Tasting Note: BluStone Pinot Blanc

20170709_190937.jpgPinot Blanc is a lesser-known cousin of Pinot Gris/Grigio – it handles cooler, damper climates well, and exhibits more body and minerality than Pinot Gris when it’s done well. The pairing for this tonight is a simple seared chicken with a mustard-cream-dill pan sauce, plus roasted potatoes and green beans. BluStone is one of my favorite wineries in Northern Michigan.

BluStone Pinot Blanc (2016) Leelanau Peninsula, Michigan – $28

Color: very pale; just a hint of gold, and some green on the edge.

Aroma: bracing minerality, acidity, and citrus notes, with some stone fruit underneath.

Taste: good up front, with a combination of stone fruit (apricot) and soft citrus (tangerine), then minerality hits in the midpalate and carries on to the finish.  It’s not nearly as acidic as the nose promises.

20170709_190946.jpgThis makes a really nice foil for the dill sauce!

This is a great wine – if you’ve never had a Pinot Blanc before, I suggest picking up a bottle.  Similar wines from Alsace in northeastern France are in the same price range. Recommended!

Tasting Note: French Valley Rosé

Another wine from the Leelanau Peninsula near Traverse City in the northern part of Michigan’s lower peninsula.  This is 100% Pinot Noir.

French Valley Rosé (2014) Leelanau Peninsula, Michigan – $20

Color: quite dark, midway between reddish-pink and copper.

Aroma: strawberry, red currant, and cherry.  Quite fruity.

Taste: a little closed – don’t drink this ice-cold! A touch of residual sugar, good acidity, and strawberry from front to back.

Nice but not outstanding.  Worth hunting down if you’re up north, but I wouldn’t cellar it.


Tasting Note: Aurora Rosé

This is from Aurora Cellars in the Leelanau Peninsula region, just west of Traverse City.  I bought this last year on one of my tasting trips, and I enjoyed it on the 4th of July with lamb kebabs. This wine is a blend of Syrah and Pinot Blanc.

Aurora Rosé (2015) Leelanau Peninsula, Michigan – $18

Color: quite dark, copper-orange more than pink.

Aroma: not much on the nose.

Taste: strawberry, then red currant.  Good balance and acidity for a food wine.

This is OK, and definitely quaffable on a hot afternoon.  It also paired well with the lamb and roasted vegetables (purple onions, orange bell peppers, and mushrooms).


Tasting Note: Water Fire Gruner Veltliner

I visited Water Fire – about midway between Traverse City and Petoskey – about 2 weeks ago.  It’s a new vineyard, specializing in whites, and I was especially interested in this wine.  Gruner Veltliner is the definitive Austrian white grape; it makes a crisp, bracing white wine, but it’s not Pinot Grigio and it’s not dry Riesling.  There are a couple of retailers in the Ann Arbor area that carry Water Fire’s wines, so I’ll be hunting some of this down soon on a weekend grocery run.

As far as I can tell, they should qualify for the new “Tip of the Mitt” AVA, but this wine predates the 2016 designation of that appellation.  In my opinion, the wineries of northern Michigan should be planting a lot more Austrian grapes, as the climate, geography, and soil are a pretty good match to the wine regions of Austria – especially the lake influence.

Water Fire Gruner Veltliner (2012) Michigan – $22

Color: medium golden-yellow.

Aroma: lemon curd, minerality, hint of floral notes.

Taste: brisk, racing acidity up front, then softer in the mid-palate. Citrus notes dominate throughout, with minerality underneath, and some peppery, herbal notes on the finish.

Very nice – I had this at dinner with a light meal of roasted golden beets and goat cheese, and it was a an excellent pairing.  Gruner Veltliner from Austria doesn’t come any less expensive than this does, and it’s true to the grape.  Recommended!

Tasting Note – 45 North Chenin Blanc

Chenin is a grape that originates in the Loire valley in central France – it’s very popular in South Africa, and it’s grown in the US as well.  This is a nice find from a winery up in the Traverse City area that I’ve visited a few times.  I’m pairing this with plain risotto, and some oyster mushrooms that a friend harvested from the woods near his home.

45 North Chenin Blanc (2015) American – $22

20170630_183019Color: pale lemon-yellow.

Aroma: citrusy – lemon and mandarin orange, plus some orange-blossom floral notes.  Very inviting.

Taste: lush, with a balance of acidity and ripe citrus fruit right up front that makes you want to take a hefty gulp.  The midpalate continues with orange blossoms and some stone fruit.  The finish is quite long, and very harmonious.

With the rice and mushrooms, it fruit and touch of residual sugar serve as a nice contrast to the earthy richness of the meal.

As it warms up, it develops a nice hint of smokiness and dried apricot near the finish – yum!

This is a great wine for food (roasted chicken!) or for just having a glass after work.  I’d put this up against anything in its price range, from anywhere in the world.  Highly recommended!

Tasting Note: Shady Lane Blue Franc

One of the bottles I picked up last year in the Traverse City area.  They had some terrible weather in 2013, so unfortunately they had to buy fruit from Washington.  This is 100% Blaufrankisch, aka Lemburger, which is the premier red-wine grape from Austria, and eminently suited for northern latitudes in the US.

Shady Lane Blue Franc (2013) American – $30

Color: dark purple-black.  Quite dense.

Aroma: walnut, black fruit, and oak.  Pretty heady.

Taste: black fruit, pepper, violets, and oak/mushroom notes.  Very dense fruit and earthy complex on the palate, with lots of mouthfeel. The finish is black pepper and some heat – this would benefit from just a bit of chill.

This worked well with spicy sweet & sour chicken, but it really shines with blue cheese!

I’m not quite ready to recommend this, but I’m eager to try the 2014 Michigan vintage for comparison.  If they can turn fruit shipped 2000 miles into this bottle, I really want to see what they do with their estate harvest.


Trip Report: Northern Michigan – Leelanau to Petoskey

Went on a road trip with my father this last weekend, Thursday through Sunday.  We hit 14 wineries between the Leelanau Peninsula and the Petoskey area.  Here’s a very abbreviated trip report.

Old Mission Peninsula

Leelanau Peninsula

Petoskey area

2 Lads, Aurora, Blustone, and 45 North are recommended.

Laurentide, Walloon Lake, and Waterfire are young but very promising.

Don’t bother with Chateau Chantal and Harbor Springs – the experience at both of them was quite disappointing.


Folgarelli’s deli in Traverse City for sandwiches can’t be beat.  They have a very respectable wine selection, including a large Italian section and a good smattering of wines from France, Spain, South America, and California.

Apache Trout Grill is a great place for dinner.  I’ve eaten there every time I’ve been to Traverse City and it’s always been good.  They serve an amuse bouche of hummus with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and chewy rolls right now that’s wonderful.


We stayed at a very nice AirBnB just up the Old Mission Peninsula from Traverse City – “Bay Breezes Retreat“.  Awesome location; the rooms were comfortable, beautiful and spacious; and the host was wonderful.