Albariño is a grape that originates in the northwest corner of Spain; it makes some incredible wines, and I’m dumbfounded that it’s not more common in the US. The grape has the potential to fit a sweet spot in body, acidity, and fruit somewhere in between Chardonny, Sauvignon Blanc, and Pinot Grigio. I think it’s tremendous with big, hearty fish, almost any style of chicken, and plenty of vegetarian dishes.
3 North Vines Albariño (2015) American – $24
Color: medium gold.
Aroma: floral, with some sharp citrus undertones.
Taste: mellow, with lots of pear and dried pear, dried flowers, and just a hint of grapefruit.
This wine is suitable for cocktail hour or for a meal. It’s nice, but I’m hoping their next few vintages will provide some extra oomph.
One of the Austrian grapes that I’m fond of – I buy some of this every time I head up to the Traverse City area.
Aurora Blaufrankisch (2014) Leelanau Peninsula, Michigan – $22
Color: medium red.
Aroma: lots of red fruit, plus some blueberry and bramble notes.
Taste: not too big, with tannins and some oak up front, then red currants, cranberry, and pepper. More oak and tannins on the finish.
I think this needs another year or two before it’s really ready.
Laurentide is one of the wineries I visited on my most recent trip to the Traverse City area. It’s a relatively new winery, founded by native Ann Arborites.
Laurentide Sauvignon Blanc (2015) Leelanau Peninsula, Michigan – $22
Color: pale yellow.
Aroma: tangerine & lime, plus hints of minerality and asian pear.
Taste: this is a mellow, lower-acidity Sauvignon, with lots of tangerine and pear, especially on the midpalate. The finish is a little rough; I wouldn’t drink this too warm. Suitable for cocktail hour or food.
BluStone has a wonderful tasting room at the top of a hill near Traverse City, with a tremendous vista over the vines and surrounding countryside. It’s worth a trip there just for the view, let alone the wines. Some of these grapes were brought in from vineyards outside the Leelanau Peninsula AVA, hence the plain Michigan designation.
BluStone Pinot Grigio (2015) Michigan – $12
Color: pale gold, with a hint of green.
Aroma: lemon curd and custard, with slight grassy notes.
Taste: smooth, with a big body up front of citrus and stone fruit. There’s a hint of sugar in there. Good acidity, but not tart of astringent like cheap Italian Pinot Grigio.
This is a great deal. You don’t need to chill this to death, the way you do some many other Pinot Grigios in the same price range. Recommended.
This has a touch of Viognier in it – which beefs it up and turns this into more of a Rhone-style white. They had a few unfortunate years of weather up north recently, so they had to bring in juice in from Oregon and Washington for this bottling. But I’ve been impressed how 45 North always does well with Chenin and white Rhone grapes, and this is no exception.
45 North Chenin Blanc (2015) American – $22
Color: light gold.
Aroma: floral – jasmine, white grape, and vanilla predominate.
Taste: off-dry, with floral and white grape up front. The Viognier really makes a difference in the mouthfeel, turning this into a rich, unctuous, coat-your-tongue white. The acidity is perfectly balanced, and I found this smooth and an excellent food wine.
Stands up well to strong vegetal tastes like artichokes and asparagus. Would also pair well with goat cheese.
I had this last night with flank steak, parmesan potatoes, and a compound butter made with spicy Italian peppers. It held up to the heat quite well, I was very impressed. Silver Leaf is a relatively new winery, located quite far up the Leelanau peninsula near the pretty town of Sutton’s Bay. It appears from a quick check of their website that they’ve sold out of this vintage, which is a real pity.
Silver Leaf Cabernet Franc (2013) Leelanau Peninsula, Michigan – $42
Color: medium purple-black.
Aroma: tar, plum, and a little heat; hints of stewed fruit as well.
Taste: black plum and black pepper, with a touch of walnut. The mouthfeel is silky with tannins on the side of the mouth, very reminiscent of a good Bordeaux.
This needs a touch of chill – it’s labelled as 13% alcohol but I suspect it’s on the high side. Drink now or in the next 24 months.
A big of a splurge, but this is recommended. A great Bordeaux-style American red, from an unexpected location.
One of the first wineries I visited in the Lake Michigan Shore appellation, which is in southwestern Michigan between the Indiana border and Grand Rapids. Karma Vista does great things with Syrah – this wine is a blend of 2/3 Merlot and 1/3 Syrah for a softer feel.
Karma Vista Karisma (2011) Lake Michigan Shore, Michigan – $20
Color: quite dark purple-black.
Aroma: a chewy, brambley nose with tar, licorice, and black fruit notes.
Taste: quite tannic, with plums, bing cherry, and spice. Needs air! Has some hard-candy notes as it opens up.
Big and quite tasty – the fruit quality in this is top-notch. Recommended!