Chateau Aeronautioque Syrah, 2013

Maker: Chateau Aeronautique, Jackson, Michigan, USA20171122_200800.jpg

Grape: Syrah/Shiraz (at least 75%)

Place of origin: Michigan, USA

ABV: 14.8%

Price: $25 (Michigan by the Bottle Tasting Room Sipper Club)

Appearance: Deep burgundy.

Nose: Black currant, plum, cedar, white pepper, coriander seed.

Palate: Medium-bodied and medium dry. Fruit of the Forest pie, button mushrooms, clove.

Finish: Tart and oaky, then earthy.

Parting words: Chateau Aeronautique is a part of the cluster of wineries located in and around Jackson, Michigan. Owner/winemaker Lorenzo Lizarralde is known for bold reds and this Syrah is Lorenzo at his best. This wine is bold but never belligerent. The big, spicy flavors are balanced with fruit and earthiness to make for a very food-friendly, enjoyable wine that’s good to drink right now. Good to visit right now is Chateau Aeronautique’s brand new Irish Hills tasting room in Onsted, Michigan on Pentecost Highway between Sand and Evans lakes, south of US 12! 2013 Chateau Aeronautique Syrah is recommended.

 

Chateau Aeronautique Pinot Noir, 2011

Maker: Chateau Aeronautique, Jackson, Michigan20170311_163550.jpg

Place of origin: Michigan, USA

Grape: Pinot Noir (100%?)

Vintage: 2011

ABV: Unknown, but seems high.

Price: $25 (Michigan by the Bottle wine club)

Appearance: Translucent ruby. Thick, juicy legs.

Nose: Alcohol, oak, sweet cherry, blueberry.

Palate: Medium bodied and blandly fruity. Roasted plantain, blueberry.

Finish: Slightly tart, slightly tannic.

Parting words: “Ham fisted” is one of my favorite idioms in the English language. Its origins are uncertain but it may be connected to the use of the word “ham” to describe an awkwardly bad, over-the-top actor. It’s a phrase that perfectly describes the winemaking style at Chateau Aeronautique. ChA’s aggressive, alcohol-heavy style can work well with bold reds like Cab Franc and the wines of their Aviatrix series but is not well suited to wines like the last ChA wine I reviewed, the 2012 Riesling or this Pinot Noir.

The “Bull in a china shop” is the idiom that describes this specific wine the best. Pinot Noirs with power can be enjoyable but that power must be balanced with fruit and earth (or other aromas) or else the grape loses its distinctiveness. That is what happened here. All that said, I don’t think ChA’s 2011 Pinot Noir is awful (although my usually easy to please wife did). It’s just that, like the Riesling, it’s out of balance. All nuance is smashed to bits on the horns of its aggression. At $25 from a boutique producer I expect better. Chateau Aeronautique’s 2011 Pinot Noir is not recommended.

 

Aviatrix Rouge 2010

Maker: Chateau Aeronautique, Jackson, Michigan, USA2016-01-07-11.13.04.jpg.jpeg

Grapes: 45% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Cabernet Franc, 15% Syrah, 10% Merlot (acc. to website)

Place of origin: Michigan, USA

Style: Left bank-ish red Bordeaux blend

ABV: Unknown (14%-ish)

Price: $35 (Michigan by the Bottle)

Appearance: Dark burgundy with a brownish hue.

Nose: Black currant jam, blueberry, wild blackberry, vanilla.

Palate: Understated. Blueberry juice, black cherry, wine cap mushrooms, vanilla.

Finish: Oaky, then fades into chewy berries. Slight tang at the end.

Parting words: I was very impressed with this wine. I expected a smoky beast like its cousin and successor, Aviatrix Crimson, but what I got was a multifaceted gem of a wine. The fruit, oak, earthy and other elements are in perfect harmony here. Rereading my notes, they seem to give the impression that this is a very fruity, sweet wine. It’s not. The fruit notes are all fairly muted and balanced out with flavors I can’t quite name.

$35 is hell of a lot of money for a Michigan red. I think this one lives up to the price tag, though. Paired great with a steak and with pork roast. Drinking great now (especially after breathing for a while) but will probably be as good or better for the next two to three years or longer. Aviatrix Rouge 2010 is recommended.

Chateau Aeronautique Passito Cabernet Sauvignon, 2013

Maker: Chateau Aeronautique, Jackson, Michigan, USAwpid-2015-11-11-11.19.03.jpg.jpeg

Place of origin: Michigan, USA

Style: Straw wine (made with raisins)

ABV: 12%

Price: $45/375 ml (Michigan by the Bottle Tasting Room)

Notes from label: 38.0 brix at harvest, residual sugar 15% by weight.

Appearance: Rusty red, big heavy robe, thick slow legs.

Nose: Tawny port, cherry, other stone fruit.

Palate: Full bodied and fruity. Plum, cherry pie filling, vanilla, white pepper.

Finish: Big cherry flavor, like a cherry wine. Gets a litt

Parting words: The technique for making straw, or raisin, wine is an ancient one. The epic poet Hesiod (a contemporary of Homer) mentions a Cyprian straw wine called Manna in his poem Works and Days. Ancient Carthage produced a straw wine the Romans loved and called passum. The modern Italian term for raisin wine is passito, derived from the ancient wine. Amarone is probably the best known, but passito is made all over Italy, and in the Czech Republic (slámové víno), France (vin de paille), Greece (variety of local names), Austria and Germany (strohwein or schilfwein), among other places. Drying the grapes has a similar effect to “noble rot” (botrytis) or allowing the grapes to freeze, as in ice wine. The result is an intensely flavored, thick, sweet wine. As one might guess, the process also adds to the price of the wine.

