Reporter's notebook: Highlights of the Michigan Wine Showcase

It was impossible to taste all the wines at Monday’s annual Michigan Wine Showcase at the Rattlesnake in Detroit — but I tasted enough of them to walk away with yet more impressions of this wonderful, changing, booming industry in our state. Clearly wine styles vary greatly, especially the Rieslings and Chardonnays. Vintners showed many dry whites with bracing acidity ideal for the table — some with unabashed oak. Pinot Noir continues to be a passion. And there was one new varietal of note — Gruner Veltliner more commonly associated with Austria — brimming with bold lime zest, red grapefruit and potential for Michigan.


Brengman Brothers: Bryan Ulbrich of Left Foot Charley in Traverse City makes the white wines for the new Brengman Brothers Winery in Leelanau, and in-house winemaker Nathaniel Rose makes the wines in barrel and a collection of unusual small-batch reds. Brengman’s Pinot Noir Rose was clean, fruity, dry and would be a wonderful pairing with local seafood and fruits.

Burgdorf and Sandhill Crane: Both are not afraid to take varieties traditionally made in sweet styles and vinify them dry. And it works! Taste the stony, minerally, dry Vignoles at Sandhill Crane in Jackson and dry Vidal Blanc at Burgdorf in Haslett. Deb Burgdorf also showed her stylish new Chardonnay infused with smoky, spicy French oak. Her fruit — as does much of Sandhill Crane’s — mostly comes from Southwest Michigan.

Lorenzo Lizarralde of Chateau Aeronautique. (Photo by Sandra Silfven)

Lorenzo Lizarralde of Chateau Aeronautique. (Photo by Sandra Silfven)

Chateau Aeronautique Winery: This was the biggest eye-opener for me — the commercial airline pilot’s winery in Jackson at his personal airpark complete with vintage planes. If you visit, take your notebook and your checkbook. You are going to be surprised at the quality and maybe the prices. The Chardonnay tastes like Burgundy, as does the Pinot Noir. Proprietor, pilot and winemaker Lorenzo Lizarralde and assistant winemaker David Severance also showed a fruity, dry Syrah and luscious dessert wine — Chateau Blanc — with a mix of aromatic grapes like Sauvignon Blanc and Gewurztraminer. And oh yes, the prices: I’m told the 2010 Chardonnay flew out of the tasting room at $35 a bottle, and I’m guessing the new 2011 will too — it was aged 16 months in French oak and has the fruit to handle the wood. Lizarralde’s passion has been wines on his many flights to Europe. He and Jim Lester of Michigan’s Wyncroft Winery recently visited Burgundy together — Wyncroft and Aeronautique wines are similar.

Chateau Fontaine: Proprietor Dan Matthies pulled a tank sample of his new Gruner Veltliner to pour for the trade on Monday afternoon and it was impressive — crisp and dry with wonderful lime and tangerine fruit. It has not been released yet. Look for it this summer.

Good Harbor Vineyards: Taylor Simpson poured her brother Sam’s small-batch collection intended for restaurants at the afternoon trade tasting and I’m sure their late dad, pioneering vintner Bruce Simpson, would be proud. Their Gruner Veltliner displayed lovely lime and tangerine flavors. The Dry Riesling had good fruit, was crisp and dry, but not austere.

L. Mawby: Larry Mawby showed his brand new M. Lawrence bubbly called Redd. And yes, it’s red and it’s dry. It’s a blend of the hybrids Regent and Foch, plus Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. and will sell for $17 at the winery tasting room. It’s a blast of fruit.

Laurentide: Proprietor Susan Braymer poured her amazing Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir, all made by Shawn Walters at the custom crush facility French Road Cellars in Leelanau. The Riesling, which won the Riesling Championship at the International Eastern Wine Competition, was ever so elegant with tart, crisp fruit that finished dry.

Come back tomorrow for more thoughts on the Michigan Wine Showcase.

Contact Sandra Silfven at