Monthly Archives: June 2017

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.

Tasting Note – Blue Water Unoaked Chardonnay

From a small winery over in Michigan’s Thumb (the southeast, but north of Detroit) that I visited last year.  I’m having this with mushroom risotto and mixed sauteed greens from my garden – I expect the steeliness of the wine will complement the turkey stock and the spiciness of the greens well.

Blue Water Unoaked Chardonnay (2013) Michigan – $16

Color: pale lemon-yellow.

Aroma: pear, lemon, asian pear, and jasmine.  Classic unoaked character on the nose.

Taste: big mouthful of pear and asian pear, quite lovely.  Not as sharp as a Sauvignon Blanc, but definitely crisp and this begs for food. The finish is really long and lush.

With the rice and greens this shines as well – I’d pair this with goat cheese, veal, pasta with cream sauces, or simple roast chicken.

Highly recommended, and a steal at $16.


Tasting Note – Bowers Harbor 2896 Rosé

One of the wines I picked up last year in Traverse City – should be a good pairing for the roasted vegetable quesadillas I’m making for dinner tonight.  This is a blend of 67% Cabernet France and 33% Merlot.

Bowers Harbor 2896 Rosé (2014) Old Mission Peninsula, Michigan – $32

Color: bright copper with a hint of orange.

Aroma: strawberry fruit, a hint of vanilla and spice.

Taste: Creamy strawberry and red currant fruit, moderate acidity, just a touch of tannin, with great balance front to back. Although a little more length on the finish would be nice. This is a food rosé, it’s absolutely dry and it has enough heft to match with a cold steak salad, roasted vegetables, or salmon.


Tasting Note – “The Left Bank”

This is a South African blend I picked up a few weeks ago.  The proportions show an Australian influence – it’s 57% Cabernet Sauvignon, 37% Shiraz, and 6% Cinsault.

The Left Bank (2013) Western Cape, South Africa – $14

Color: very dark, purple-black.

Aroma: black currant, blackberry, brambles, a hint of licorice.

Taste: chewy up front, with lots of black fruit; more more tannin and acidity on the finish.  Interesting.  With food (spicy steak lettuce wraps) it stands up nicely to the pepper.  I’d like to try this with barbecue – compare to red Zinfandel and Petite Syrah.

Quite nice – grab a bottle if you see it.


New South African Producer: Leeuwenkuil

Got three new wines from at Morgan & York from a South African producer I’ve never seen before, Leeuwenkuil. They date back to 1693, so shame on me!

I tried the reds the other day with a grilled steak, and the white last night with a chicken dish that included a rhubarb and garlic pan sauce.

Leeuwenkuil Cinsault (2015) Swartland, South Africa – $22

Color: garnet red.

Aroma: red fruit and cedar.

Taste: fresh and bright – according to the label, they use carbonic maceration (the technique used for Beaujolais Nouveau) on some of the clusters to produce pure, young fruit notes. A hint of vanilla, and quite soft.  This isn’t up to a big beef dish but would be good for lamb, pork, or charcuterie.

Leeuwenkuil Grenache (2015) Swartland, South Africa – $22

Color: purplish-black.

Aroma: dark earthy notes and sweetish black fruit.

Taste: Chewy – leather, oak, dried fruit, lots of white pepper and black pepper. Oak and tannin on the finish.  It’s a bit hot at 14% alcohol, so make sure to chill this for a few minutes before serving in the summer.

I’m definitely a fan of this one over the Cinsault.  Needs a touch of air and chill.  Recommended.

Leeuwenkuil Grenache Blanc (2015) Voor Paardeberg, South Africa – $22

Color: medium gold.

Aroma: light – mostly floral and melon.

Taste: great balance of melon, citrus, pear, and minerality. The perfect amount of acidity for a good meal, and the minerality is especially appealing when paired with rhubarb.

Also recommended – compare to white Rhone varietals or blends.

Voor Paardeburg is a new appellation to me; from a bit of research I see it’s a subdistrict of Paarl, just north of Stellenbosch.