Left Foot Charley Pinot Blanc, 2013

Maker: Left Foot Charley, Traverse City, Michigan, USA20160203_155824.jpg

Place of origin: Island View Vineyard, Old Mission Peninsula AVA, Michigan, USA

ABV: 13.5%

Other information: 21.4° brix at harvest, harvested 10/19/2013, 6 g/l residual sugar.

Purchased for $24

Appearance: Pale straw

Nose: Mild lychee, lemon thyme, mineral water

Palate: Tangerine, Meyer lemon, sage, pear, peach, thyme.

Finish: Overripe Bartlett pear, mandarin orange, tannin.

Parting words: Pinot Blanc is a funny wine. In Europe, it’s associated with Alsace, but Alsatian Pinot Blanc is really just a white wine blend made with white wines from grapes in the Pinot family. In Alsace, Pinot Blanc (the variety) and Auxerrois (a very close sibling to Chardonnay) are the most common components. Sometimes Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir (vinified white) are blended in as well. Comparing an Alsatian Pinot Blanc to an American varietal Pinot Blanc is not really a fair comparison because of that.

I had intended to compare this wine to an Alsatian I had in my cellar, Emile Beyer’s Tradition Pinot Blanc. I didn’t end up doing that comparison because it just didn’t seem fair to compare the two for the reasons above, but also because Tradition is $10 cheaper and is not single vineyard. That said, I did drink them in close proximity and the LFC Pinot Blanc held up well, for what it’s worth.

Pinot Blanc is a grape variety that has come up as a potential “signature grape” for Michigan. I’ve ranted about this on Twitter at least twice. When the marketeers who love the idea of signature grapes talk about Pinot Blanc they use buzzwords like “crisp”, “clean” and “quaffable”. Those words always translate to “boring”. The idea is to grab Pinot Grigio drinkers who are looking for book club type wines that are easy to pound down and don’t require much contemplation. I think this is the wrong approach because I don’t want to see Michigan tying its fortunes to a dull grape and being perceived as a dull wine state, instead of one producing robust, complex white wines on par with anywhere else in the world.

Most Michigan Pinot Blancs I’ve had have indeed been boring. They have very little going on other than acidity. The ones that aren’t boring have been bad. Left Foot Charley’s 2013 Pinot Blanc is the exception. It’s complex and fruity, but with plenty of acidity to keep things moving along. $24 puts it on the high side for Michigan whites, but it’s worth it. If all Michigan Pinot Blancs could be like this, I might change my mind about the grape. Left Foot Charley 2013 Pinot Blanc is recommended.

Arcturos Pinot Blanc

Maker: Black Star Farms, Traverse City, Michigan, USA

Place of origin: Montaña Rusa, Capella and Montague vinyards, Old Mission AVA, Michigan, USA

Vintage: 2011

ABV: 12%

Appearance: pale gold.

Nose: Tangerine, apricot, Meyer lemon.

On the palate: Medium bodied and velvety. A bit of smoke, but not overpowering. Canned pear, ripe peach, golden delicious apple. Never overly tart or citric, though. Perfectly balanced.

Finish: Pink Grapefruit, bartlett pear, but, again, easy going and elegant.

Parting words:  According to the label Pinot Blanc from these vineyards usually gets blended into BSF’s sparkling wines, but the 2011 vintage was so outstanding they decided to bottle it as a varietal. It is a fantastic wine. Elegant and balanced, but never boring. Plenty of terroir tartness, but never overwhelming or pucker-inducing. Dry but highly aromatic and fruity. I just can’t say enough about this wine. It’s a very limited bottling that I received as a member of their wine club. The information that actually came with the package had a different wine listed, but I thank Bacchus that I got this one instead.  Arcturos Pinot Blanc 2011 is worth seeking out and highly recommended.