St. Julian Reserve Riesling

Maker: St. Julian, Paw Paw, Michigan, USA20190717_201947.jpg

Place of origin: Magnificent Mile Vineyard, Lake Michigan Shore AVA, Michigan, USA

Grape: Riesling (at least 85%)

Style: Semi-dry.

Vintage: 2017

ABV: 12%

Purchased for $9 (Costco)

Appearance: Pale gold.

Nose: peach cobbler, roux.

Palate: Peach, citrus, lemon butter, grave.

Finish: Clean and dry. Lemon thyme.

Parting words: This wine was also a part of June 2019’s Twitter Riesling Roundtable. It was the most impressive Riesling from LMS in the tasting. I dodn’t usually go for buttery Riesling but this wine was so perfectly balanced that I didn’t mind the butter. In fact, it worked with the fruit notes to create baked good aromas and flavors. $9 is hard to beat for a wine this good. As I’ve said before, don’t sleep on St. Julian. Tbere’s a lot more to them than Blue Heron. St. Julian Reserve Riesling is highly recommended.

2012 Late Harvest Riesling Head to Head: St. Julian vs Black Star Farms

St. Julian Lake Michigan Shore Reserve Late Harvest Riesling= SJ20170915_083849

Arcturos Old Mission Peninsula Late Harvest Riesling= Arc

Makers

SJ: St. Julian Winery, Paw Paw, Michigan, USA

Arc: Black Star Farms Old Mission, Traverse City, Michigan, USA

Places of origin

SJ: Burgoyne Ridge vineyard, Berrien County, Lake Michigan Shore AVA, Michigan, USA

Arc: Old Mission Peninsula, Traverse City, Michigan, USA.

VinSugar at Harvest (in brix)

20170920_163846
More information on the back of the SJ label

SJ: 21.1°

Arc: 22°

ABV

SJ: 12%

Arc: 9.5%

Price (current vintages)

SJ: $13 (website, though I have seen it for under $10)

Arc: $17.50 (website)

 

Appearance

SJ: Medium gold

Arc: Light gold, almost green.

Nose

SJ: Pear, orange juice

Arc: Kerosene (I was the only one who got this note), lemon thyme, peach.

Palate

SJ: Medium bodied but rich. Big pear. Like getting one stuffed up my nose, in a good way.

Arc: Fuller bodied but drier. Crisp apple, lime, candied lemon.

Finish

SJ: Sweet, almost sherry-like.

Arc: Cleaner. Bitter sage.

Tasting panel

Liz: Preferred SJ. Found it more complex and fruitier.

Amy: Preferred SJ. Arc is for summer sipping by the lake. SJ is also for sipping by the lake, but fall is coming soon!

Pete: Preferred Arc. Found SJ too harsh.

Parting words: Michigan is known for Riesling. It’s the most planted wine grape in the state. It’s grown both in the “Up North” wine regions and in West Michigan. Riesling wine is made in a broad array of styles from bone-dry Austrian Smaragd to syrupy Mosel Trockenbeerenauslese. Michigan Rieslings don’t (yet) span that entire spectrum, but they have the middle of it well-covered. On the sweet end are Late Harvest Rieslings like these. The ripeness of the grapes used to make these wines is in the neighborhood of the grapes that would go into a German Spätlese.

I have been wanting to do something like this for a while. LMS vs OMP, West Coast vs Up North. It seemed like the best way to do that was to do it with two wines from two big producers in each area. Black Star Farms is the Up North titan with a winery in both Leelanau and Old Mission and there’s nobody in LMS (or the state) bigger and older than St. Julian. Also both of these wines are commonly found at bigger grocery stores in my area, often at discounted prices.

We all thought both wines were very good, but I was a little surprised at how much almost everyone (including myself) preferred St. Julian. While I didn’t find it as complex as Arcturos, it was richer and more enjoyable. Although St. Julian had less sugar (at harvest and residual) than Arcturos it tasted much sweeter and fruitier. Although the folks at the winery described it as “a bright, clean wine designed to be consumed shortly after release” here, it has held up very well, and probably even become richer. Arcturos held up well too. Both are good values, but St. Julian has the edge there too especially considering it’s a single vineyard wine (albeit a very large vineyard). 2012 St. Julian Lake Michigan Shore Reserve Late Harvest Riesling and 2012 Arcturos Old Mission Peninsula Late Harvest Riesling are recommended.

