Tag Archive | Michigan wine

Braganini Reserve Blanc de Blanc Sparkling Wine

My cousin and I visited St. Julian Winery last year when I was visiting Michigan.  I had tasted a few wines of theirs before, but had never visited their tasting room.  That changed last September!  I loved one of their sparkling wines, and opened it a few days ago to celebrate – Saturday?

The Braganini Reserve Blanc de Blanc Sparkling Wine is non-vintage, and I found it impossible to decipher the Braganini on the label.  That was my only gripe though.  St. Julian’s tasting notes describe it as, “light golden, butter cream yellow in color. Lively, lemony acidity gives the spicy citrus and Bartlett pear flavors excellent structure and complexity. Crisp in texture, with shades of toast weaving through the lemon zest and honey suckle flavors with a refreshing Honeycrisp apple finish.”

I wish I had more of this wine!  It was delicious!

 

12 Corners Aromella

When I was in Michigan visiting my family, my cousin and I took a day to head over to Lake Michigan.  We had lunch at a brewery, did a little bit of shopping, went to a couple of the wineries in downtown South Haven, and checked out the lighthouse too.

We stopped at 12 Corners Winery tasting room in downtown South Haven, named for the Twelve Corners neighborhood where the vineyard makes its home, and did a wine tasting.

The Aromella intrigued me.  It is a hybrid grape; a cross between Traminette and Ravat 34, developed at Cornell University’s New York State Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva, NY in 1976.  It was renamed Aromella in 2013 (that took a while!).  I have had Traminette, and like it, but I have never had, or even heard of Ravat 34.

The result is a sweet (but not overly so) white wine that tastes similar to Moscato, but with more floral flavors.  The 12 Corners Aromella is estate grown, the residual sugar on this wine is 5.5 percent and the alcohol content is 11.8 percent.  It was delicious and a great opportunity to taste a new-to-me grape!  It is also reasonably priced at $14.99 a bottle.

If you have tried it, let me know what you think!

 

 

Traverse Bay Winery Cherry Riesling

For the last couple of evenings, I have been enjoying a Michigan wine.  It is the Traverse Bay Winery’s Cherry Riesling wine, a blend of 25% Cherry wine and 75% Riesling. 

Their website describes it as a “unique and flavorful wine was made from our Semidry Riesling Wine and Northern Michigan Cherry Wine. Simply put, this enchanting semidry wine displays crisp, fruity style with a delicate hint of cherry. We recommend serving this versatile wine slightly chilled as an accompaniment to picnic or barbecued fare, as well as cheese and fruit. This is a sweeter-style blush wine with crisp Riesling flavors and just a hint of fresh cherry.”

Traverse-Bay-Cherry-Riesling(384x640)

At only $9, it is a great mid-week sipper, offering something different than a typical Riesling with its light cherry flavor.  While it is a bit late in the season for outdoor picnics, it is a nice, sweet wine that reminds me of summer.  If only the summer would return!   

Cheers to the impending return of the weekend!  One more day!

MI Road Trip: Wine in a Hospital

After visiting the Mission Point Lighthouse, we got back on the road and headed back toward town, deciding to stop along the way at Brys Estate Winery.  It was recommended by the server at Douglas Valley Winery, so I was curious to try it.  I was surprised by how large Brys Estate is – it started as a retirement project and the winery now produces several thousand cases annually. The tasting is unique – instead of bellying up to the tasting bar, they have visitors going through four different tasting stations.  It seemed like we were at a special event, but apparently that’s just how they do their tasting now.

Brys Estate Winery

Brys Estate Winery

At each station we chose between two wines; Jon and I selected different wines at each station so we could get to sample all of them.  The wines were all good, ranging from Rieslings to Cabernet Franc to Pinot Noir, but nothing stood out in my memory as amazing.  Their servers were all friendly and knowledgeable, but it was awkward at the end. After we finished at the last station, we ended up back in the main tasting room. If you want to buy wine, you have to find it yourself on their ‘wall o’ wine’, and it just seemed kind of impersonal.

The Brys Estate Outdoor Chairs - they would be heavenly on a cold day.

The Brys Estate Outdoor Chairs – they would be heavenly on a cold day.

We dropped by a brewery on the Old Mission Peninsula next, hoping to get some lunch and a beer, but the place was crawling and the wait was going to be 90 minutes! Umm… no thanks! So we headed back into town to see what we could find at our next stop, Grand Traverse Commons.

