Michigan flavors: Chantal, White Pine, Fenn Valley, Brengman, Bell's

subGrape stomp Chateau Chantal 2

Last weekend, visitors rolled up their pant legs and stomped grapes at Chateau Chantal. That’s winemaker Brian Hosmer, right, dumping more grapes into a barrel. (Image courtesy of Chateau Chantal from 2012 event)

That nip in the morning air, golden grapes freckled with brown specks, grape leaves on the verge of turning color all signal one thing: harvest time.

Some wineries like St. Julian have brought in all the whites except Riesling. Chateau Chantal will head to the fields this week. Red grapes everywhere are still hanging to soak up every last ray of sun before the first frost.

Wineries are rolling out their fall activities. Visitors stomped grapes and toured Chantal last weekend. And now through Oct. 30, on Wednesdays and Fridays, the winery is offering a seven-course meal for $75 that includes tax, tip and wines. Book a table by calling (800) 969-4009. You also can book it online at www.chateauchantal.com at a price of $60.48, with tax and gratuity added in the payment process, bringing the total to $75.

Brys Estate’s Harvest Celebration runs every Saturday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. through Nov. 2, offering small bite pairing stations with wines for $5 per person, and guests receive a large souvenir wine glass.

If wine country is on your radar, check out the state’s newly designed Michigan Wines Web site where you can plan your tour.

Here are tasting notes of Michigan wines from around the state:

Chateau Chantal Pinot Noir Old Mission Peninsula 2011, $22

Wave this wonder under your nose and you know exactly how it’s going to taste — ripe cherry, raspberry and cola along with clove, cinnamon and toasty oak. It’s an explosion of aromas and flavors — very pure and Burgundian in texture and character. It’s made off the Pontes and another vineyard and is comprised of five clones and a blend of eight different fermentations. It is the only Pinot Noir to score above a silver medal in the 2013 Michigan Wine Competition — it was awarded Double Gold.

Chateau Chantal Unoaked Chardonnay Old Mission Peninsula 2012, $14

Affordable, crisp flavors, good balance: This medium-dry white, which sees no time in wood, is all about green apple, white peach, pineapple, orange and a dollop of honey. Fermentation is halted to leave a small amount of residual sugar.

White Pine Reserve Merlot Lake Michigan Shore 2011, $24.99

The southwest Michigan vineyards continue to amaze with the ripeness and flavors of the red grapes. Owner-winemaker Dave Miller certainly got flavor and color from his 2011 Merlot crop. Concentrated flavors, good balance, velvet tannins: It’s a well-constructed wine packed with plum, blackberry, brown baking spices and dark chocolate. White Pine’s tasting room is in downtown St. Joe.

White Pine Dune Shadow Red Lake Michigan Shore, $14.99

Clean, creamy on the palate, slightly off-dry, this quaffer has approachable cherry-cranberry flavors and soft tannins. It’s mostly Chambourcin with splashes of Merlot and Cabernet Franc. It’s pure fruit that sees no wood. I love these hybrid-based wines that reflect the diversity of wine production east of the Rockies. This red would be a fine feasting wine for the holidays.

Fenn Valley Vineyards & Winery Meritage 2010, $16.99

This robust red is a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. Spice and toast off the oak, a blast of dark plum fruit, dark berries and the dried cranberry tones of the Cabernet Franc create a powerful package. It’s a lovely marriage of flavors tasting earthy, bold and Old World — a style you can only find in this country in areas of Michigan and the East. Dusty tannins coat the palate and the deep color paints the teeth.  Love that sassy spicy oak that lingers in the midpalate.

Brengman Brothers Block 65 Blend Leelanau 2012, $24.95

This beauty is tart, dry, complex, elegant. It’s packed with citrus, tropical fruit, floral tones and herbs. It has wonderful acidity. It’s a blend that reveals its “parts” as it warms up in the glass. It’s a blend of Pinot Gris, Viognier and Sauvignon Blanc, all estate grown. It’s a different style blend for Michigan — playful and effective, a terrific food wine.

Brengman Brothers Gary’s Vineyard Reserve Gewurztraminer Leelanau 2012, $28.95

What a stylish wine! Great acidity to give backbone to that ton of tropical fruit — lemon-lime, passion fruit, lichee nut, floral. It has a long finish that coats the throat with that lichee nut/floral zing. Read more about Brengman Brothers in a previous blog.

Bell’s Great Northern White Leelanau Peninsula 2011, $19.99

This refreshing white blend is Riesling, Seyval and Cayuga. It’s packed with tons of citrus and white stone fruit — peaches, nectarines — and melon along with a broad midpalate streak of minerality. The front label bears the name and logo of Bell’s, the noted Michigan brewery, and the back label says it was made at Circa Estate Winery in Leelanau County. What’s the story? Larry Bell, founder of Bell’s Brewery, is selling off the inventory of the now-closed Circa Winery, founded by his brother David Bell and David’s wife Margaret. This white is distributed by Rave Wine & Associates in Ann Arbor, which placed it in a number of stores including all the state’s Trader Joe’s, a number of Busch’s and many independent retailers including Merchant’s Fine Wine in Dearborn. A Bell’s Great Northern Red sold out quickly. Circa had good vineyards with age and made terrific wines. Their closing was a sad day for the Michigan wine industry.

You can reach Sandra Silfven at ssilfven@hotmail.com.