Verterra Malbec, 2016

Maker: Verterra Winery, Leland, Michigan, USA

Grape: Malbec (at least 85%)

Place of origin: Leelanau AVA, Michigan, USA (at least 85%)

Vintage: 2016

ABV: Undisclosed (Table wine loophole)

Purchased for $40 (Michigan by the Bottle, Royal Oak).

Appearance: Brick red.

Nose: Plum, clove, leather, blueberry.

Palate: Medium-bodied and well-balanced. Plum, blackberry, black raspberry, allspice, white pepper.

Finish: Drying and a little chewy, but still with lots of fruit. Acid faded as the bottle was open.

Parting words: Verterra has made a name for itself as a major (by Northwest Michigan standards) producer of red and rosé wine. It’s one of the few wineries in the state that produces a varietal Malbec, an old Bordeaux variety that is most famously grown in Argentina.

Malbec is not a variety I regularly seek out. It’s too often indistinguishable from its close cousins Merlot and Cabernet Franc. Those two are easier to find, so why bother? This one is worth seeking out, though. It has the fruit of a Merlot, but perfectly balanced with spice and tannin. This balance makes it more than just a home-cooked steak or burger wine, but one that quickly becomes the star of any meal or event it’s a part of.

At $40, it’s not cheap, but it turns into a bargain after a few years in the cellar. The 2017s and 2020s should be even more cellar worthy than this vintage, too! 2016 Verterra Malbec is highly recommended.

Chateau Chantal Malbec Reserve

Maker: Chateau Chantal, Traverse City, Michigan, USA

Grape: Malbec

Region: Lujan de Cuyo, Mendoza, Argentina

Vintage: 2007

ABV: 14.5%

Appearance: Dark inky purple with long quick gams. Throws some intense amounts of sediment around.

Nose: Woody, intense, grapey. Almost like a Port or a Gran Reserva Rioja.

On the palate: Medium-bodied,  intense and grapey. Mildly tannic, coats the mouth. A powerful wine that stands up to rich food very well, but you don’t feel like you’re being punched in the face or about to fall off your chair either.

Finish: Fruity, like Concord grape jelly, but without the foxiness. The sediment coats the mouth and lingers for a long time.

Parting words: This is not a terribly complex wine, but it’s very good. Argentina’s Mendoza region is firing on all cylinders right now and Malbec, an old Bordeaux variety, is its flagship grape. Chateau Chantal owns a vineyard in Argentina and imports its wine to sell here. High-end Malbec can age for 10-15 years but most lower-end and middle-range ones are just fine after 2-4 years in the bottle, like this one. Michigan is not known for Bordeaux-varietal reds, but Chateau Chantal has found a great way to offer an excellent one to its customers. Recommended.