The Grand Traverse Commons is a large retail/housing development that redeveloped the old Traverse City State Hospital.  The hospital was founded in 1881, and opened to patients in 1885.  It was an asylum for patients with mental illnesses, although at times its mission was expanded to provide care for patients with tuberculosis, polio, influenza and diphtheria.

The Front of the Main Building at Grand Traverse Commons

The Front of the Main Building at Grand Traverse Commons

Many of the patients hospitalized there were able to function on varying levels – at the time it was commonplace to institutionalize people with mental illnesses that would not typically result in hospitalization today; illnesses like depression, bipolar disorder, post-partum depression or anxiety disorders.

Long before drug therapy was commonplace, the hospital set about to try to provide cutting edge therapy that helped people with mental illness be productive within the hospital. Restraint devices like straightjackets were prohibited. The first superintendent, Dr. James Decker Munson, developed a “beauty is therapy” program. He believed that beauty could be therapeutic, so the hospital had greenhouses to produce flowers year round. Additionally, he developed a farm that allowed the hospital to be self-sustaining, and also allowed many of the patients to have jobs that contributed to feelings of self-worth. The farm raised milk cows, beef cows, pigs, chickens and horses, and farmed vegetables.

The Spires of the Main Building at Grand Traverse Commons

The Spires of the Main Building at Grand Traverse Commons

The hospital population slowly declined due to the changes that came about in the mental health system that eliminated institutionalization as an option for all but the most severely affected individuals, and the Traverse City State Hospital closed its doors in 1989. Redevelopment came slowly, but Building 50 – the main administration building of the hospital, has now been redeveloped into a multi-use building, with shops, restaurants and condos.

We found an Italian restaurant called Trattoria Stella and got some lunch. I had the mushroom soup (fantastic!) and a risotto with fried egg, chives, sweet pea, rosemary, Parmesan and cream.  I had high hopes for the risotto but it was WAY too salty… I also had the Black Star Farms sparkling wine, and loved it. Jon had the minestrone soup (he loved it) and a beet salad with mozzarella, onions and kalamata olives that was delicious as well. He paired his with a Dark Horse Brewery Crooked Tree IPA. After lunch, we wandered around the grounds for a little while; Jon was a sport to let me take photos of the redeveloped buildings and the still abandoned ones, even though he was freezing.

Jon's Beet Salad at Trattoria Stella

Jon’s Beet Salad at Trattoria Stella

Features on an unrestored building at Grand Traverse Commons

Features on an unrestored building at Grand Traverse Commons

While we were at the Grand Traverse Commons, we decided to check out the Black Star Tasting room as well.  You could opt for a wine tasting or a distilled spirits tasting. I picked the wine, Jon picked the spirits. I found several that I enjoyed and ended up buying two wines to take home, including their Blushed sparkling wine. Jon purchased a bottle of craft Peninsula Gin from Grand Traverse Distillery.

Wine Bottles at Black Star Farms Tasting Room

Wine Bottles at Black Star Farms Tasting Room

And with that, we made our way back to the car to find our way to my aunt and uncle’s house. We had a couple of hours of driving ahead of us, according to Google Maps, so I was a bit surprised to find that our GPS was telling me it would take almost 4 hours to get to my aunt’s house! There didn’t seem to be any traffic! I had been driving along in this state of confusion for almost a half an hour when I suddenly realized that the day before I had set the route preferences to avoid highways, so we could see the more scenic route. But now we wanted to go the more direct way. OOPS!

Once we changed the settings, our arrival time moved up significantly! We got to my aunt and uncle’s house just after the rest of the family finished up dinner, so we were able to get some food and spend some time catching up with the family. The next day there was a family reunion, but our brief tour of Michigan had drawn to a close…

MI Road Trip: Douglas Valley Winery

Every vacation begins with a catalyst.  That “thing” that makes you decide that you are going to go there…  It could be a theme park, a museum, a fabulous hike, a concert, a beach – you get the idea.  Or a winery.  Let me explain…  Back in the spring, I won a prize – redeemable in Manistee, Michigan.  The value wasn’t much, but it got me thinking that maybe we could go visit the area.  We were heading out to visit family in Michigan anyway, so a little detour might be perfect!  A road trip was born…

In my last post, we checked out downtown Manistee – after our coffee we headed out to visit Douglas Valley Winery, just outside town. Douglas Valley’s tasting room is located in a historic building – an old bunk house along the railroad line at the turn of the century. The property is surrounded by apple orchards and vineyards.

