I REMEMBER when retired Michigan State University wine luminary/professor Stan Howell poured a sip of a “new” hybrid grape variety for judges at a Michigan Wine Competition at the former Cousins Heritage Inn in Dexter — yes, that was a long time ago. It was named Traminette and had all the floral, spicy character of a Gewurztraminer, but I dare say it was nothing like this scrumptious Braganini Reserve wine by St. Julian from the 2014 vintage. Did I say 2014 vintage in the same breath as Michigan wine? Any vines that produced these grapes in the fall of 2014 survived the previous winter’s polar vortex with its historic low temperatures. Now, that’s a test for a hybrid grape developed especially for such unprecedented times. The grapes for the Braganini Reserve Traminette (the Braganini family owns St. Julian) were grown by Mike and Sandy Nitz in Southwest Michigan. The winemaker is Nancie Oxley.
Braganini Traminette Michigan Reserve 2014, $14.99: Despite the polar vortex, the vines for this beauty survived and produced a sweet, intensely flavored white wine, perfect for the Thanksgiving table. Traminette is a cold-hardy hybrid that for my taste is like a mix of Gewurztraminer and a bit of Riesling. This delicate wine has the floral, orange, spicy, tropical tones of Alsace’s Gewurztraminer and the apple/floral notes of Riesling. It has a big blast of flavor on the midpalate balanced with firm acidity. The sweetness level is true to the scale on the back label — midway between dry and sweet. Look for this wine at St. Julian tasting rooms.
GRAPE VARIETY: According to Cornell University, Traminette is the fifth wine grape cultivar to be named by the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station and its release in 1996 follows the release of Cayuga White (Einset and Robinson, 1972), Horizon (Reisch et al., 1983), Melody, (Reisch et al., 1986), and Chardonel (Reisch et al., 1991). Michigan growers are looking seriously again at grape varieties like these that can withstand cold winters. It’s a cross of Joannes Seyve 23.416 and Gewurztraminer. It was first planted in Southwest Michigan in 1988 for trials by Michigan State University. Today Traminette is widely grown in New York, Ohio and Michigan.
You can reach Sandra Silfven at email@example.com.