Maker: Mari Vineyards, Traverse City, Michigan, USA
Place of origin: Jamieson Vineyard, Mari Estate, Old Mission Peninsula AVA, Traverse City, Michigan, USA
Style: Red field blend
Purchased for $60 (winery, -media discount)
Appearance: Dark red.
Nose: Subtle. Toasted oak, black currant jam, blueberry, sweet cherry.
Palate: Well-balanced and elegant. White mulberry, blackberry, leather, clove, nutmeg, white pepper.
Finish: Fruity and a little chewy with a pinch of spice.
Parting words: Row 7 comes from a mishap when Jamieson vineyard was being planted. An unknown assortment of red wine vines were planted in Row 7. Instead of figuring out what they were and moving them accordingly, the vines were left in place and used to create this wonderful field blend, one of Mari’s most popular wines.
I’m not going to try and guess what varietals are in this wine, but it tastes like a Rhone or a lighter Bordeaux blend. It has a firm tannic backbone, but shows a lot of acid, fruit and a little baking spice. Row 7 is expensive for a Michigan red, but I think the quality justifies the price. Maybe it goes without saying in Mari’s price range, but this wine is one that you should cellar for a few years after purchasing. It tastes good right out of the box, don’t get me wrong, but when you’re spending this much on one bottle of wine, it’s wise to get the most out of your investment. This one could probably go another year or two even! Mari Vineyards Row 7, 2013 is recommended.
Maker: Cave Spring Cellars, Jordan, Ontario, Canada.
Place of origin: Cave Spring Vineyard, Cave Spring Estate, Beamsville Bench VQA, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada.
Style: Off dry
Purchased for $17 from Red Wagon Wine Shoppe, Rochester, Michigan. $18 Canadian from the LCBO.
Appearance: Medium gold.
Nose: Fresh thyme, sage, orange-flavored spring water.
Palate: Minerals, marjoram, peach skins, lime juice, car wheels on a gravel road.
Finish: Tart but slightly herbal.
Parting words: Not many Ontario wineries get distribution in Michigan. Luckily one of them is Cave Spring. Cave Spring is famous for Gamay and most of all for its world class Rieslings. The estate bottled Cave Spring Wineyard Riesling is consistantly one of their best and best values. The herbs and fruit and acid are all in perfect counterpoint like a JS Bach concerto. Cave Spring’s 2013 Cave Spring Vineyard Riesling is highly recommended.
Maker: Wyncroft/Marland, Pullman, Michigan, USA
Place of origin: Avonlea vineyard, Lake Michigan Shore AVA, Michigan, USA
Price: $35 (Michigan by the Bottle, Auburn Hills)
Appearance: Medium gold with a thin robe.
Nose: Rancio, golden raisins.
Palate: Full bodied and medium sweet. Sherry, gruyere cheese, sweet butter, hint of oak.
Finish: Sweet. Apricot, croissants.
Parting words: Wyncroft/Marland is a very limited production, estate winery in the Southwestern Michigan co-owned by winemaker Jim Lester. Jim was one of the earliest boutique winemakers in Michigan, as he frequently reminds people. He’s one of the rare big talkers who lives up to his own hype, though. The Wyncroft label is used for limited production estate wines with Marland used for their line of more affordable wines from vineyards they don’t own. I’m very fond of his reds, but I haven’t always liked his whites. It’s not that they’re inconsistent, it’s that I haven’t always enjoyed the style in which they’ve been made. No accounting for taste, as they say.
Avonlea vineyard is Wyncroft’s flagship, planted with Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon and Riesling. Avonlea was hit hard by the Polar Vortex in 2014 with substantial loss of Chardonnay vines, according to Wyncroft’s website. The surviving Chardonnay vines had their fruit devoured by a murder of crows shortly before harvest. The damaged area has been replanted. In the meantime the 2011, 2012 and 2013 vintages are available.
This heavy, buttery style of chardonnay is not my favorite, especially not when from Michigan. Avonlea Chardonnay was pleasant but heavy handed when first opened. As it opened up, it became even more unbalanced and took on unpleasant oxidized and burnt butter flavors. Even Mrs. Sipology, who normally enjoys oaky chards, didn’t like it. I can’t say I liked it either. I don’t know if this wine is flawed or tainted (I don’t think it’s the latter) or what, but I really can’t recommend it, especially not at $35.
Maker: Rivers-Marie, Yountville, California, USA
Place of origin: Occidental Ridge Vineyard, Sonoma Coast AVA, California, USA
Price: $50 (winery)
We received a complimentary tasting and tour of the winery at the time of purchase.
Appearance: Dark ruby.
Nose: Dynamic. Red raspberry, crushed blueberry, wet oak, smoke.
Palate: Pomegranate, tart cherry juice, old oak, leather, morel mushrooms.
Finish: Mixed fruit jam, crimini mushrooms, custard, oak. Softly lingers f0r a moderate length of time.
Parting words: This wine is from our (Mrs. Sipology’s and mine) trip to NoCal a couple years ago. I wrote up the trip here. Rivers-Marie produces (or at least produced in 2012) two single vineyard Sunoma Pinots, Occidental Ridge and Summa ( the latter owned by one of the co-owners of R-M) as well as a general Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir.
Four years in the bottle have turned a good wine into a great one. Rivers-Marie makes some of the best Pinot in California. It’s fruity, earthy and bold without being too aggressive and killing the beautiful character of the grape. If you can find some, buy it. Recommended.
Maker: Left Foot Charley, Traverse City, Michigan, USA
Place of origin: Island View Vineyard, Old Mission Peninsula AVA, Michigan, USA
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.
Place of origin: Block II, Bower’s Harbor Vineyards, Old Mission Peninsula AVA, Traverse City Michigan, USA
Purchased for $22 (Holiday Market)
Appearance: Medium gold.
Nose: Gravel, jarred applesauce, lychee nut, bottled lemon juice.
Palate: Dry and medium bodied. Meyer lemon and mineral water.
Finish: Short, clean and dry. A little bitterness and minerality with a spritz of acid.
Parting words: I had the privilege of wandering around the famous Block II a couple weeks ago with three of my best friends. It’s a noble, old stand of Riesling with soil is so sandy that I felt like setting up a volleyball net. As our guide told us, the sand is very important. It retains very little water, so the vines are forced to send their roots deep. This stresses the plant, and leads the plant to focus more on reproduction (fruit) than producing leaves and stems. Many also believe that greater root depth leads to more complex wine, since the roots are drawing minerals from a greater volume of soil.
Whatever the role of terroir, this is a very tasty dry Riesling that is still drinking well given its age. There’s not a lot of fruit or flowers left here, but what there is keeps the acidity and minerality from overrunning the glass. The few reviews I was able to find of this wine were from 2012 and there seems to have been a lot more going on back then.
Even with the lack of complexity, this is still a good dry Riesling at this price. 2010 Bower’s Harbor Vineyards Block II Riesling recommended. If you have one in your cellar, drink now, with food or without!