flavor-enhanced (Baroda Antique Series), to delectable dessert wines infused with chocolate. At the Judgement of Michigan in August 2021 Baroda Founders was honored with medals for their Cabernet Franc and Vidal Blanc.
Founded by the late, great Leonard Olson (who also started Tabor Hill), the legacy of Baroda Founders is now carried on by his son, winemaker Gunnar Olson.
A true family operation, at Baroda Founders they crush, press, ferment, filter, blend, and bottle on site. They are open seven days a week and visitors can learn about winemaking and take advantage of an extremely reasonable tasting of five wines followed one chocolate dessert wine for $10.
Visit Baroda Founders at their wine cellar in Baroda or their tasting room in St. Joe. It’s a fun environment with great wine. What could be better?
Learn more and purchase wine here: https://m.founderswinecellar.com/index.html
What makes it into a bottle of wine is more than just grapes that have been painstakingly grown, harvested, and fermented, it is the story behind the grapes. That story—that mystique—adds to the enjoyment of the wine and informs its flavor. Such is the case at Rove Estate of Traverse City, where wine and story are inseparable.
As fifth-generation farmers of Irish heritage, Creighton and McKenzie Gallagher established Rove Estate to pay homage to the Winegeese and preserve their family’s legacy. What are the Winegeese? That’s the story!
In the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries, many young Irishmen emigrated from Ireland to France, which was largely Roman Catholic and therefore sympathetic to the Irish cause, following a series of military revolts and defeats. The French often smuggled luxury commodities to Ireland in exchange for Irish military recruits. The recruits were customarily referred to in the ships' cargo logs as wild geese in order to mask the illicit recruitment. This is known in history as the, “Flight of the Wild Geese.” A large number of these refugees went on to establish some of the world’s most renowned wineries. These forgotten Irish craftsman and their ancestors are reverently named “Winegeese.”
The logo on every bottle of Rove Estate wine proudly depicts a wine goose in flight set against a series of rolling hills. Tucked along the most popular route to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore (M-72), Rove Estate’s vineyard and tasting room is perched at 1,165 feet. This is the highest point on the beautiful Leelanau Peninsula, and from their deck, guests can see the village of Empire, Sugar Loaf, and the highest point in Grand Traverse County. It truly makes the sunset one of the most memorable you will ever experience!
You just can’t separate this story from the enjoyment of Rove Estate wine. It’s in every glass. Since the opening of the Rove Estate Vineyard & Tasting Room in 2016 they have received over 40 accolades in state and international competitions for their wine, including three medals at the August 2021 Judgement of Michigan.
Centrally located between Old Mission Peninsula and Leelanau Peninsula, this is the perfect place to begin or end your Traverse Wine Coast wine tour.
Book a visit, purchase wine, learn more, and follow here:
Located high atop a ridge in the Old Mission Peninsula AVA in Northwest Michigan, 12 miles north of Traverse City, Chateau Chantal offers critically acclaimed wine, brandy, eau-de-vie, and lodging.
Their large portfolio of wines includes white, reds, and rosés from their estate vineyard and a 55-acre site in Mendoza, Argentina, where they produce a rich Malbec. With their own still they make an oak-aged, grape-based brandy and eau-de-vie. The exceptional quality of what Chateau Chantal produces was most recently recognized when they won five medals at the August 2021 Judgement of Michigan. Cerise, their cherry port-style wine, is absolutely to die for!
Chateau Chantal is more than just a place to visit for a winetasting. Plan a weekend stay! Their bed & breakfast was named a top 10 U.S. wine country inn by gayot.com. Guests enjoy exceptional amenities, from cozy rooms to spacious suites, featuring views of vineyards and freshwater, terrace or balcony, wet bar, whirlpool tub, high ceilings, and elegant furnishings. The inn itself offers fireplaces and sitting areas, ample breakfasts, and an attentive front desk staff.
Chateau Chantal also hosts exclusive multi-course wine pairing dinners prepared by their in-house chef (June-October) and sunset jazz concerts (July & August).
Whether you go for the wine, the views, the hospitality, or the fun, Chateau Chantal is a must-visit on your wine country itinerary.
Book a reservation, purchase wine, learn more, and follow them here:
Located in Leland, Michigan in the Leelanu Peninsula AVA, Verterra Winery has been producing award-winning, estate-grown wines and hard ciders for years. Their first grapes were planted in 2006 and the acclaim has followed ever since. They won eight medals, including two double golds, at the August 2021 Judgement of Michigan. In 2017, 2018, and 2019 they won Best Dry White wine in the State of Michigan. In over thirty-five years of the Michigan Wine Competition no winery had won Best Dry White in consecutive years, let alone in 3 consecutive years!
