Maker: Virtue, Fennville, Michigan, USA.
Apples: Variety of Michigan-grown apples.
Style: Partially barrel-finished apple cider with Michigan honey added (Not a cyser or mead).
Price: $13/12 12 oz can variety pack (Binny’s)
Appearance: Pale gold, like a lager.
Nose: Honey, sliced golden apples.
Palate: Lightly fizzy, medium bodied. Semi-dry. More balanced than the nose. Honeyed golden apple slices, lemon meringue pie.
Finish: Honey, dry apple slices, tannin.
Parting words: This is another Virtue cider out of the variety pack I bought for my June party. It’s my least favorite of the four included in the pack, but it’s still good. The honey is too strong in the nose but it and the barrel notes add depth and grip to what would otherwise be a pretty mild cider on the palate and in the finish. Good price for a quality cider. Virtue’s Michigan Honey is recommended.
Maker: Fenn Valley Vineyards, Fennville, Michigan, USA
Grape: Merlot (at least 85%)
Place of origin: Fenn Valley estate, Fennville AVA, Lake Michigan Shore, Michigan, USA
Purchased for $22 (winery)
Appearance: Dark reddish-purple.
Nose: Blackberry pie, clove, oak.
Palate: Medium-bodied and mostly dry. Baking spice, blackberry, mulberry.
Finish: Crushed blackberry, toasted oak.
Parting words: Fennville is Michigan’s only sub-appellation. It’s as old or older (sources conflict) than its parent AVA Lake Michigan Shore. It’s essentially a one winery appellation. That winery is Fenn Valley. It’s to the north and west of the big wineries in LMS, so it doesn’t get the same traffic as the others, but it’s very much worth a trip up the road to Fennville or to the tasting room in Saugatuck. Those are the only place one can reliably find Fennville wines. Judging by this one, it’s a prime spot.
This wine is a classic cool-climate Merlot. It has the chewy fruit one expects from Merlot, but with that cool climate (and cool vintage) tang that brings it all together and makes it a perfect match with pork chops, roast duck or sirloin steak. At $22, it’s worth every dollar and more. 2013 Fenn Valley Merlot Reserve is highly recommended.