A rusty farm wagon at Douglas Valley Winery

A rusty farm wagon at Douglas Valley Winery

UPDATE: My Dad, who grew up on a farm, let me know that the photo above is not a wagon.  Rather, it is a manure spreader…  So don’t go on a hayride in it, mmm-kay?

When we arrived, there was one couple wrapping up a tasting, and then we were all alone with our server. Tastings are normally $5 per person for 7 tastes (including a souvenir glass), but we had a certificate for a free tasting thanks to a prize from the Michigan by the Bottle blog. You can also opt for 2 complementary tastes, but $5 is very reasonable.

The Douglas Valley Winery Tasting Room – inside a historic bunk house

The Douglas Valley Winery Tasting Room – inside a historic bunk house

We picked out what we wanted. Here’s what I sampled (Jon and I tried to pick different wines and then shared, so there are more than 7):

  • Bunk House White – A semi-sweet blend of un-oaked Chardonnay, Vignole, Riesling and Pinot Gris, with flavors of apricot and peach.
  • 2013 Lakeview White – A semi sweet blend of Chardonnay and Riesling.
  • Bunk House Blue – A tart blueberry wine with spice on the back of the palate.  One of my favorites.
  • Bunk House Cherry – A sweet blend of tart and sweet cherries.  Also very good.
  • Northeastern Sweet Red – A light, semi-sweet red wine; a blend of Foch and Chambourcin grapes. It had some Pinot Noir characteristics.
  • Bunk House Red – A blend of Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir and Merlot with flavors of raspberry and blackberry.
  • Stone House Sparkling Cider – A low alcohol (7%) sparkling cider made with several apple varieties from the Douglas Valley orchards.  Excellent.
  • Stone House Semi Sweet Cider – A blend of Jonathan, Macintosh, and Northern Spy apples. Fruity with flavors of apple (duh…) and honey.
  • Caramel Apple Cider – One of two specialty ciders that they had on tap and available for sale in growlers, this had a nose of heavy caramel, but the caramel flavor was very light on the palate, with pleasant, light bubbles.

Our server was very friendly and offered information about the wine, and the history of the property.  Currently Douglas Valley grows the fruit and grapes, and the winemaker from another Michigan winery, Black Star Farms, makes the wine.  I think there is a plan to begin making their own wine at some point in the future, but this method seems to work well, as there were several good wines.

I purchased my favorites… The Northeastern Sweet Red, the Sparkling Apple Cider, the Bunk House Blueberry and the Bunk House Cherry. Thinking back, I should go find one of these bottles to open tonight…

Douglas Valley also had a large selection of local food products, and since it was close to lunchtime, we decided to get a picnic lunch to go. We picked out some Great Lakes tortilla chips, beef jerky, cajun beef jerky, Michigan made jalapeno pickled asparagus, asparagus salsa, and a big bag of fresh Winesap apples.

Apples at Douglas Valley – Waiting to be Picked

Apples at Douglas Valley – Waiting to be Picked

We said our goodbyes and headed out on our way to our next destination – Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.  En route, we found a roadside viewpoint with a picnic table and enjoyed our picnic lunch.  The weather was still cold, but had warmed up enough to allow us to sit outside for 20 minutes and enjoy our chips and salsa, beef jerky and asparagus.  What a great lunch!

A few of our Michigan Picnic Lunch items – YUM!

A few of our Michigan Picnic Lunch items – YUM!

But we couldn’t linger too long, because I couldn’t wait to see Sleeping Bear Dunes!

 

Apple Pucker!

Time for the next installment of our September Michigan trip!

We arrived at my grandma’s house on Sunday after the wedding for a visit with the other side of the family.  My mom’s side is MUCH smaller than my dad’s side (there are 15 cousins – not counting their kids – on my dad’s side, and only 4 on my mom’s), so I get more of an opportunity to visit with my family at grandma’s.

My aunt was kind enough to give Jon and I a gift of a Michigan white wine when we arrived, the Gill’s Pier Whitewater Leelanau Peninsula White Table Wine (no vintage).  Grandma owns no wine glasses, so this review comes after drinking the wine from a melamine juice glass – still one step up form the throw-away plastic water glasses in the hotel!  It was hard to get a nose – I blame the melamine, but there is a faint aroma of green apples and pears.

