Leelanau Peninsula—a veritable treasure trove for delicious food and drink—is only a quick trip from Traverse City; the area’s rolling vineyards have put on their summer foliage and geared up for fruit production, and tasting rooms are flush with newly bottled releases from the stellar 2012 and 2013 harvests of Northern Michigan wine.

Unprecedented levels of phenolic ripeness in 2012 gave rise to profoundly luscious reds that are ready to drink after mellowing in barrel for 14 months or more. Look for blockbuster varietals like cabernet sauvignon and syrah beefing up the red blend category while pinot noirs and Lembergers show inky concentration and dynamite aromatics. Cooler conditions among wineries of Leelanau Peninsula in 2013 have yielded aromatically charged white wines with crisp, zippy acids perfect for sipping al fresco on these early summer afternoons. While riesling remains the power center, don’t ignore more textural grapes like pinot blanc and chardonnay or find new oeno-epiphanies in grüner veltliner or a juicy hybrid blend. The following content was first featured in the June 2014 issue of Traverse, Northern Michigan’s Magazine.

Blustone Vineyards Winemaker’s Red 2012

  • Alternating barrel staves of French and American Oak lend unctuous spice to Blustone’s bold blend of cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, merlot and syrah. Deep, pervasive notes of black fruit, cocoa and peppercorn drive a dry, smooth finish.

Brengman Brothers Artist Series Pinot Noir 2012

  • The Brengman Bros picked über-concentrated pinot from their tiny 1.5 acre parcel and put it unfined and unfiltered into primo French oak for a full 16 months. The takeaway is loads of cherry cola, white pepper and crushed clove with supple texture and serious length.

Château Fontaine Woodland Red 2012

  • Leelanau luminary Dan Matthies shows the strength of his vineyards with this rich and brawny red blend from the 2012 harvest. Ripe blackberry, plum and raspberry fruit notes are framed by fine tannins from a year in barrel.

Forty-Five North 45 White 2013

  • American hybrid varietals vidal blanc, Cayuga, frontenac gris and le crescent pilot the high tone rose petal and white peach wafting off 45 North’s highly aromatic white with a crisp acid backbone.

Good Harbor Tribute Chardonnay 2013

  • Sam Simpson’s oeno-homage to his father, Bruce, the 2013 Tribute is a big, lush, barrel-fermented chardonnay with golden apple and toasty vanilla character wrapping its rich mid-palate texture.

Shady Lane Cellars Grüner Veltliner 2013

  • Grüner veltiner, a native Austrian varietal, finds vibrant expression in the soils of Leelanau County. Expect bright notes of honeydew melon, green tea and grüner’s signature hint of white pepper carried through this crisp, linear summer sipper.

Three Fires Lemberger 2012

  • New to the scene last summer, Three Fires debuts a dark, fruit-driven Lemberger at their tasting room in Suttons Bay. Blueberry, black plum and crushed peppercorn make up this barbecue-friendly medium-bodied red.

Verterra Pinot Blanc 2013

  • Wet stone, white blossom and ripe golden apple aromas will have you cooing over Verterra’s pretty 2013 pinot blanc. Finishing dry, the wine sports zippy acidity and begs for a second bottle.

June 2014 Red Hot Best of Northern Michigan issue of Traverse MagazineMore Northern Michigan Wine