The recent Michigan Wine Showcase at the Rattlesnake painted a bright canvas of today’s Michigan wine industry — the vintners with lots of experience who keep trying new things, the newer wineries finding their groove … and brand new wineries finding their way.
More from my notebook:
The buzz at Chateau Fontaine and Black Star Farms tables was the way they swept a recent wine competition, against many New York wines, held in the heart of New York wine country — the Finger Lakes. There were four sweepstakes awards at the Finger Lakes International Wine Competition and Michigan took half of them with Chateau Fontaine’s 2011 White Riesling and Black Star’s 2008 Riesling Ice Wine. Fontaine has been on a medal roll now with nearby French Road Cellars making the wines. French Road is owned by Doug Matthies, son of Fontaine owners Dan and Lucie Matthies. Shawn Walters makes the wines. Other gems include Viognier and Pinot Blanc.
The back story to the new Verterra Winery, with a tasting room in Leland and wines by Shawn Walters at French Road Cellars, is the owners. Verterra is the project of Skip Telgard, proprietor of the Bluebird Restaurant in Leland, and his brother-in-law, Paul Hamelin, a retired pharmaceutical executive.
Since state law forbids a restaurant owner from owning a winery, Telgard is a partner in the vineyard only; Hamelin owns the winery. But you can enjoy the wines at the restaurant, which is still famous for its homemade cinnamon rolls. The tasting room is across the road from the restaurant. They made their first wines in 2010 off a 15-acre vineyard they own south of Northport. Learn more at verterrawinery.com.
Jon Treloar of J. Trees Cellars poured his Dry Riesling, Apple Ice Wine and Red Blend. Treloar, dubbed “Jonny Trees” by his friends, has the inside track on winemaking as the former research enologist who made the wines at Michigan State University’s Spartan Cellars. His tasting room opened in Blissfield in 2010.
He grows hybrid grape varieties in a vineyard in Petersburg and has contracts for vinifera grapes in Berrien and Benzie counties. For his Apple Ice Wine, he uses local Fuji apples that are left to freeze on the trees until January, at which time they are picked, pressed and fermented into an ice wine-style fruit wine. The tasting room is at 115 N. Main in Blissfield; call (877) 304-3254.
The new faces at Brys Estate are Patrick Brys and Erick Outcalt. Patrick is the son of owners Walter and Eileen Brys and, among other things, has taken over the wine club, which numbers 700 members. Outcalt handles sales outside the winery and dozens of other things. Lots of Michigan wineries have wine clubs — customers sign up for quarterly shipments of wine and get VIP treatment on visits. Patrick expects the Brys club to hit 1,000 members this year. This is all good news for the boutique winery on Old Mission Peninsula.
TASTES OF MICHIGAN
Burgdorf’s Winery Late Harvest Vidal 2009, $18: Deb and Dave Burgdorf in Haslett purchase grapes from southwest Michigan for many of their wines, including Vidal grown by Dan Nitz. It’s a concentrated fruit cocktail of peaches and apricots. Delish.
Chateau Grand Traverse Silhouette, $14: This off-dry red is a blend of Pinot Noir, Gamy Noir, Cabernet Franc, Pinot Meunier and Merlot. It’s an approachable red with nice weight and oak styling.
Chateau Fontaine Dry White Riesling 2011, $16: The charming floral, white peach, melon and lime-tinged beauty won Dan and Lucie Matthies the sweepstakes award for Best Riesling in the heart of upstate New York’s Riesling country at the Finger Lakes International Wine Competition. The Black Star Farms 2008 A Capell Riesling Ice Wine took a sweepstakes award too.