The label describes this wine as “cherry pie in a glass” which is a bit of an overstatement, but it does have a wonderfully fruity aroma and flavor that makes for a delicious holiday dessert wine. It might also make a good gateway dessert wine with its easily discernable flavors. It pairs well with chocolate and it’s probably my favorite of the dessert wines currently on pour at Michigan by the Bottle Tasting Room in Royal Oak. The label says to serve it chilled, but I’ve had it both chilled and at room temperature and it was good either way.

My only concern with this is the price. This is a good wine but for $45/375 ml I want it to be exceptional. I understand that a number of factors contribute to the high price of this wine, like being from a boutique producer, being made using a special technique and being made with a variety that can be hard to grow successfully in Michigan. After factoring that in, the price is still high, but it’s a unique product for Michigan and I think that unconventional thinking should be rewarded. It’s not like anyone’s going to be trying to chug this from an oversized balloon glass or a Solo cup after all. Chateau Aeronautique Passito Cabernet Sauvignon is recommended.

Chateau Aeronautique Riesling, 2012

Maker: Chateau Aeronautique, Jackson, Michigan, USAwpid-2015-10-05-11.35.10.jpg.jpeg

Place of origin: Michigan, USA

Style: Semi-sweet Riesling

ABV: 12.5%

Price: $18 (Michigan by the Bottle Tasting Room)

Nose: Mild. Touch of alcohol, smidgen of Riesling wine.

Palate: Apple juice that wasn’t refrigerated after opening.

Finish: Apple juice and maybe a little pineapple.

Parting words: A fellow Michigan wine blogger who I have a lot of respect for once told me I was brave to post reviews. My first thought was “Yeah, that or I’m just an ass.” There are times when I think I’m too easy on Michigan wines. I wonder if I’ve become a “homer” as it were and let my locovore sympathies get the best of me. I usually start questioning myself after hanging out with wine bloggers who aren’t interested in Michigan wines. Then there are some times when I taste something sub-par and I regain confidence in my palate. This is one of those times.

Chateau Aeronautique, like its founder, is eccentric. Lorenzo Lizarralde is a Texas-born MK (missionary kid) who currently works as a commercial pilot based in Detroit. Many wineries have turned themselves into agricultural attractions with U-pick produce, farm to table restaurants and the like. Chateau Aeronautique is an aeronautical attraction. He houses his vintage Cessna on site, and the winery itself is in a hanger.

CA’s wine portfolio is unusual too, including a Cabernet Sauvignon passito and a stab at Sauternes dubbed Chateau Blanc. Their strongest wines are two in the Aviatrix series: Crimson (a Merlot heavy red blend) and Rouge (a Cabernet Sauvignon heavy red blend). Each is a big, bold 787 of a wine, but quite enjoyable. There is also a cranberry infused red wine called Aviatrix Passion, which I haven’t had.

The website describes this wine as “Inviting Tropical Nose, Liquid Sunshine with a Smoldering Kiss of Sweetness”. I would describe it as dull. There’s really very little going on here other than sweetness and a relatively high ABV. No minerals, herbs or flowers and very little in the way of fruit on the nose or anywhere else.

I expect this sort of profile out of a cheap grocery store selection, but not out of a boutique winery known for its bold wines. $18 is not too expensive in the grand scheme of things, but more flavorful options are available for half the price. 2012 Chateau Aeronautique Riesling is not recommended.

Chateau Aeronautique Cabernet Franc

Maker: Chateau Aeronautique, Jackson, Michigan, USA.wpid-2015-03-31-18.45.17.jpg.jpeg

Place of origin: Michigan (Pioneer wine trail)

Vintage: 2010

ABV: Unknown

Price: Unknown

Appearance: Light maroon with good sized, evenly spaced legs.

Nose: Oak, leather, black currant, blueberry, ground pink peppercorn, raspberry.

Palate: Medium bodied. Blackberries, leather, hint of roasted poblano pepper.

Finish: Light but long lasting. White pepper, oak, bell pepper.

Parting words: Chateau Aeronautique Winery is located in an air park near Jackson, close to Sandhill Crane Wineyards. Their stated aim is to produce Bordeaux-style wines but they also produce wines from a lot of the usual Michigan suspects like Reisling, Pino Gris, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Their Bordeaux style blends, Aviatrix Rouge and Crimson (a “right bank” style blend), are probably their best. They also do a good Syrah, quite a rare bird in Michigan. Cab Franc is much more common here and it features prominently in the Rouge. They use Michigan grapes exclusively.

This is one that has been sitting in my cellar for a little while and I think that time paid off. We had it with a meal of cheese ravioli and tomato sauce and it paired perfectly. Meat-filled ravioli might pair even better. As it sat, it tended to lean more to the peppery notes, but it never went off the deep end. This is a lighter style Cab Franc, though, so don’t go in expecting a bruiser. Michigan producers who can make a quality red like this get me excited at this state’s potential for Bordeaux varietals. Chateau Aeronautique’s 2010 Cabernet Franc is recommended.