A conversation with Michigan's Jon Treloar from J. Trees Cellars

The new J. Trees Cellars is an easy outing for Metro Detroiters, with a tasting room in Lenawee County’s quaint village of Blissfield.

Owner/winemaker Jon Treloar has the inside track on commercial winemaking from his days at Michigan State University as Dr. Stan Howell’s research enologist. He made the wines and worked in the vineyard at Spartan Cellars, a teaching winery on the campus. His whole world was studying what would grow in Michigan — from vinifera to hybrids to experimental grapes — and then making wine from them.

“I left there because I wanted to go commercial,” said Treloar when I caught up with him by phone recently.

Treloar settled on planting a five-acre, sandy-soil tract in Monroe County, south of Dundee and 15 miles inland of Lake Erie in Petersburg. Steeped in hybrid grapes and lesser-known varietals from his time at MSU, he planted a number of varieties including Chancellor, Norton, Marquette, Vignoles, Maréchal foch and a still unnamed muscat hybrid from Cornell University.

He has contracts to buy European grape varietals, aka vinifera, from growers in Benzie and Berrien counties.

“I obviously love wine production,” he said. “I play with a lot of varieties and blends.” And it would take somebody with experience to try making ice wine out of naturally frozen apples. Treloar buys local Fuji apples that have been left on the trees till January for picking, and then pressing and fermenting. He gets 12.5 pecent alcohol in his Fuji Ice Cider, as he calls it.

Treloar produces a dry Riesling, Chardonnay, House Red, Dry Rose, Vidal Blanc Ice Wine and the Fuji Ice Cider. He makes a little less than 2,000 cases and the wines are in distribution to stores and restaurants through U.S. Wine Imports in Ann Arbor.

The first commercial vintage was 2008 and the tasting room in Blissfield opened in 2010.

And the name “J. Trees Cellars”? Treloar’s friends call him Jonny Trees.

Learn more at the Web site.