Sandhill Crane Cabernet Sauvignon, 2012

Maker: Sandhill Crane Vineyards, Jackson, Michigan, USA20191130_071255.jpg

Grape: Cabernet Sauvignon (at least 75%)

Place of origin: Michigan

Vintage: 2012

ABV: 13%

Purchased for $22 (Michigan by the Bottle Tasting Room)

Appearance: Brick red.

Nose: Toasted oak, walnut, crushed black cherries, dark chocolate.

Palate: Medium bodied. Tart and a little chewy. Balanced. Blackberry, black pepper, mushroom.

Finish: Tart, then a little tannic.

Parting words: Sandhill Crane is located in Jackson County Michigan, in the south central part of the state. While Jackson doesn’t have the lakefront and glacial features of Southwest and Northwest Michigan wine country, it does have three fine wineries, Lone Oak (in Grass Lake), Chateau Aeronautique, and Sandhill Crane.

Sandhill Crane is the biggest of the three with a wide variety of blends and varietals, including this Cabernet Sauvignon. Michigan isn’t known for this grape, but it is grown more widely than one might think. Still, it’s rare to find it bottled as a varietal here, so when it is, it’s almost always worth picking up. This wine is no exception.

No one would confuse this wine for a Napa Cab or a Left Bank Bordeaux, but it has some very nice varietal and cool climate notes with fruit, acid and tannin pleasantly balanced. It would probably hold up for another year or two at least, but this vintage is drinking very well right now, so sear yourself a steak and crack open your bottle if you have one. The 2016 and 2017 vintage should be able to age this long too if you have one of those. 2012 Sandhill Crane Cabernet Sauvignon is recommended.

 

 

 

Sandhill Crane Vidal Blanc, 2014

Maker: Sandhill Crane Vineyards, Jackson, Michigan, USA.20180425_094301.jpg

Grape: Vidal Blanc

Place of origin: Michigan (At least 75% Michigan Vidal by law)

Vintage: 2014

Style: Semi-sweet.

ABV: 12.5%

Price: $16 (current vintage on website)

Appearance: Pale yellow.

Nose: Peach, mango, papaya, wet limestone.

Palate: Full-bodied. Like pineapple syrup and mango nectar, but not cloying.

Finish: Clean, slightly tangy.

Parting words: Vidal is one of the best-known hybrid grape varieities in this part of the world. It’s most famous for its use in Canadian Ice wine, and is grown as far north as Nova Scotia and Sweden for that purpose. As you might have guessed from that last sentence, Vidal is cold-hardy and was able to produce good wine like this even in a Polar Vortex year like 2014. It’s grown fairly widely in Michigan, often for use in dessert wines, but not always, as in this case.

This Sandhill Crane Vidal is heavy on tropical fruit, but not overly sweet, which makes for nice porch sipping and pairs well with pork and chicken. $16 is a fair price, but much more would be pushing it for a non-AVA hybrid wine, even one of this quality. 2014 Sandhill Crane Vidal Blanc is recommended.

Sandhill Crane Syrah, 2012

Maker: Sandhill Crane Vineyards, Jackson, Michigan, USA20171027_174701.jpg

Grape: Syrah (at least 75% by law)

Place of origin: Michigan, USA

Vintage: 2012

ABV: 13.9%

Purchased for: $24 (Michigan by the Bottle Tasting Room, Royal Oak)

Appearance: Dark burgundy.

Nose: Plum, blueberry, cedar, mace.

Palate: Medium-bodied, medium sweet. Blackberry, cherry juice, French oak, nutmeg, clove.

Finish: Juicy, then oaky with a little tang.

Parting words: Sandhill Crane’s home is in Jackson, Michigan, in a small cluster of wineries including Chateau Aeronautique and Sleeping Bear Winery. They make wine from a mix of estate grown grapes and grapes from other areas of Michigan. They’re known, at least to me, for their reds which are consistantly some of the best in the state. They have a large, swinging tasting room with a restaurant and frequent events. It’s less than ninety minutes from most places in the Detroit Metro area and not far from Ann Arbor and Lansing either, making it a popular destination for those interested in a relaxing Saturday afternoon away.

Syrah’s home is in the Rhöne valley, but tasting this wine left me wondering if its second home could be in southern Michigan. This is cool climate Syrah to be sure, fruity and slightly acidic, but still with the grape’s spicy calling card. The Rhöne vallery isn’t as hot and dry as many people assume anyway. Syrah doesn’t seem to do well in northern Michigan, but in the south and southwest it seems to do better and in the hands of a skilled winemaker like Holly Balansag it can be delicious. We had this wine with chicken tacos and it paired very well. Sandhill Crane Syrah also pairs well with beef and pork. 2012s are going to be hard to find now, but 2016 and 2017 are looking as good as 2012 was or even better. Make sure you give it a good four or five years in the cellar to enjoy it at its best! 2012 Sandhill Crane Syrah is highly recommended.

