Semi-dry Riesling Head to Head: Chateau Grand Traverse vs Gill’s Pier

Chateau Grand Traverse (Traverse City, Michigan, USA)= CGT20160531_195230-2.jpg

Gill’s Pier (Traverse City, Michigan, USA)= GP Now defunct.

Place of origin

CGT: Old Mission Peninsula AVA, Traverse City, Michigan, USA

GP: Leelanau Peninsula AVA, Leelanau County, Michigan, USA (estate)

Vintage: 2013

ABV

CGT: 11%

GP: 10%

Appearance:

CGT: Medium gold.

GP: Pale gold

Nose

CGT: Rich. Slightly musty, old Riesling aroma when first opened, then peachy all the way through.

GP: Crisp yellow apple, Meyer lemon, lemon thyme.

Palate

CGT: Full-bodied, old Riesling feel. Mandarin orange, sage.

GT: Bracing, but still sweet. Tangerine, bottled lemon juice.

Finish

CGT: Dry, with a little bitterness.

GP: Cheek-filling tartness. Fades slowly.

Parting words: I got the idea for this head to head when I pulled a wine out of our liquor cabinet to put in our china cabinet for near term-consumption (we have an overly complex three-part staging system for wine in our house). I pulled out the CGT Semi-dry Riesling and then went to move up the bottle below it and noticed it was the Gill’s Pier Semi-dry of the same vintage. I’ve done a lot spirits head to heads, but not many wine ones so I thought this was the perfect opportunity.

I didn’t expect there to be much of a difference between these two, honestly. I was quite surprised at the contrast between two wines made from grapes grown a few miles apart in the same style and year. It’s a testimony to the varied terroir of northwest Michigan and the flexibility of Riesling. CGT is lush and decadent where Gill’s Pier is focused and elegant. If I had to choose one over the other, I would probably opt for Gill’s Pier, but just by a hair. Both are recommended. Unfortunately, Gill’s Pier estate is now an alpaca farm, but Chateau Grand Traverse is still going strong and readily available all over Michigan.

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Chateau Grand Traverse Semi-Dry Riesling

Maker: Chateau Grand Traverse, Traverse City, Michigan, USAwpid-2015-07-22-19.53.17.jpg.jpeg

Place of origin: Old Mission AVA, Traverse City, Michigan, USA

Vintage: 2012

ABV: 12%

Price: $12 (website price for 2013 vintage)

Appearance: Pale gold.

Nose: Mineral water, pear, tangerine, lemon thyme.

Palate: Full bodied and subtly sweet. Fresh squeezed orange juice, gravel dust, winter savory.

Finish: Orange juice then minerals and a lingering sweetness.

Parting words: As much as I love Chateau Grand Traverse and Riesling, I shocked myself when I saw this on a shelf a few months ago and realized I had never tried it. Not sure why I never picked up a bottle but I’m very glad I did.

I’m not sure my tasting notes do it justice. It’s more complex than they might lead one to believe. It’s well integrated but not over-integrated, if that makes sense. The herbal, mineral, and fruit aromas all dance back and forth, each taking their turns leading the wine, but never blurring into one. I like that quality very much. That’s true complexity. The best Four Roses bourbons have that and this wine has it too. The price for this wine is so stupid cheap that I would call this a must buy for anyone who loves Michigan Riesling, or Riesling in general. Chateau Grand Traverse’s 2012 Semi-dry Riesling is highly recommended.

Chateau Grand Traverse Late Harvest Riesling

Maker: Chateau Grand Traverse, Traverse City, Michigan, USAwpid-20150506_190433.jpg

Place of origin: Michigan, USA

Vintage: 2011

ABV: 10%

Purchased for $14

Appearance: Iridescent gold.

Nose: White peach, apricot, lime zest, sherry.

Palate: Medium bodied. Sweet and citric. Hazelnuts, lychee, rancio.

Finish: Like an orange push pop but not as sweet.

Parting words: 2011 in northern Michigan was one of the rare vintages that was both prolific and high quality. Reds did particularly well but the whites were no slouch either, as this wine clearly shows. CGT’s 2011 LHR exhibits all the characteristics of an excellent, aged wine of this type. Loads of rich, oxidized flavor but elegantly balanced with citrus and a touch of bitterness. This wine is best on its own or with cheesy or hors d’oeuvres. My wife was craving a white wine with dinner so we ended up drinking it with grilled hot dogs and potato chips and it did just fine with those, bringing out big orange flavors.

