Chateau Grand Traverse’s Ed O’Keefe is helping lead the world to drink Riesling. He’s one of 30 prominent Riesling producers from around the world who formed the International Riesling Foundation, responsible for creating a standard Riesling Taste Profile for labels to make it easier for consumers to predict the flavor they can expect from a particular bottle of Riesling.

While Riesling is the fastest-growing white wine in the United States, second only to Pinot Noir, says O’Keefe, “Many people still stereotype Riesling as strictly a sweet white wine, despite the fact that it’s one of the most diverse grapes out there. The whole need behind conveying flavor and taste to the consumer is letting people know this is not your grandfather’s Riesling—it is diverse and elegant and cutting edge.”

Chateau Grand Traverse, located on Traverse City’s Old Mission Peninsula, for example, which has grown Riesling for 35 years and is the largest Riesling producer east of the Mississippi, makes seven types of Riesling, which range from bone-dry summer sippers to lush dessert wines. To help other wine makers consider which terms to use for various wines, the IRF committee developed a technical chart of parameters involving the interplay of sugar, acid, and pH which helps determine the probable taste profile of a particular wine as Dry, Medium Dry, Medium Sweet or Sweet. The program is entirely voluntary but it is O’Keefe’s hope that over time all Riesling producers—from California to South Africa—use the same terminology when talking about Riesling. “What is so cool is this is a technical—not objective—scale. Try a wine from New Zealand to Washington and you are comparing apples to apples.”

All of Chateau Grand Traverse’s 2008 releases have the scale on their labels, as with fellow Michigan producers St. Julian, Bowers Harbor Vineyards, and Black Star Farms and many more from around the world. Here’s to smarter sipping.

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