Tag Archives: Blaufrankisch

Tasting Note: Aurora Blaufrankisch

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.



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.


Tasting Note: Aurora Blaufrankisch

One of my finds from the Traverse City area.  Blaufrankisch is one of the great Austrian grape varieties, and it’s very well-suited to a lakeside climate like the Leelanau Peninsula in Michigan.  Aurora‘s property is on the western side of Grand Traverse Bay.

Aurora Cellars Blaufrankish (2014) Leelanau Peninsula, MI – $22

Color: lightish red; a little darker than a light-bodied Pinot Noir

Aroma: Fruit and candied fruit, with a hint of mushrooms and walnut.

Taste: Blueberry, with soft, velvety tannins on the side of the mouth.  Good acidity on the finish makes this a nice wine for food.  The body is medium and consistent throughout, with a medium-long finish.

This is recommended – I’ve already drunk both bottles of this from my last trip and will need to stock up!


Grape Varieties in Michigan

After hitting approximately 30 wineries in Michigan – both in the south-central part of the state, and up north in Traverse City, I have a few observations on varieties.

I’m glad to see some plantings of Austrian grapes – Gruner Veltliner and Blaufrankisch (aka Lemburger).  When you consider the embayments and lakes around Traverse City, these seem like obvious choices, given their similarity in latitude, weather, and mesoclimate. I hope to see a lot more plantings of these grapes in this part of the US in the future. They provide something different from the same-old Chardonnay, Merlot, Pinot Noir, etc. There’s also a nice heritage connection – many of the Europeans who settled the Great Lakes area came from the same stomping grounds as those grapes: Mitteleuropa aka Central Europe aka the old Habsburg Austro-Hungarian empire. I grew up surrounded by Czechs, Slovaks, Hungarians, Germans, and Poles, and their cuisine is perfectly suited for these grapes.

There’s much more Pinot Noir in the fields than I was expecting, even given its popularity in the last 10-15 years, and its suitability for a harsher continental climate.  I don’t see a particular style emerging just yet; many of the vintages are somewhere in the middle between the light, delicate, fruit & cream style, and the meaty, mushroomy, darker and spicier style of Pinot.

I continue to see Cabernet Franc planted in good quantities; most, if not all, of the Bordeaux-style red blends are heavy on the Cab Franc. As with the Austrian grapes, I think this is a particularly well-suited variety for this part of the US – and it doesn’t hurt that it’s one of my favorite grapes.

It’s also pleasing to see more than just Riesling and Chardonnay in whites: there are plentiful choices in Gewurztraminer, Pinot Gris, and Chenin Blanc.