 

Sandhill Crane Strawberry

Maker: Sandhill Crane Vineyards, Jackson, Michigan, USAwp-1471463533730.jpg

Place of origin: Michigan, USA

Vintage: NV

ABV: 11%

Price: $16/375 ml

Appearance: Dark, brassy pink.

Nose: Strawberry jam.

Palate: Full bodied. Strawberry pie filling.

Finish: Fruit salad with ripe in-season strawberries, as opposed to those pale, tasteless Florida or California ones you get in the fall or winter.

Parting words: Of all the summer berries, strawberries are probably my least favorite. Years of being forced to make due with crap, imported strawberries (see above) took their toll and I now view strawberries as the opening act to blueberries and cherries.This wine is changing my mind though. It captures the essence of strawberries at their very best in late May or early June, perfectly ripe and sweet, but not sticky or cloying. Perfect chilled on the patio after dinner on a humid summer evening.

The price is admittedly high for a fruit wine, but this and the raspberry dessert wine are Sandhill’s best in the dessert category. It’s limited edition so this year’s iteration may be sold out already, but if you can find it Sandhill Crane Strawberry wine is recommended.

Sassy Rosé

Maker: Sandhill Crane, Jackson, Michigan, USA (Moffatt family)Sassy Rose

Grape: Cabernet Franc

Region: Michigan, USA

Vintage: 2011

ABV: 12%

Online price: $17

Appearance: Pale pink with thick legs.

Nose: Subtle. A whiff of smoke, plum, black cherry, hint of cedar.

On the palate: Light bodied and delicately sweet. White mulberry, white pepper, slightly underripe blueberry.

Finish: Plum, ripe fig, then a delicate oaky flavor as it fades.

Parting words: Sassy Rosé is dedicated to the memory of the Moffats’ beloved Airedale Rosie (2003-2011), who I actually met on a couple occasions while stopping by the tasting room in Jackson. She was a friendly dog, but being an Airedale she could be, well, sassy.

I’m a big fan of dry rosés, especially those from the South of France, so I came into this wine with high hopes. I have had it before at the winery and it tasted good, but wines tend to taste better when sampled at the winery with friends. I was eager to get it home and write up a review.

When I first opened it, I was disappointed. It was much sweeter than I remembered and lacking in sass. After spending eighteen or so hours in the refrigerator, it has improved quite a bit. The profile is much closer to dry French rosés and much more enjoyable now. It gets a bit overwhelmed by spicy food, but does well with a light lunch of cheese and crackers or with holiday turkey. The price is on the high side but it’s fair for what it is and may be a little cheaper at the tasting room if I recall correctly. Sassy Rosé is recommended.

Sandhill Crane Noiret

Maker: Sandhill Crane Vineyards, Jackson, Michigan, USA

Grape: Noiret

Place of Origin: Michigan, USA

Vintage: 2010

ABV: 12.5%

Thanks to Oscar for helping me acquire this wine.

Appearance: Brick red with broad legs.

Nose: Black pepper, rose petals, cedar, smoke.

On the palate: Medium bodied and sweeter than the nose would indicate, but still not sweet. More black pepper, wood, black cherries, blueberries, with a faint herbal note. Gets fruitier as it opens up.

Finish: Slightly bitter and peppery. A bit of cherry juice as it fades.

Parting words: Noiret is a Cornell University hybrid, the result of a cross between Steuben and an unnamed hybrid. Most of the grape’s ancestry is North American, but there are no foxy flavors to be found here.

Going by the name, I was expecting something close to Pinot Noir, but there is no resemblance whatsoever. This is closer to a brash young Shiraz or Pinotage, which is not a bad thing, just something to be aware of. The grape’s peppery, rustic characteristics may be enhanced by the climate of South Central Michigan which is much drier and hotter in the summertime than Northwestern and West Michigan.

At first pour this wine is all black pepper and not particularly pleasant. Once it airs out it becomes enjoyable, especially with food. I can see grape this doing very good things for a red blend, perhaps providing some welcome spice to a less flavorful red, but it does fine on its own here. This price is a bit high (close to $20), but I think it’s worth it  for a chance to try a wine from fairly rare grape. It’s worth giving a try if you are ever in the neighborhood. Sandhill Crane 2010 Noiret is recommended.