Ask any tasting room manager at a Northern Michigan winery on either peninsula (either, as in Old Mission or Leelanau) which Northern Michigan wine pays the bills, and you’re likely to get the same answer: sweet riesling. Is this the glucose-hungry impulse of the Coca-Cola culture? Attribute it to the chameleonic grace of the grape whose quaffable poetry is as beautiful when bone-dry as it is when sugary sweet. Retaining their deep intrinsic minerality, rieslings with higher levels of ripeness and residual sugar can display a bouquet of floral and tropical fruit notes that swoon neophyte and snob alike.
The key to sweet riesling’s regality is acidity. This noble grape has the rare capacity to balance its sugars and acids in such a way that a wine that is intensely rich and sweet is simultaneously bright and refreshing, not unlike the old honey and lemon paradox. This grapey super-power allows riesling a spectrum of textures that can accommodate almost any food, especially sweet and spicy Asian cuisine that can prove impossible with most vinifera.
Forty-Five North Select Harvest Riesling 2009
Touted as ‘Michigan in a bottle,’ this famously zippy vintage brings harmony to the sweet peach notes. Pair with shrimp insweet chili garlic sauce. fortyfivenorth.com/
Silver Leaf Semi-Dry Riesling 2008
Sassy floral and citrus tones define this delicious and uncomplicated bottling from relative newcomer, Silver Leaf. www.silverleafvineyard.com/
Left Foot Charley Stumble 2009
At seven percent residual sugar and enough acid to keep it fresh, the wine won’t stumble but you might. After drinking twobottles. Because it’s that good. leftfootcharley.com/
Chateau Chantal Select Harvest Riesling 2009
The liquid equivalent of a Granny Smith apple drizzled with lavender honey. chateauchantal.com/
Chateau Grand Traverse Botrytis Riesling 2007
Heady pineapple and poached apricot aromas. The berries were individually sorted for this rare and meticulous dessertwine. Find yourself some foie gras. www.cgtwines.com/
Tim Tebeau is food and wine editor for Traverse. [email protected]