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.

Gill’s Pier Riesling

Maker: Gill’s Pier, Traverse City, Michigan, USA
Gill's Pier 2011 Riesling

Place of origin: Leelenau AVA, Michigan, USA

Style: Semi-dry

Vintage: 2011

ABV: 10%

Online from winery: $17

Appearance: Pale straw.

Nose: Ripe pear, Golden Delicious apples, gravel, a pinch of thyme.

On the palate: Full bodied and medium dry. Bosc pear, more Golden Delicious, white grape juice, flint.

Finish: Slightly tart and dry. Get more tart as it fades, but the faint mineral background remains.

Parting words: The first product I reviewed from Gill’s Pier was their tasty cherry wine. This is the first grape wine of theirs I’ve tried. When introducing myself to a Michigan winemaker, I always go for a Riesling first. I love Riesling and, like it or not, it’s Michigan’s unofficial signature grape and it has been for a while. Gill’s Pier passed the Riesling test with flying colors.

When I read “semi-dry” on a wine bottle, I usually expect something sweet. For once a semi-dry actually tastes semi-dry to me. It has a robust mouth feel and orchard fruit notes typical of sweeter Rieslings but without their sappiness and weight and with the minerality of better drys. It’s good with food, but is best on its own. If any aspect of this wine could stand improvement, it’s the nose. I would have preferred more intensity. That said, this is a good wine and worth the price I paid. 2011 Gill’s Pier Riesling is recommended.

Cheerio Cherry Wine

Maker: Gill’s Pier, Traverse City/Northport, Michigan, USAIMG_20130920_145824

Place of origin: Michigan, USA.

ABV: 10%

Purchased for: $15

Appearance: Dark burgundy.

Nose: Black cherries, blackberry, hint of leather and clove.

On the palate: Medium bodied and slightly tart. Black cherry, black raspberry, allspice.

Finish: More tart and long-lasting. Tart cherries, touch of mace.

Parting words: I’ve reviewed cherry wines before but it’s been a while. I have never reviewed anything from Gill’s Pier though, so when I saw this in my local grocery store I bought it and gave it a spin.

I’ve never been to Gill’s Pier and don’t know much about it other than what is on their website. It was founded in 2002, is located on the Leelanau peninsula and is owned by Ryan and Kris Sterkenburg. Judging by the wines on their website, their emphasis is on white blends with a couple reds as well. The winery was named after a nearby former Czech settlement, which included St. Wenceslaus Catholic Church, now a parish Sutton’s Bay, Michigan.

The wine drinks very nicely. It is well balanced and fairly complex for a cherry wine.  It’s not quite sweet enough for a a dessert wine, but it’s too sweet and dry to drink with a meal. It probably works best as an after dinner chitchat wine or with a cheese course. It’s not cheap, but it’s one of the better cherry wines I’ve had. Cheerio is recommended.