Verterra Winery uses estate-grown fruit to produce elegant red, white, rosé, and sparkling wines that embody the essence of the Leelanau Peninsula. This is apropos because Verterra means “true to the land”
and land is at the heart of Verterra’s winemaking philosophy.
At Verterra they begin with high, sloped property with the right soil types. They then plant the varietals, clones, and rootstocks that have proven to produce great fruit in their area, that are sought after by consumers and tourists, and that make wines that they like. They then plant and farm these grapes with an eye towards the highest possible quality and sustainability. At Verterra they are committed to going the extra mile with their vineyard practices, appropriate yet minimal chemical application, small yields, hand pruning, tying and harvesting, and closely evaluating fruit quality and harvest timing based on science and taste.
Guests can taste at The Ridge at Verterra Vineyard, which provides a feeling of sitting on top of the world with panoramic water views of Grand Traverse Bay and Lake Michigan, or at the historic Leland Tasting Room. Great wine awaits!
Book your visit, purchase their wine, and follow here:
Cody Kresta is a small, family winery specializing in hand-crafted Michigan wines produced at their vintage 1882 homestead in southern Michigan. They are dedicated to sharing quality wines with their friends, family, and community while helping to preserve their rural countryside.
Winemaker David Butkovich is a third-generation grape grower nurturing the tradition passed on to him by his Croatian-born grandparents, Joseph and Anna. The name, Cody Kresta, honors Cody, their beloved golden retriever, and David's Croatian heritage.
Cody Kresta produces vinifera varieties such as Riesling and Chardonnay and hybrids such as Traminette and late-harvest Vidal. They also offer a unique blueberry wine made in the full-bodied style of a French Bordeaux. All grapes used in their wines are grown in the Lake Michigan Shore Appellation, including those from their own estate vineyard.
Dogs and cats play a huge role at Cody Kresta. They are the greeters, the entertainers, the comedians, the protectors, the healers, and the celebrities at the homestead. They keep a watchful eye on everything that is happening, and if they greet you, they may very well lead you right up to the door of the beautiful, Tuscan-inspired tasting room where you can taste outstanding wines that won four medals at the August 2021 Judgement of Michigan.
Whether you go for the wine, the animals, or the food events they host throughout the year, a visit to Cody Kresta is a great way to spend a day. Learn more and purchase their wine here:
As the only urban winery in the region, located in the former Northern Michigan Asylum, Left Foot Charley offers a unique opportunity to experience wine country right in the heart of Traverse City, Michigan.
Left Foot Charley was created in 2004 by Bryan and Jennifer Ulbrich. As a child, Bryan was an impulsive kid with an inward leaning left foot. This combined with the unencumbered enthusiasm to run before thinking caused him to trip and eat a lot of earth in his day. The nickname grew out of family parties and to this day its true origin remains a bit of a mystery. His taste for dirt has been refined over the years – more in line with the concept of terroir.
Left Foot Charley has teamed up with Northern Michigan’s best 18 growers to produce wines that display the range of aroma and flavor found among the glacially tilled hills of their appellations. Lake effect, soil composition, vineyard aspect, and grower mentality shape these flavors individually. Each vineyard sells only to LFC.
The results have been outstanding. LFC was awarded four medals at the August 2021 Judgement of Michigan, including a gold for its Rosé. Guests can taste the quality for themselves by visiting LFC in their Tasting Room or enjoying an enhanced tasting experience in their Barrel Room.
LFC’s spacious wine garden patio sits beneath towering trees along a gurgling creek and offers a rare outdoor meeting place in Traverse City. The modern industrial design is softened by vibrant plants, warm colors, and the most friendly service around. It is truly an Asylum – a place of peace.
Visit and find out for yourself. Make a reservation, purchase wine, and follow them here:
Bel lago means “beautiful lake” in Italian. It is therefore no wonder that Bel Lago Vineyards and Winery earns its name from their tasting room’s picturesque view overlooking their vineyard and south Lake Leelanau.
Founded in 1992 by Domenic, Ruth, and Amy Iezzoni, and Charles Edson, Bel Lago’s vineyards were first planted in the late 1980s and their tasting room opened in 1999.
They grow more than 100 varieties on 37 acres; selecting varieties that favor cool climates and express their rich soils. In addition to popular vinifera varieties like Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir, Gewurztraminer, and Riesling, they also grow rare varieties like Auxerrois, Siegerrebe and Cayuga White among many others. In addition to wine, they produce several hard ciders, including oaked, hopped, and flavored varieties.