The Gill’s Pier Whitewater Leelanau Peninsula White Table Wine that we had is the bottle on the right

The taste is unmistakable – Granny Smith apples!  The sweetness and tartness intermingled on my tongue and I really enjoyed the sour apple flavor.  Much like a green apple Jolly Rancher, you can’t help but pucker your mouth when you try this wine!  Now, those of you who aren’t a fan of sour apple aren’t going to like this wine, but wow, what a treat!  Don’t tell Grandma – I went back for a second glass!

The Broken Motor

I’m tired tonight…  Last night Jon and I got home from a trip to Chelan, Washington, where our lungs were subjected to a thick cloud of smoke hanging heavy in the air from the wildfires that are burning too close to people’s homes and lives.  There was a fire burning 10 miles outside of town, and although the flames weren’t visible because it is on the other side of a ridge, the stagnant air was heavy with smoke.  You want the wind to pick up and blow the smoke away, but you can’t hope for that, because it would make the fire spread that much more quickly.

I headed over on Tuesday for a work conference, and Jon followed on Friday for what we hoped would be a weekend of hiking, wine tasting and enjoying what is sure to be one of the last beautiful summer weekends in Washington.  Unfortunately, the fires eliminated any chance of getting good hiking in, both because many of the state parks are closed due to the fire danger, and because my lungs and my asthma were feeling the effects of the smoky air.  So we went wine tasting and had a leisurely, non-active weekend.  I’ll be sure to post more about the trip soon.

After arriving home, my oldest cat Martini was so excited to see me she didn’t want to let me out of her sight.  She lay down with me at bedtime, and was purring so loudly that I thought she was going to overheat and explode!  Actually, I joke about it now, but I was really quite worried, because her purring was so raspy and heavy that I was concerned that she had some sort of a respiratory infection.  Her breathing was quite labored, and she would not stop purring.  Normally, when I wake up in the middle of the night I pet her a little, but I didn’t want to pet her for fear that she would NEVER stop purring!  She purred for hours… Right in my ear… this raspy, labored purring.  I thought my first call in the morning would have to be to the vet.

Thankfully, at 4 in the morning (yes, I was awake that whole time, worried about the respiratory infection…) she finally settled down and went to sleep.  And I could finally get some too.  Today her breathing was fine.  So I guess I have to chalk it up to her just being that glad to have her momma home.  Whoever said cats are aloof has never met mine.

Martini – When She’s Not Purring

Tonight I am sipping Blue Heron, by St. Julian Winery in Paw Paw, Michigan.  St. Julian claims to be Michigan’s oldest winery, and I have no reason to doubt that it is.  St. Julian was founded as Border City Wine Cellars in Ontario, Canada in 1921.  In 1934, after Prohibition was repealed, owner Mariano Meconi moved the winery across the river to Detroit.  By this time, the name had been changed to Meconi Wine Company.  Next came a move to the other side of the state in 1936, to Paw Paw, Michigan, which is in the southwest corner, and one of the state’s best wine growing regions.  With the move to Paw Paw, he changed the name to the Italian Wine Company – geez, make up your mind!

He changed the name one more time to St. Julian Winery in 1941, in response to the anti-Italian sentiment that was growing during World War II (ok, I gotta give that one to him).  St. Julian was the patron saint of the town of Faleria, Italy, where Mariano Meconi was born, so he honored his old hometown with the last name change.  So, from 1921 until today – this winery has been producing wine for over 90 years!  That’s pretty good!

Anyway, Blue Heron is a blend of Vidal Blanc, Seyval Blanc and Riesling, and is labeled a semi-sweet wine.  I actually consider it to be a sweet white, with a nose of floral scents and honey.  It tastes of tart, crisp apple and honey.  It reminds me quite a bit of Chateau Ste. Michelle’s everyday Riesling, which is one of my favorite inexpensive, night-at-home wines.  Jon picked this one up in Michigan at the grocery store, without knowing anything about it, and for $6.99 for the bottle, he scored!

Blue Heron White by St. Julian Winery

So, with that, I’m going to finish off my Blue Heron and head to bed.  Hopefully, there will be no purring…