Northern Michigan Wine: When the grill glows red and the rib-eyes sizzle, the hour is ripe for rosso.

The 2010 and 2011 vintages have yielded some of the darkest, juiciest reds the North has ever seen, with a host of cabernet francs, merlots, pinot noirs and hybrid blends sporting ripe, forward bouquets, meaty mid-palate titillation and plenty of structure in the finishes. When the weather heats up don’t be afraid to put a slight chill on fruit-driven, middle-weight or off-dry wines like gamay, pinot noir, blaufränkisch or marechal foch.

45 North 45 Red 2010

A brooding bold blend of pinot noir, merlot and cabernet franc, David Hill’s signature red spends a year in barrel to emerge with muscular black fruit and peppercorn aromas followed by lush flavors of cherry and plum that finish firm and dry.

Bel Lago Pinot Noir 2010

A great example of the concentrated, low-yielding 2010 vintage, Bel Lago’s pinot noir offers up truckloads of cherry fruit, baking spices and balanced barrel character.

Good Harbor Vineyards Harbor Red NV

This off-dry multi-vintage cuvée of pinot noir and American hybrids sees extended maceration to tease out the full-on fruitiness of black cherry, strawberry and vanilla bean. Drink it chilled with cherry bratwurst or grilled halloumi and thank us later.

Peninsula Cellars Cabernet Franc 2010

A blend of fruit from the Hogsback and Ligon vineyards, this meaty but elegant cab franc gives up red raspberry, sweet tobacco and cocoa nuances and a dry, persistent finish. Throw some duck breasts or porterhouse pork chops on the fire.

Shady Lane Franc ’n’ Franc 2010

Two francs in sippable symbiosis, Adam Satchwell’s newest oeno love-child brings the dark spiciness of blaufränkisch to the red fruit and floral soul of cabernet franc and ends up somewhere new and uniquely delicious.

Vino File

Shawn Walters Owner, One World Winery Consulting

Since his beginnings as a farmhand on the crush pad at Leelanau Cellars, Shawn Walters’s wine wisdom has garnered him a host of international accolades and led to the creation of One World Winery Consulting, which operates out of French Road Cellars, Doug Matthies’s new super state-of-the-art winemaking facility in Leelanau County. We catch Shawn for some geek-speak about the breakout of Northern red wine and the hotly anticipated 2011 vintage.

How are vineyard management and winemaking improving the quality of our red wines?

Over the past several years we’ve all distilled a lot of wisdom about varietals, clones, crop loads and vineyard sites. Site is everything up here and sometimes a few feet can determine whether a vine thrives or dies. In the winery itself we’re trying to maximize slow, cool maceration and control our fermentation processes as precisely as possible. Even with the very best equipment it’s still a juggling act.

There’s a lot of focus on perfecting pinot noir here—what will that take?

We have to invest very heavily in small crop loads and expensive cooperage to make good pinot noir on an international standard if and when the vintage allows for it.

This was a feature in the July 2012 issue of Traverse, Northern Michigan's Magazine, to order a copy click here!