Leelanau's new Laurentide Winery wins Riesling Challenge

(Image courtesy of Laurentide Winery)

(Image courtesy of Laurentide Winery)

Laurentide Winery, located on French Road on the Leelanau Peninsula, only opened its doors last September and already is off to a roaring start.

It was announced yesterday that Laurentide’s 2011 Riesling won the prestigious Riesling Challenge at the recent International Eastern Wine Competition.

This year’s International Eastern Wine Competition drew more than 1,150 entries from all over the United States, heavily from the East, and beyond our borders.

The Riesling Challenge is a separate judging to highlight this varietal because it is so successful in cooler-climate regions.

“I kept wondering ‘What happened to our Riesling’,” winery owner Susan Braymer said Thursday by phone. She had been notified the wine took “Best of Show White Wine” in the contest but was awaiting news of the Riesling Challenge — and apparently wine media people caught wind of this victory first.

Having judged the Riesling Challenge myself, I can say a win is a high honor indeed. And for a Riesling to grab “Best of Show White” also speaks volumes.

Bill and Sue Braymer own the winery and contract with the custom crush facility French Road Cellars, located close to Laurentide, to make their wines. The Riesling Challenge win is yet another victory for Shawn Walters, who makes the wines at French Road Cellars and can take credit for putting many Michigan wineries on the map.

The Braymers planted their vineyard in 2006, so the vines are old enough to produce substantial wines. Besides Riesling, they grow Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir. They also make a cherry wine and a sweet-style white blend.

The name “Laurentide” refers to the last last great ice sheet that receded 10,000 years ago from the upper tier of the North American continent, according to the Braymers’ Web site.

The 2011 Riesling sells for $15.99 at the winery tasting room, which is closed for the winter. But the Laurentide wines are in distribution.  You can find them at Trattoria Stella in Traverse City, where the Laurentide Sauvignon Blanc is poured by the glass; The Piper restaurant in Macatawa; and Zingerman’s Roadhouse in Ann Arbor. They also are sold at the Blue Goat in Traverse City and the Produce Station in Ann Arbor.

The Braymers and daughter Calla live in the Pinckney area. Bill is an engineering manager in medical software, Susan runs the winery business, called CAB Cellars and Laurentide, and Calla is finishing high school.

Laurentide Winery is on the Leelanau Peninsula. (Image courtesy of the winery)

Laurentide Winery is on the Leelanau Peninsula. (Image courtesy of the winery)