Maker: Bel Lago, Cedar, Michigan, USA
Cherries: Balaton, Montmorency.
Place of origin: Leelanau Peninsula, Michigan, USA
Price: $15 (winery)
Appearance: Dark crimson.
Nose: Grape jelly, tart cherry pie filling, cassia, brown sugar, whiff of oak.
Palate: Full-bodied and velvety. Overdone cherry pie, allspice, mace.
Finish: Chewy, sweet and a little tart.
Parting words: Bel Lago has the reputation of being the best cherry wine produced in Michigan. That’s probably because they invented it. Michigan State’s Dr. Amy Iezzoni, wife of Bel Lago founder Charlie Edson, is responsible for bringing the Balaton cherry variety to the US after discovering it in Hungary. The variety’s original name was Ujfehértói Fürtös but Dr. Iezzoni thought Balaton (after Lake Balaton) rolled off the tongue a little better. Her goal was to help break up the Montmorency monoculture in the US. She has succeeded. Balaton produces wine and juice that has more depth and complexity than Montmorency and has the ability to reach wine-like sugar levels of 24 °Bx or so.
The wine is lush, complex and velvety in a way that few fruit wines are. There’s no doubt that this is cherry wine, but it transcends the category at a decent price. Bel Lago Cherry Wine is highly recommended.