Lawton Ridge Winery


The last day of our Michigan vacation Jon and I headed with my cousin Megan to get out of the house while Grandma was napping.  It was the last day of our vacation, and we had a few hours to kill. We considered going to the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts, but decided instead to go to another winery.  I had googled a couple of options in Kalamazoo, and wrote down an address based purely on the look of their website.  So, we really had no idea what to expect when we walked in the door.

The building is a 1970s style office building that I imagine was converted rather than built for this winery.  When I was young there were several of this style of building at home, but they have mostly been remodeled or replaced.  It is covered in dark cedar shingles and doesn’t really have that winery “look”.  We walked in and the owner and a server were there (the server explained that she was a bit new at this, and that she was filling in for harvest).  Megan and I bellied up to the bar, and Jon decided to sit this tasting out – he fully intended to sample some of mine though!

Lawton Ridge Winery’s grapes come from the Lake Michigan Shore AVA.  It is an AVA in the southwest area of Michigan, with warm days and cool nights, but close enough to the breezes coming in from the lake that it doesn’t get quite the same hard freezes as the rest of Michigan.  It is home to many of the states wineries.  I haven’t had much of an opportunity to travel this AVA and sample the wines of the region, but I will be getting out there at some point!

The tasting fee at Lawton Ridge is $5 (refundable with purchase) and you can choose six wines from their list to taste.  The tasting list here is still fairly extensive (about 15 wines), but nowhere near as robust as the menu at Sandhill Crane.  Jon asked to sample the Chardonnay – so I chose that one as my first wine.  It was a nice un-oaked Chardonnay with just the tiniest hint of butter – it is aged in stainless steel, so I’m not sure where the butter came from.

Next I tried the Riesling, which I was expecting to be sweet, and it was, but I was just not that impressed with this one.  It was sweet competing with something else (maybe a woody taste?) and it just didn’t do it for me.  Next I moved on to the Traminette, which is a varietal that we don’t have at home, so I was interested in trying it here.  Traminette is a hybrid of Gewürztraminer and Joannes Seyve (I hadn’t heard of this one before) that was created in 1965, and this one did have some Gewürz characteristics (don’t I sound smart, saying Gewürz?).  It had a slight floral note, and a flavor of ripe melon.  All in all a nice wine.

The first red wine that we tried was the Lawton 3, which was a blend of Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.  It was very fruit forward with light tannins.  This wine was good, but it did not have a lot of structure.  Jon likes his reds to be more robust than this one, but I liked it.   After that I sampled the AZO Red, a blend that is named after the airport code for the Kalamazoo airport.  An airport that I have done a fair bit of sitting around in actually!  AZO Red is a nice summer red wine, with lots of raspberry flavor and a light mouthfeel.

I followed with their 2010 Rose, which was crisp and sweet with a strawberry flavor.  I am a big fan of a nice Rose, and this one was pleasing.  The Kzoo Daily Red that I tried next wasn’t a big crowd pleaser, it was just a bit too sweet for my taste, and didn’t have a lot of structure.  It is a drink now wine.

I finished off the tasting with their Late Harvest Vignoles, which is a blend of well, duh, Late Harvest Vignoles, and Vidal.  This wine was a best in class winner, according to the tasting sheet, and it had a nice tropical fruit flavor and balanced sweetness.

All in all, Lawton Ridge had some nice wines.  And they were very affordable, with most priced between $9.95 and $12.95.  We certainly don’t find wines at those price points frequently at Washington wineries!  And if you are feeling parched after your tasting, you can enjoy a glass of one of their wines for $3-4.  What a stroke of luck that we stopped in here!

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