This is another big winner from Chateau Grand Traverse and the 2011 vintage. Highly recommended.

Chateau Grand Traverse Late Harvest Riesling, 2011

Maker: Chateau Grand Traverse, Traverse City, Michigan, USACGT Late Harvest Riesling 2011

Origin: Michigan, USA

ABV: 10%

Appearance: Medium gold.

Nose: Lychee, pineapple, tangerine, pear.

On the palate: Full-bodied and mouth-puckeringly tart when fresh from the bottle. Lemon, sour candy. As it has time to open up at room temperature it calms down quite a bit. The citrus is still there and still strong, but a pleasant herbal note asserts itself. Underneath all this is a beautiful firmness that presages good things to come.

Finish: Fairly sweet but still very tart. Fades fairly quickly and leaves a slightly sticky residue on the lips.

Parting words: I think this is another lesson wine for me. It was close to undrinkable on first pour, but I don’t think that’s due to any inherent flaw in the wine. I may be all wet here, but I think it needs much more time in the bottle to settle down. As it is, it’s unbalanced.

There is plenty of good stuff going on. The fruit in the nose is wonderful and the mouth feel is great, but this wine is not ready for primetime. This is the first time I have encountered a Michigan wine like this from a major quality producer (one of my favorites actually). Far from being disappointed I was encouraged that Michigan producers are making wines for which multi-year bottle aging isn’t just possible but recommended. That’s an encouraging sign.

Anyhow, rather than give a mild recommendation to this, I will give it an I for incomplete. Good thing I have another bottle cellared.

Lot 49 Riesling

Maker: Chateau Grant Traverse, Old Mission Peninsula, Traverse City, Michigan, USA

Grape: Riesling

Region: Old Mission AVA, Michigan, USA (estate grown, product of one particular block of vineyard)

Vintage: 2010

ABV: 13%

Appearance: Pale straw.

Nose: Honeyed pear, ripe peach, citrus blossom, lemon thyme.

On the palate: Full-bodied. Rock candy, bartlett pear, crème brûlée, white mulberry.

Finish: Meyer lemon, grilled peach, angelica.

Parting words: Chateau Grand Traverse is something of a paradox. Their tasting room is a poorly organized mess reminiscent of the gift shop portion of a Cracker Barrel restaurant. They also produce a line of serviceable supermarket-quality varietals. But there’s the other side of  CGT. They are one of the most creative and ambitious producers in Michigan. They produce a Grüner Veltliner , a white Pinot, a whole-cluster Riesling, a botrytized Riesling, an Alsatian Pinot Blanc style white, a reserve Gamay, the list goes on. They are even set to issue a limited release of estate-grown AlbariñoCachedSimilarYou +1’d this publicly. Undo. And unlike some of their peers, at least 9/10 times they accomplish what they set out to do.

This Riesling is a classic example of the ambitious side of CGT. It comes across as a little shy at first, but still waters run deep. Like that quiet girl you sat behind in math class, Lot 49 has hidden depths and subtle complexities. This is a thinking person’s Riesling, not a summer afternoon chug-a-lug Riesling. It got a very flattering write-up on Jancis Robinson’s website and rightfully so. Lot 49 is highly recommended.

Chateau Grand Traverse Late Harvest Riesling

Maker: Chateau Grand Traverse, Traverse City, Michigan, USA

Grape: Riesling

Style: Late Harvest

Region: Old Mission AVA, Traverse City, Michigan, USA

Vintage: 2009 (different vintage pictured)

ABV: 9.5%

Appearance: Pale gold

Nose: Apple, peach, rhubarb, orange blossom, lemon thyme.

On the palate: full-bodied and sweet. Fruity, Golden Delicious Apple, Barlett pear, lavender.

Finish: Sweet and honeyed (wildflower to be specific) with a note of bitterness followed by a tart Macintosh apple note.

Parting words: This wine is not particularly complex but rich and enjoyable, especially after it opens up. This is a perfect cheese course wine. It would be a bit much with a full meal, though. Overall CGT Late Harvest Riesling is a very enjoyable wine, and a great example of Northern Michigan Late Harvest Riesling. Recommended.