Northern Michigan Wine: March Wine Pour

Northern Michigan Wines: Unafraid of Ides and giddy with the prospect of impending spring, we leave behind the basics this March to wet our beaks in Northern Michigan’s vinifera obscura, those syllabically ornate Prussian grapes and funky American hybrids that go into some of the grooviest Northern Michigan juice. Cool climate viticulture such as we have in Northern Michigan demands diligence, creativity and the courage to experiment with grape varietals that can thrive in the wild pendulum swings of Northern Michigan weather. Floral notes from the easy-ripening vignoles, the happy acids and citrus groove of gruner veltliner, and the universe of berry flavors found in cold-hardy red grapes like blaufrankisch, dornfelder and marechal foch can deliver delightfully drinkable wines that are versatile with a wide range of foods and worthy of neophyte and cynical wino alike. Read on as we sip outside the lines.

Unafraid of Ides and giddy with the prospect of impending spring,  we leave behind the basics this March to wet our beaks in vinifera obscura, those syllabically ornate Prussian grapes and funky American hybrids that go into some of the grooviest local juice. Cool climate viticulture such as we have demands diligence, creativity and the courage to experiment with grape varietals that can thrive in the wild pendulum swings of Michigan weather. Floral notes from the easy-ripening vignoles, the happy acids and citrus groove of gruner veltliner, and the universe of berry flavors found in cold-hardy red grapes like blaufrankisch, dornfelder and marechal foch can deliver delightfully drinkable wines that are versatile with a wide range of foods and worthy of neophyte and cynical wino alike. Read on as we sip outside the lines.

Chateau Grand Traverse Gruner Veltliner ‘Laika’ 2009 A miniscule 94 cases of this racy Austrian elixir was crafted, and according to oeno-envelope pusher Sean O’Keefe it shows white pepper, celery seed and orange peel wrapped around an apple lemony core.

Boskydel Vineyards Vignoles 2009 This crisp and aromatic progeny of lovably irreverent wine curmudgeon Bernie Rink has bright floral notes that pair well with fish and early spring salads.

Gill’s Pier ‘Just Unleashed’ Unleashing the dark fruit and spicy aromatics of Prussian cold-hardy varietals dornfelder and regant blended with the American hybrid frontenac, Gill’s Pier delivers a lush, off-dry red to drink with braised short ribs, charcuterie or dark chocolate.

Good Harbor Rosé 2009 Marechal foch and vidal blanc commingle to produce red berry and floral aromas, fresh acidity and a naughty bit of vestigial sweetness. This pleasant pink drink doesn’t need food, just a glass and a good excuse, or no excuse.

Shady Lane Cellars Blue Franc 2008 The syllabic carnival doesn’t end with the name; Austrian-born blaufrankisch comes to life beautifully in the hands of Adam Satchwell, and shows notes of blackberry, peppercorn and spice with a dry, persistent finish.

VINO FILE
Sean O’Keefe VICE PRESIDENT, SPECIALTY WINEMAKER, VINEYARD MANAGER, CHATEAU GRAND TRAVERSESean O’Keefe grew up among the vines of Chateau Grand Traverse, and after studying wine and Russian and German literature he returned to the family’s wine dynasty. We catch up with Sean to talk about experimental vineyards and broadening our wine horizons.

Tell me about your test vineyards, what are you experimenting with?I want to first say that we don’t want to take our eyes off what we’re doing well just for the sake of innovation, but I’m very excited by the possibility of what could happen with cool climate varietals from central Europe and northern Italy. For whites, we’ve planted rieslaner and scheurebe from Germany, gruner veltliner from Austria, and albarino from northwest Spain. We’re experimenting with greenhouse tunnels to prolong the ripening of some our test plantings of red varietals like Zweigelt, Saint Laurent and nebbiolo.

For expanding our wine horizons locally and internationally what should we be drinking? Everyone should be paying attention to what’s happening locally with pinot blanc and auxerrois. Going beyond the local scene I’d recommend finding restaurants and shops with knowledgeable staff. I make a point of gravitating toward grapes like schiopettino or feteasca negra with unpronounceable names and unusual origins. If someone feels strongly enough to bring these wines halfway around the world we owe it ourselves to try them. A miniscule 94 cases of this racy Austrian elixir was crafted, and according to oeno-envelope pusher Sean O’Keefe it shows white pepper, celery seed and orange peel wrapped around an apple lemony core.

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