Interview with Northern Michigan Winery Forty-Five North’s Jay Briggs

Northern Michigan wine runs through Jay Briggs’ veins. Descended from grandparents who met when picking grapes in the Lake Michigan Shore district, Jay Briggs studied viticulture and oenology at Michigan State before coming North to intern at Black Star Farms, manage vineyards at Shady Lane and in 2013 take over as cellar master and winemaker at Forty-Five North. We catch Jay, cab franc cluster in hand, to talk about the grape’s relevance to local wine culture and what to drink it with. The following interview was first featured in the November 2013 issue of Traverse, Northern Michigan’s Magazine.


A lot of wineries, including Forty-Five North, have shifted energy toward cabernet franc; why is it important to the region?

As a cool climate zone our aromatic white wines are garnering a lot of attention, and the consumers are asking for a signature red wine to complement the [whites]. Cabernet franc is temperamental and doesn’t have much of an American following, so it’s an opportunity for us winemakers to kind of shape its identity as a cool climate red.

You mentioned the grape is temperamental, what’s needed to make a good bottle of cab  franc?

Cabernet franc is all about site selection and timing. The grape needs maximum sun exposure, and you need to be tuned into your vineyard site to optimize green harvesting and open the canopy so that you get as much sunlight as possible to the grape clusters so that they ripen evenly.

What’s your go-to pairing for? cabernet franc?

Venison. With the richness of flavor in both the meat and the wine I find there’s a nice flavor union between the two. I prefer a simply seasoned loin or leg roast with root vegetables like carrots, parsnips and potatoes. (Find a mail order source for venison at ShopMyNorth.com).


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