Michigan’s St. Julian Winery, the state’s oldest producer, is making strides with dry reds made from European varietals (Pinot Noir, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc) — not an easy thing to do in a cold-climate state with weather as unpredictable as ours. St. Julian’s premium wines are the Braganini Reserve tier — named for the family that descended from founder Mariano Meconi. The late David Braganini was proud of his estate vineyard planted in Coloma, in Berrien County, and the grapes the Nitz family grows for him. The latest dry red wine shipped to members of the Wine Club are a shot of excitement. Wine Club members at St. Julian get their hands on the best wines and the limited offerings before they ever hit the tasting room. The Braganini Reserve Pinot Noir and Cabernet Franc are terrific.
CASE SALE: St. Julian tasting rooms will offer 20 percent-off case sales (and more benefits for wine club members) March 10-12. See their Events page. Tasting rooms are listed on the left side of this page.
Braganini Reserve Pinot Noir Lake Michigan Shore 2015, $24.99: The color, the flavors are amazing. It’s quite varietally correct with aromas of dark cherry, dark plum, raspberry and notes of strawberry and brown baking spice. It’s not green, it’s not overly acidic. It’s spot-on correct.
Braganini Reserve Cabernet Franc Lake Michigan Shore 2013, $24.99: Such smooth tannins, juicy acidity, no screaming bell pepper — the usual signature of this grape variety, which is not everybody’s cup of tea. And I must add, bell pepper is not a bad thing — it’s very much in character for this varietal. But this Cab Franc explodes with cherry, raspberry, dried cranberry, brown baking spices. The mouthfeel is creamy, the tannins are supple. Acidity gives it support. And it stays fresh for several days after you open it. I love Caberent Franc, usually a grape intended for red blends, but some winemakers put it on a stage all by itself and it shines. Like this one.
Braganini Reserve Chambourcin Lake Michigan Shore 2014, $17.99: Chambourcin is a staple of southwest Michigan but doesn’t usually make its way to a “Reserve” designation. This one is different — it’s dry and herbaceous, with dark berry flavors and notes of spice and a kiss of cocoa and smoke. Chambourcin is a French-American hybrid that found its way to Michigan vineyards in the 1960s.
St. Julian conquered white wines a long time ago — especially Riesling and Chardonnay. Here’s the latest Chard.
Braganini Reserve Chardonnay Lake Michigan Shore 2015, $19.99: St. Julian always makes nice Chardonnays, but this one is special. The oak lifts up the fruit flavors, broadens the complexity and mouthfeel, and adds a kick of spice to the aromas, which are vibrant with notes of green apple, ripe pear, ripe stone fruit and citrus. Flavors last long into the finish.
You can reach Sandra Silfven at email@example.com.