Maker: Peninsula Cellars, Traverse City, Michigan, USA
Grape: Riesling (at least 85%)
Place of origin: Hawkeye, Kroupa vineyards, Old Mission Peninsula AVA, Traverse City, Michigan, USA.
Style: Sweet Late Harvest
Notes: 22.3 degrees brix at harvest, 71 grams/liter residual sugar
Appearance: Pale gold with a few tiny bubbles.
Nose: Ripe peach, honey, lemon curd.
Palate: Full-bodied, sweet and tart. Ripe peach again, Orange Julius, gravel dust.
Finish: Sweet and citrusy.
Parting words: Peninsula Cellars is very good because they get their grapes from very good vineyards, Hawkeye and the family vineyard Kroupa in this case. This Late Harvest Riesling is sweet but not cloying. It has a nice balance of citrus, stone fruit and tropical flavors that can stand alongside most Mosel kabinett or spätlese Rieslings at twice the price. I have four bottles of this wine in my cellar currently and I’m looking forward to trying this wine again at 5, 10, 15 and maybe even 20 y/o if I live that long! Like almost everything Peninsula Cellars does, the 2016 Late Harvest Riesling is highly recommended.
Maker: Bel Lago, Cedar, Leelanau County, Michigan, USA
Place of origin: Leelanau County, Michigan, USA
Style: Sweet/semi-sweet Riesling
Purchased for $19 (Holiday Market)
Appearance: Pale gold
Nose: Canned pear, gravel.
Palate: Full-bodied. Sweet but not cloying. Pineapple-mango-orange juice, mineral water.
Finish: Drying, peach.
Parting words: Bel Lago needs no introduction for long time readers of this blog. It’s one of my favorite Michigan wineries.
Like most of Michigan’s best, Bel Lago has a fine line of Riesling wines at varying levels of sweetness. Select Harvest is a style of late harvest wine roughly equivalent to German Auslese in terms of ripeness. As such, they are more age-worthy than dry Rieslings, which is why I waited so long to open this bottle. This wine is not especially complex (perhaps due to the brutal 2014 vintage) but it hits all the right notes for ripe Riesling: sweetness, citrus, and minerals. I have a few more bottles of this wine in my cellar and I look forward to seeing how this wine develops over the next 3 or 4 years. 2014 Bel Lago Select Harvest Riesling is recommended.
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.
St. Julian Lake Michigan Shore Reserve Late Harvest Riesling= SJ
Arcturos Old Mission Peninsula Late Harvest Riesling= Arc
SJ: St. Julian Winery, Paw Paw, Michigan, USA
Arc: Black Star Farms Old Mission, Traverse City, Michigan, USA
Places of origin
SJ: Burgoyne Ridge vineyard, Berrien County, Lake Michigan Shore AVA, Michigan, USA
Arc: Old Mission Peninsula, Traverse City, Michigan, USA.
VinSugar at Harvest (in brix)
Price (current vintages)
SJ: $13 (website, though I have seen it for under $10)
Arc: $17.50 (website)
SJ: Medium gold
Arc: Light gold, almost green.
SJ: Pear, orange juice
Arc: Kerosene (I was the only one who got this note), lemon thyme, peach.
SJ: Medium bodied but rich. Big pear. Like getting one stuffed up my nose, in a good way.
Arc: Fuller bodied but drier. Crisp apple, lime, candied lemon.
SJ: Sweet, almost sherry-like.
Arc: Cleaner. Bitter sage.
Liz: Preferred SJ. Found it more complex and fruitier.
Amy: Preferred SJ. Arc is for summer sipping by the lake. SJ is also for sipping by the lake, but fall is coming soon!
Pete: Preferred Arc. Found SJ too harsh.
The Panel: Liz and me.
Amy and Pete
Parting words: Michigan is known for Riesling. It’s the most planted wine grape in the state. It’s grown both in the “Up North” wine regions and in West Michigan. Riesling wine is made in a broad array of styles from bone-dry Austrian Smaragd to syrupy Mosel Trockenbeerenauslese. Michigan Rieslings don’t (yet) span that entire spectrum, but they have the middle of it well-covered. On the sweet end are Late Harvest Rieslings like these. The ripeness of the grapes used to make these wines is in the neighborhood of the grapes that would go into a German Spätlese.
I have been wanting to do something like this for a while. LMS vs OMP, West Coast vs Up North. It seemed like the best way to do that was to do it with two wines from two big producers in each area. Black Star Farms is the Up North titan with a winery in both Leelanau and Old Mission and there’s nobody in LMS (or the state) bigger and older than St. Julian. Also both of these wines are commonly found at bigger grocery stores in my area, often at discounted prices.
We all thought both wines were very good, but I was a little surprised at how much almost everyone (including myself) preferred St. Julian. While I didn’t find it as complex as Arcturos, it was richer and more enjoyable. Although St. Julian had less sugar (at harvest and residual) than Arcturos it tasted much sweeter and fruitier. Although the folks at the winery described it as “a bright, clean wine designed to be consumed shortly after release” here, it has held up very well, and probably even become richer. Arcturos held up well too. Both are good values, but St. Julian has the edge there too especially considering it’s a single vineyard wine (albeit a very large vineyard). 2012 St. Julian Lake Michigan Shore Reserve Late Harvest Riesling and 2012 Arcturos Old Mission Peninsula Late Harvest Riesling are recommended.
Purchased for $13 (Hollywood Market, Madison Heights)
Other information: Residual sugar: 36.1 g/ltr. Harvested at 23.1 Brix.
Appearance: Golden straw with thick, even legs and a few crystals.
Nose: Thyme, cut white peach, Bartlett pear, lychee, whiff of gasoline.
Palate: Full bodied. Lychee, oregano, Meyer lemon, mango, orange marmalade.
Finish: Peachy and sweet. Lasts a long time before fading into herbal flavors.
Parting words: I was pleasantly surprised by this wine. The last Pelee Island wine I had was the crummy Pinot Noir I reviewed a few months ago. This wine was on sale and from a good white vintage in Michigan, so I figured it was probably a good one in Ontario too so it was worth a try.
It’s an Ontario VQA (as opposed to Pelee Island) so one probably wouldn’t expect much in the way of terroir influence, but there is some broad terroir character. The time in the bottle has benefited it greatly as well. It is rich and sweet but still carries a lot of typically dry flavors and aromas. This is a very good wine for a reasonable price. Pelee Island Winery Late Harvest Riesling, 2011 is recommended.
Maker: Chateau Grand Traverse, Traverse City, Michigan, USA
Place of origin: Michigan, USA
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.
Maker: Chateau Grand Traverse, Traverse City, Michigan, USA
Origin: Michigan, USA
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.
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.