BWW House Red

Maker: Blue Water Winery, Carsonville, Michigan, USA

Grapes: Chambourcin, Catawba, Concord.

Place of origin: Michigan, USA

Vintage: 2009

ABV: 13%

Appearance: Very dark purple. Nearly black.

Nose: Concord grape jelly, lighter fluid, moldy blackberries.

On the palate: Light -bodied and tangy. Grape juice, brown sugar, lemon peel with the pith attached.

Finsih: Charcoal, iodine, grape pips.

Parting words: When I first saw the name of this wine, I thought it was BBW House Red, not BWW House Red. That made me a little excited, but this wine has none of the voluptuous delights of a BBW. While most wine labels exaggerate, this one goes over the top in declaring this to be a “very drinkable wine”. “Barely drinkable” would be more apt. The label also recommends serving the wine chilled, which is excellent advice. I would recommend drinking it at around 33° F or 1° C or better yet, not at all.

The winery is located less than ten miles away from Lexington, Michigan, a popular vacation destination on Lake Huron, so I suppose the bulk of their business comes from well-meaning tourists looking for something local. I received a half bottle of this wine as a gift from a very sweet lady who also happens to be the mother-in-law of a good friend of mine. I didn’t take it personally. I’m just glad I didn’t spend any money on this.

I have no beef with native grape varieties or hybrids. Long time readers will know that I have given positive reviews to wines made with hybrids and native grape species. I am not a speciesist. I have had 100% Chambourcin , Catawba, and even Concord wines that were much, much better than this. This is just a bad wine.

What makes it worse is the price, $14 a bottle on the website. That is absurd. One can get a very tasty wine from practically anywhere in the world for that much, including all four Michigan AVAs. Why bother with something like this? In case you haven’t already guessed, BWW House Red is not recommended.

San Sebastian Vintners Red

Maker: San Sebastian, St. Augustine, Florida, USA

Grape: Muscadine

Region: Florida

ABV: 11%

Appearance: Deep burgundy, with broad, thick legs.

Nose: Slightly musky, foxy, sweet.

On the palate: Sweet, but not cloying. Foxy grapes, clove, ginger, black licorice.

Finish: Gingery with a bit of sweetness and long, sexy, leathery tannins.

Parting words: Muscadine is a native American grape, Vitis rotundifolia. It’s so distinct, even from its American cousins, that it has its own subgenus, muscadinia. Unlike Northern and European grapes, it thrives in hot humid climates, and was a favorite wine and table grape in the Southeastern US from the 18th century on. Its skin is also very thick, it’s the only table grape that needs to be peeled to be eaten.

This is the first Muscadine wine I’ve ever had. I enjoy foxy wines made from native grape cultivars and hybrids, but I wasn’t prepared for a wine of this intensity of flavor. The more I drank, the more I liked it. But be warned, if you do not like foxy flavors in your wine (think Concord Grape juice), you will hate just about anything made with Muscadine.

I’m writing this in South Florida, a landscape that has been completely transformed over the past century to the point where it bears no resemblance to what it was for most of its history. San Sebastian Vintners Red is a link to the past, the colonial past and the ancient past of what’s now the American South. I think that’s pretty cool, but I also think it’s a pretty good wine. San Sebastian Vintners Red is recommended.


Bubbly Nouveau

Maker: Black Star Farms, Sutton’s Bay/Traverse City, Michigan, USA

Grapes: Muscat, Cayuga

Region: Old Mission AVA, Traverse City, Michigan, USA

Style: Carbonated White Wine

Vintage: 2011 (different vintage pictured)

ABV: 7%

Appearance: Very pale, practically clear, with nice, spritely persistent bubbles.

On the palate: Sweet and foxy. The Muscat and Cayuga make their presence plainly known but are restrained (barely). Table grapes, Granny Smith apples with a hint of perfume and persimmon.

Finish: Tart and tingly but mellows within 20 seconds or so.

Parting Words: Bubbly Nouveau is a fleeting annual release from BSF. As one might expect from the name, it is recommended that this one be consumed promptly. I can’t imagine it getting much tarter than this and being enjoyable. Not everybody enjoys foxy native grape wines or Muscat but I do. This is a fun, rustic American wine that doesn’t require a lot of attention and is best drunk fast and early. Recommended.

NOTE: The original version of this review stated that Riesling was also used to make the 2011 vintage of Bubbly Nouveau. That is not correct. Thanks for the correction, @bstar2009!

Now Drinking

St. Julian Pink Catawba

Maker: St. Julian, Paw Paw, Michigan

Grape: Catawba

Region: Lake Michigan Shore AVA

Catawba is perhaps the most American of all wine grapes.  It was one of the most commercial grapes in the 19th century.  Its domain was the eastern U.S.  Ohio’s sparkling pink Catawba was once regarded as America’s finest wine.

The wine industry in the East, and the Catawba was almost destroyed in the late 19th century when the railroads made it possible for California wine producers, growing European grapes, to ship their wines to East.  Many things were tried, but by the time of prohibition, the Eastern wine industry already had at least one foot in the grave.

Starting in the 1970s with the Farm Winery movement, the Eastern U.S. has been able to raise its wine industry from the dead.  But many places in the East, like New York, are now almost exclusively growing European grapes.  The Catawba has found its home in the midwest, though, in many places that are too hot or too humid for the finicky European grapes.

In my mind, St. Julian’s Pink Catawba is the standard.  It is less pink than it is a pale orange.  The nose is tart, with that strong scent and flavor described as “foxy”.  Foxiness is that tangy taste unique to American grapes.  It is that flavor that Americans love in Concord grape juice and grape jelly, and Europeans despise in anything.

On the palate it is much lighter than the nose would have you believe.  Full-bodied and tart, but still sweet, it is above all, refreshing.  Hardly anything tastes better on a hot, sweaty summer night in the midwest than a cool glass of Catawba.  If you don’t like this wine, you’re unamerican.  Or European.