Bel Lago’s winemaking team of Charlie Edson, Blake Lougheed, and Kyle Leppek carefully craft bright, crisp white wines and deep, complex reds through a patient and detail-oriented process. One of Bel Lago’s defining characteristics is their special focus on extended barrel aging of certain varieties. Their approach to winemaking has recently been honored as Bel Lago took him five medals at the August 2021 Judgement of Michigan.
Besides the critical acclaim Bel Lago garners a near-perfect 5-star rating on Yelp as reviewers rave about the beautiful setting, attentive staff, and delicious wine.
For nearly three decades, Bel Lago’s emphasis has been on producing quality wines and cider with an unwavering commitment to excellence. Pay them a visit, taste their wine, and see for yourself:
French Valley Vineyard is located in the heart of the Leelanau Peninsula, slightly north of Cedar, Michigan. Being just a few minutes from the natural temperature regulation of Lake Michigan is an asset to vine survival through occasional “Polar Vortex” winters. The unique soils are perfect for growing grapes that are used to produce french-style boutique fine wines from their estate-grown varietals, including Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, Riesling, Frontenac Gris, and Marquette.
Guests to French Valley Vineyard will be invited to explore the vineyard, enjoy the outside patio, cozy up to a bonfire, star gaze, and watch the sunset while enjoying their estate-grown wines.
Beginning with their first vintage in 2003, French Valley Winemaker Charlie Edson laid the foundation for what many consider the best red wines of the Leelanau Peninsula. In fact, their Reserve Merlot and Cabernet Franc & Merlot Blend were honored with medals at the August 2021 Judgement of Michigan.
Leland, Michigan local John Heekin and his wife Lynn fell in love with French Valley Vineyard while attending a family event at The Barn. The sweeping views from the second story of the completely restored centennial barn make it hard to leave. While visiting, look up into the sky and notice the carefully placed bat houses, bird homes, and even honey bee hives that have come to call their valley their home. John’s passion and dream of owning a farm and vineyard came to fruition at French Valley Vineyard and he and his team can’t wait to share it with you.
Plan your visit, purchase wine, and follow here:
Ever since he planted his first parcel of land in Leelanau County in 1973, Larry Mawby has sought to make the best wines possible while respecting Mother Earth. Beginning with the first sparkling wine he made in 1984, he has done just that. The result of his hard work and vision is MAWBY Sparkling Wines near Traverse City, believed to be the only winery in Michigan that exclusively produces sparkling wine and the oldest commercial winery in the Leelanau Peninsula AVA.
At MAWBY they ferment their bubbles twice, whether in the bottle (Traditional Method) or one of their pressure tanks (Cuve Close Method). Bottle fermented wines age between 1-7 years while their tank fermented wines are chilled, filtered, and bottled immediately.
MAWBY produces a range of sparkling wines with tastes to suit most any palate, each uniquely approachable, each with its own personality and whimsical yet bold name. Looking for grapes grown on the Leelanau or Old Mission Peninsulas? Look for Talis, Gold, Blanc, and Grace, which won a gold medal at the August 2021 Judgement of Michigan. Interested in grapes sourced from Michigan, California, or Washington? Try Us, Sex, Green, Redd, and Detroit. They even produce tea-infused canned bubbles.
Giving back has always been a part of the MAWBY model. In 2019 they launched their Green Giving program. They partner with three non profits each calendar year and contribute $1 from each bottle and glass of their wine Green to these charities.
At MAWBY they are great stewards of the land, make great sparkling wine, and are great neighbors. Visit their tasting room for featured flights, food options, exclusive winery-only offerings, and a sparkling good time.
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This sparkling wine from I the Lake Michigan Shore AVA is a blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. In the glass it is what many might describe as a traditional champagne color and quite clear. We were impressed with the tiny bubbles and the fruity but restrained aroma. It is crisp and clean on the palate; like a fresh ocean breeze. This smells and tastes like French Champagne!
Made from Chardonnay and coming from the Old Mission Peninsula, this Blanc de Blancs is the color of light straw and pear juice. Impressive tiny bubbles. A big burst of fruit on the nose, featuring green apples and white grapes. A nice blend of citrus and pepper on the palate. Dry, balanced acidity. Another champagne lover’s sparkling. One taster said they cannot wait to pop this at their next dinner party.
A blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from the Leelanau Peninsula AVA. In the glass it shows a light “Susan G. Komen” pink. A floral aroma with underlying apple. Love the tart balance taste of sweet and sour green apple. An easy drinking sparkling that would be a wonderful bubbly for a baby shower.
