The most cerebral and democratically satisfying of the seven noble wine grapes, Riesling is Northern Michigan’s oeno claim to fame.  A native grape of Germany’s Rheingau region, Riesling was first planted here by Chateau Grand Traverse proprietor Ed O’Keefe in the 1970s and has seen nonstop proliferation ever since. Cold-hardy and harnessing a vast flavor spectrum determined by ripeness and vineyard site, local rieslings run from dry and lean with laser-beam acidity to fleshy, opulent sweetness.  Here are five Northern Michigan Rieslings that explore the grape’s entire spectrum of flavors:

Left Foot Charley Seventh Hill Farm Riesling 2012

  • Modeled after the Mosel greats, Brian Ulbrich’s best left foot for- ward scored the coveted Jefferson Cup two years in a row and flashes a big, tropical bouquet balanced on a brilliant duality of sweetness and acidity.

Chateau Grand Traverse Lot 49 Riesling 2012

  • Echoing the complex delights of a Thomas Pynchon novel, Lot 49 approaches medium-dry with orchard fruit notes, fresh acids and terrific texture from its aging in big German oak vats.

2 Lads 2L Riesling 2012

  • This eponymous bottling from the Lads showcases the full sexiness of the 2012 vintage: heady apple, citrus and floral aromas on a rich albeit balanced frame that finishes dry.

Black Star Farms Montague Estate Vineyard Dry Riesling 2011

  • The first in a new series of vineyard-designated wines from Black Star, the Montague Vineyard Rieslings sing with golden apple, ripe apricot and a soupçon of spice. Dry, bright and indicative of the classic 2011 vintage.

Chateau Fontaine Semi-Sweet White Riesling 2012

  • Garnering the prestigious John Rose award, Dan Matthies’s 2012 semi-sweet riesling distills the fleshy, flashy orchard fruit aromatics available in a super ripe vintage. Sweetness and acidity are in delicious harmony, keeping the wine fresh and imminently quaffable.


More Northern Michigan Wine Stories:

Northern Michigan Chardonnays with the Owner of Leland’s Verterra Winery

How Michigan Vineyards Survived 2014’s Harsh Winter

Chateau Grand Traverse Takes Gold at 2014 International Eastern Wine Festival

Photo(s) by Todd Zawistowski