Chateau Grand Traverse Gamay Noir Reserve, 2016

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

Grape: Gamay (at least 85%)

Place of origin: Old Mission Peninsula AVA, Traverse City, Michigan, USA (at least 85%)

Vintage: 2016

ABV: 13.9%

Purchased for $26

Appearance: Dark ruby.

Nose: Red currants, crushed blackberries, cedar, velvet.

Palate: Silky and full-bodied. Blueberry pie, pink peppercorn, black pepper.

Finish: Black currant jelly, clove.

Parting words: I reviewed the “regular” Chateau Grand Traverse Gamay Noir back in 2019. You can read that review here. The difference between that and CGT’s reserve Gamay Noir is the amount of time the wine spends in oak, and $11 in price. That extra time has given the reserve fuller body, silkier texture, and more spice, although I’m sure two extra years in the bottle had an impact as well.

While that other Gamay was the equivalent of a good Beaujolais-Villages or bargain cru Beaujolais, this wine is like a Cru Beaujolais at around the same price point or even a little higher. The standard Gamay is an even better value, but there’s no reason to punish the reserve for the success of its cheaper sibling. It’s very much worth the price. 2016 Chateau Grand Traverse Gamay Noir Reserve is recommended.

Chateau Grand Traverse Gamay Noir, 2016

Maker: Chateau Grand Traverse, Traverse City, Michigan, USA.20190820_125139.jpg

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

Grape: Gamay

Vintage: 2016

ABV: 12%

Purchased for $15

Appearance: Translucent ruby.

Nose: Black currant, black pepper, toasted oak, raspberry.

Palate: Medium-bodied and juicy. Cranberry juice cocktails, blackberry, sauteed mushrooms.

Finish: Juicy, then jammy, then oaky.

Parting words: I last reviewed CGT’s Gamay Noir in 2011. That was the 2009 vintage. It was a good one, but how does the hot and steamy 2016 vintage compare?

Well, there’s no cherry in the 2016 like there was in the 2009, but they’re very similar in profile. The 2016 is a hair more complex with some earthiness on the palate. It’s the equivalent of a quality Beaujolais-Village or a value Morgon. Chateau Grand Traverse retains its title as the king of Gamay in Michigan. This wine is recommended.


Chateau Grand Traverse Ltd Ed Pinot Noir, 2016

Maker: Chateau Grand Traverse, Traverse City, Michigan, USA20190108_200128.jpg

Grape: Pinot Noir (at least 85%, looks and tastes like 100%)

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

Vintage: 2016

Note: 5 months in oak

ABV: 12%

Purchased for $13 (Meijer)

Appearance: Translucent ruby, like a good red Burgundy.

Nose: Very ripe strawberry, cherry syrup, crushed mulberry, nutmeg.

Palate: Medium-bodied. Dry but fruity. Strawberry fruit leather, black cherry, raspberry, actual leather, earth.

Finish: Fruity and leathery.

Parting words: Although I think it should be Gamay, Pinot Noir is probably Old Mission’s finest red wine grape right now. Chateau Grand Traverse produces some of the peninsula’s finest, and they should, seeing how long they’ve been at it.

This wine is like a quality vin de bourgogne, or even a village Burgundy at a similar age. There’s not much earthiness, but loads of fruit and cool-climate Pinot character. It should improve and show better integration over the next two or three years too, if stored properly. That said, it’s very tasty now and at a price where one doesn’t feel obliged to let it lounge in the cellar for a long time. I like this wine a lot. 2016 Chateau Grand Traverse Limited Edition Pinot Noir is highly recommended.

Chateau Grand Traverse Late Harvest Chardonnay, 2013

Maker: Chateau Grand Traverse, Traverse City, Michigan, USA20180706_164834.jpg

Grape: Chardonnay (at least 85% by law)

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

Vintage: 2013

ABV: 10.5%

Purchased for $12 (Meijer)

Appearance: Medium gold.

Nose: Sweet cream butter, papaya, mango, orange com? con? cow? (notes unclear)

Palate: Medium sweet. Butter, golden apple.

Finish: Pineapple, butter.

Parting words: Chateau Grand Traverse has a history of producing uncommon wines along with quality grocery-store varietals. This is one of the former, obviously. Before this bottle, I’d had late harvest Gewürztraminer and Riesling, obviously, but I had never even heard of late harvest Chard.

The result is very nice. It’s fuller-bodied than the usual style of Chard with big tropical fruit drenched in butter. I expected it to be sweeter than it was, but that may be due to the cool vintage. I’m eager to try a 2016 CGT Late Harvest Chard. Pick me up a bottle if you see one. 2013 Chateau Grand Traverse Late Harvest Chardonnay is recommended.


Blind Gamay head to head: Beaujolais vs. Old Mission

Yes, it’s another head to head! This time I decided to pit a 2014 Gamay Noir from Chateau 20180131_170642.jpgGrand Traverse on Old Mission Peninsula against a 2014 Beaujolais-Villages from Joseph Drouhin, one of Burgundy’s biggest négociants (wine buyers/blenders/bottlers). I enlisted the help of friends of the blog Amy and Pete to help us out (last seen here). Just to make sure we were tasting the wine and not our biases, we tasted these two wines blind. I’ll review them that way too, revealing which is which (and price and ABV) at the end. I’ll integrate the co-taster’s notes into my own, noting if they differ from mine.


A: Dark rose.

B: Similar, but a little darker


A: Fruity, berries specifically. I also smelled pepper and a drop of balsamic vinegar (in a good way)

B: Very similar, maybe a little more oak and a little less balsamic.


A: Light bodied. Strawberry, blackberry, oak.

B: Same flavor palette, but a little drier, chewier and more intense. That said, none of us knew if I could tell these two apart in a wider tasting. They both grew tart as they warmed, shifting into raspberry.


A: Drying. Balsamic, oak.

B: Similar but drier and longer.

I forgot to take pictures of the Gamay tasting, so here’s Amy & Pete tasting Riesling.


A= Joseph Drouhin Beaujolais-Villages, 2014. 12.5% ABV. $16 (Holiday Market)

B= Chateau Grand Traverse Gamay Noir, 2014 (Old Mission Peninsula AVA). 12% ABV. $15 (Holiday Market)

The CGT Gamay Noir performed slightly better, but as I wrote above, the wines were virtually identical. Both were delicious and paired well with the chocolate and cheese we nibbled on during the tasting. They’d both do well with grilled or roasted chicken, salmon or pork. Both are recommended, but why not save yourself a buck while supporting the Mitten state and pick up a bottle of CGT Gamay Noir the next time you buy wine!




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


CGT: 11%

GP: 10%


CGT: Medium gold.

GP: Pale gold


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

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


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

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


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.

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.