From the Lake Michigan Shore AVA, it shows a rich, dark plum color in the glass with good viscosity. On the nose is fig, dark berries, chocolate, and coffee. It smells like a big California Cab with oak prominent but restrained. This is a full-bodied wine with medium plus tannins that reveal berries, chocolate, leather, and coffee on the palate. The taste confirms the nose. This is the most California/Bordeaux style wine we tasted: bold yet drinkable with a long finish. It’s magic after 10 minutes in the glass.
This expression of Cabernet Franc shows that the grape is perhaps more versatile then we realized, especially in the deft hands of Winemaker Chris Southern. In the glass it is a light garnet color and gives aromas of cranberry, sweet cherry, and leather. This wine is fruit forward with great structure, balance, and light to medium tannins. Easy drinking. As one of our tasters described it, “It’s smooth like a ‘68 T-top Convertible Stingray.” This is a Pinot Noir lover’s Cabernet Franc. It is no wonder it took home a gold medal at the August 2021 Judgement of Michigan.
The 2018 Marsanne-Roussanne from Cody Kresta is the best white blend we tasted from Michigan. This wine comes from the Lake Michigan Shore AVA and is 60% Marsanne and 40% Roussanne. A unique, intoxicating aroma of pineapple and tropical fruit. The first sip is outstanding with notes of butterscotch and each sip keeps getting better. The wine transitions into a nice smooth, slightly sweet finish that is amazing. One of our reviewers said simply, “I love this wine; it would be my go to."
Pinot Gris is a light-skinned grape that is thought to be a mutation of Pinot Noir. We tasted several examples of Pinot Gris from Michigan but the one we judged to be the best was the 2019 Shady Lane Cellars Pinot Gris. This wine won a gold medal at the 2021 Judgement of Michigan. It is a light yellow-green metallic color in the glass with light body and crisp, bright acidity. On the palate is green apple, melon, and wonderful minerality, with a smooth finish. Drink this wine reading a book on your veranda or while chatting with friends. Pair it with shrimp scampi and garlic bread. If you like a California Sauvignon Blanc you’ll like this wine.
Given its location along the 45th parallel it should come as no surprise that Michigan produces exceptional Pinot Noir just like you can find in its geographical twin, the Willamette Valley. The best Pinot Noir we tasted from Michigan was the 2017 vintage from Bel Lago. This wine is pale ruby in the glass with medium body. The flavor is dominated by a pleasant smokiness, with peppercorn and dark fruits that are bolder than many Pinots. The zesty acidity leads to a nice finish. It pairs really well with a creamy cheese. It’s no surprise that their 2018 won a bronze medal at the 2021 Judgement of Michigan.
The trend with Chardonnay has been to go away from the oaky, buttery expressions made famous by California the past couple decades. Winemakers are now allowing the grape to stand on its own merit. Case in point with the 2017 French Valley Vineyards Stainless (Unoaked) Chardonnay, which was the best of this varietal that we tasted from Michigan. Our viewers noted its bright color and citrus aroma. The wine is crisp and dry with a long, even finish. This holds its own with any of the stainless Chardonnays currently produced in Sonoma.
This was our November 2021 wine of the month. You can read the full review on our website. Quite simply the best Rosé we have ever tasted.
An orange/pink color in the glass with light body. On the nose is grapefruit and a strawberry/apple fruit roll-up. An effervescent strawberry flavor that is bright and balanced with a consistent, even finish. Cool and refreshing. It tastes like summer. This wine won a gold medal at the 2021 Judgement of Michigan.
This blend of 58% Cabernet Franc and 42% Merlot has a deep crimson color that is slightly translucent. Red fruit aromas predominate. The medium tannins are surprisingly rounded. When you taste properly by coating your tongue and taking in air it makes for a fantastically long finish. This wine has great complexity and is silky smooth. One reviewer said it was her favorite red wine from Michigan. Bronze medal winner at the 2021 Judgement of Michigan.
Cabernet Franc (42%), Regent (17%), Merlot (16%), and Field Blend Reds (25%). A dark purple, full-bodied wine that checks all the boxes. It has a friendly, fruity aroma, it’s leggy, and it has great structure. One reviewer called it harmonious and said it was like drinking a rich, hot cocoa on a cold night. Really opens up nicely with dark fruit flavors. Bronze medal winner at the 2021 Judgement of Michigan.
A blend of Italian varietals Teroldego (34%) and Lagrein (22%) with Cabernet Franc (26%) and Merot (18%). We loved the deep dark purple color; almost blackberry. It invoked “oohs and aahs” when pouring. This is a full-bodied wine with excellent viscosity. Dark berries on the nose and palate; the fruit is the star. We love the complexity and medium plus tannins that build to a long finish. Deftly made. This is a Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon lover’s red blend. Gold medal winner at the 2021 Judgement of Michigan.