 

St. Julian Riesling, 2013

Maker: St. Julien, Paw Paw, Michigan, USA20170703_202437

Place of origin: Magnificent Mile Vineyard, Baroda, Lake Michigan Shore AVA, Michigan, USA

Style: Medium dry.

ABV: 12%

Purchased for $12 (Meijer)

Appearance: Pale gold.

Nose: Ripe peach, flint, orange thyme, canned pineapple.

Palate: Fresh squeezed orange juice, fresh red pear, meyer lemon.

Finish: Mineral with a squirt of citrus.

Parting words: The old saying is that familiarity breeds contempt. I don’t think that’s true in most cases, but I think it does happen to St. Julian sometimes. St. Julian’s Heron series of sweet, plonky wines are best sellers in Michigan and elsewhere. Their tasting rooms are located in touristy areas and interstate exits. This could lead a person to dismiss St. Julian as an unserious winemaker only interested in trapping tourists or resting on its laurels as Michigian’s oldest and biggest winery.

Who thinks like this? Well, sometimes I do and that’s led to me unfairly ignore St. Julian’s wines. I’m hoping to rectify that with this review and some that will be coming later this year.

2013 St. Julian Riesling is a very enjoyable semi dry wine at a wonderful price. It does a nice job of representing both the grape and LMS terroir. It’s crisp, as a Riesling of this style should be, but as it warms a tropical fruit and a hint of petroleum appear. Nothing unpleasant, though. It pairs well with just about anything. $12 is a steal for a tasty, single vineyard Riesling from a good producer. St. Julian Riesling 2013 is recommended.

Market Red

Maker: St. Julian, Paw Paw, Michigan, USA. Made for Westborn Market, Dearborn, Michigan, USAwpid-2015-09-23-13.47.59.jpg.jpeg

Grapes: Unknown “proprietary blend”.

Place of origin: Michigan

Vintage: NV

ABV: 12%

Price: $8 (only available at Westborn Market supermarkets)

Appearance: Dark burgundy.

Nose: Dried fig, plum, toasted oak, smoked ham.

Palate: Fruity and tart with a big dose of oak. Blunt with no integration.

Finish: A little chewy, then inky.

Parting words: Market Red is a ham fisted, hybrid-heavy blend made by St. Julian for the Metro Detroit supermarket chain noted for its fine produce, emphasis on locally made products and its chaotic store layouts. They also have their own labeled products that seem to be little more than other Michigan brands with a Westborn label slapped on (e.g. their potato chips). Market Red and its white sibling seem to be relabeled versions of St. Julian’s Founders Red and White respectively, although those are labeled as Lake Michigan Shore, not simply Michigan so I could be wrong about that.

I reviewed  Market White a couple weeks ago and I thought it was OK. This is not even as good as that. There’s not much going on here, and what there is isn’t interesting. $8 is cheap, but one can still do better for the money. If one wants to stick with St. Julian, I would recommend the Simply Red* as an alternative. Better yet, chip in a few extra bucks for Chateau Chantal’s Naughty Red or Nice Red. Or if one wants to stay under $10, go across the street from the Berkley Westborn Market and get something much better at Trader Joe’s for the same price or less.

*I am fully prepared to have egg on my face if Market Red is identical to Simply Red

Market Red is not recommended.

Market White

Maker: St. Julian, Paw Paw, Michigan, USA.wpid-2015-09-09-19.11.10.jpg.jpeg

Made for Westborn Market, Dearborn, Michigan, USA

Grapes: Unknown “proprietary blend”.

Place of origin: Michigan

ABV: 9%

Price: $8 (only available at Westborn Market supermarkets)

Appearance: Pale straw.

Nose: Grapefruit, pineapple, mandarin orange, lemon thyme.

Palate: Medium sweet and medium bodied. Orange juice from concentrate, melon, white grape juice, pinch of sage.

Finish: Sweet and long lasting with herbs on the back end.

Parting words: The bottle describes this wine as a “white table wine” and it delivers on that promise. It tastes like there’s some Riesling and Vidal Blanc in the mix along with a few others. Market White is good with food and fairly refreshing on its own. It’s more complex than I expected, but too sweet to be a go-to white table wine for me. The price is very good, though. If you like your white table wine a little on the sweet side, then check this one out. Market White is recommended.