A dark ruby color with an excellent, fruity nose of red berries. Medium body with a rich mouth feel and red berries on the palate. It is a smooth, easy to enjoy wine with a nice finish. This is your “leggy fun friend.”
A blend of 43% Cabernet Franc, 43% Blaüfrankisch, and 14% Merlot. This wine shows dark red in the glass. Aromas are flowery and foxy, reminiscent of a French wine. Medium body, slightly acidic, with hints of ginger, dark berries, and cocoa. It is a smooth, easy drinking wine. Very pleasant sips. Silver medal winner at the 2021 Judgement of Michigan.
Our favorite Sauvignon Blanc from Michigan is the 2020 Black Star Farms Arcturos from renowned Winemaker Lee Lutes. The wine shows a light straw color in the glass with citrus on the nose. Tastes of pear and lemon are prominent and it is slightly sweet. The body is effervescent to the point of being nearly sparkling. This is a fun, bright, crisp Sauvignon Blanc that will be a crowd pleaser wherever it is served.
In a very competitive field of excellent Gewürztraminer we found the 2020 from Rove Estate to be the best. The appearance is something of a light champagne color. This wine has the aroma of sweet banana and it’s medium bodied. Tastes of pear, banana, and apple with a bit of effervescence delight the tongue. This wine has a long, wonderful finish and keeps getting better with each sip. Outstanding.
The best Pinot Blanc we tasted from Michigan was the 2020 varietal from Verterra. It is the color of light straw in the glass and we were impressed with its medium body. Aromas of lemon, lime, grapefruit, pineapple, and basil predominate with a hint of freshly cut flowers. The wine is lightly sweet and effervescent with a bright pear and slate taste. Great balance with excellent acidity to complement the slight sweetness. Reminds us of an old-world white from Northern Italy. No wonder this wine won double gold at the 2021 Judgement of Michigan.
French Valley Vineyards’ 2018 Riesling was the best we tasted from Michigan. it is a classic Riesling, done as well in Michigan as anywhere in the world. Yellow-diamond color in the glass with light body and great floral aroma. Peaches and apricot on the palate with nice acidity. This wine is dry and delicious. Drink it with a dinner of pasta and sausage.
Chateau Chantal’s Cerise Noir was the best dessert wine we tasted in Michigan. This is a delicious drink of partially fermented Pinot Noir grapes infused with cherry brandy. It is garnet in color with a medium, syrupy body and strong alcohol on the nose. The impressive viscosity is indicative of the 19% ABV. The taste is simply divine: baking spices, cherry, tar, and chocolate. It is sweet but restrained, showing that it was thoughtfully made. It has a silky mouth feel and long, luxurious finish. It drew raves across-the-board with our tasters. No wonder it won a gold medal at the 2021 Judgement of Michigan. Highly recommended!
1. 2020 Rove Estate Gewürztraminer
2. 2020 Verterra Rosé of Merlot
3. 2017 French Valley Vineyards Unoaked Chardonnay
4. 2018 French Valley Vineyards Riesling
5. 2016 French Valley Vineyards Cabernet Franc & Merlot
6. 2017 Bel Lago Tempesta Red Blend
7. 2020 Verterra Pinot Blanc
8. 2019 Shady Lane Cellars Pinot Gris
9. 2020 Left Foot Charley Benzie County Blaüfrankisch Rosé
10. (3-way tie) 2016 Verterra Vintners Select Red Blend
10. (3-way tie) NV Tabor Hill Grand Mark Metode Champenoise Sparkling Wine
10. (3-way tie) 2017 Black Star Farms Isidor’s Choice Terrace Red
1. 2020 Rove Estate Gewürztraminer - $24.00
2. 2017 French Valley Vineyards Unoaked Chardonnay - $12.00
3. 2017 French Valley Vineyards Oaked Chardonnay - $14.00
4. 2019 Shady Lane Cellars Pinot Gris - $16.00
5. 2018 Bel Lago Semi-Dry Riesling- $16.00
6. 2018 French Valley Vineyards Riesling - $17.00
7. NV Bel Lago Pinot Grigio & Chardonnay - $14.00
8. 2020 Black Star Farms Arcturos Semi-Dry Riesling - $17.50
9. MAWBY NV Green Semi-Dry Sparkling Wine - $15.00
10. 2020 Black Star Farms Arcturos Sauvignon Blanc - $19.00