Tag Archives: dessert wine

Michigan wine 2019

michigan wine 2019Michigan wine 2019: Another regional wine state that offers quality – and even value

One of Drink Local Wine’s great regrets was that we were never able to do Michigan wine. The state had some of the best regional wine in the country, and its efforts have only improved since then.

I know this because I was lucky enough to get Michigan wine samples last fall, and the quality was consistent and impressive. Wine is made throughout the state, but the best known region is along the northwestern Lake Michigan shore, centered around Traverse City. That means weather is a challenge every year, and cold, snow, and ice have wreaked havoc with any number of vintages. Riesling is its trademark grape, but some cold climate reds are also outstanding.

The following wines were the best I tasted – all were samples. Availability may be limited in other parts of the country.

Chateau Grand Traverse Dry Resling 2017 ($14, 12%): One of regional wine’s biggest challenges is producing affordable products, but this long-time Michigan producer has done just that. It’s a little tight, but reflects Michigan’s style and terror — almost stone fruit instead of citrus; a crisp, steely finish; and an appealing and pleasing riesling softness. Highly recommended.

Mari Vineyards Gamay Noir 2017 ($26, 13%): This red is a trifle pricey, but impeccably made and just as delicious. Again, a terroir-driven wine that is less fruity (tart cherry, perhaps?) and more noticeably spicy than a Beaujolais from France, which is also made with gamay. This vintage is sold out, but if the 2018 is anything close to the 2017, it’s a must buy.

2 Lads Cabernet Franc 2016 ($35, 13.5%): This is an intriguing approach to cabernet franc, a red grape that does well in many regional states and is best known as the red from the Loire in France. It doesn’t have the pencil lead that marks some Loire wines, and it’s not as fruity as a west coast label. Instead, it features blackberry fruit and baking spice, plus an almost zesty mouth feel. It’s well made and top quality, but the price is a problem.

Chateau Chantal Proprietor’s Reserve Trio 2016 ($27, 13.5%): Excellent example of what Michigan can do with a red blend. It’s brisk and spicy with well-developed berry fruit. There’s an appealingly lean structure, save for a bit of ashy heaviness on the back and a touch too much oak.

Hawthorne Vineyards Rose 2016 ($12, 13.2%): A dry pink wine that is heavier than I prefer, but still well made and rose-like — dark raspberry and strawberry fruit. And, again, an affordable price.

Peninsula Cellars Late Harvest Riesling 2016 ($19, 8.5%): This white dessert wine is just so close to being the kind that wins double gold medals and best in shows. It’s sweet – think honey and ripe peaches – balanced by an almost fresh orange juice acidity. That’s where it falls just a smidge short, since a little more acidity would balance the sweetness. But it’s still a delicious wine and well worth the price.

Expensive wine 106: Graham’s 20-year-Tawny Port NV

Graham’s 20-year-Tawny PortGraham’s 20-year-Tawny port is subtle, sophisticated, and a reminder how great a great port can be

Port remains one of the great mysteries of wine – usually very expensive and bought by a very limited audience, and mostly unknown to almost everyone else. Which is a shame, because well made port should please almost anyone. Great ports, like the Graham’s 20 year-old Tawny, are even more appealing.

The Graham’s 20-year-Tawny ($65, sample, 20%) is a step above even a lot of top-notch port – incredibly subtle and sophisticated, with layers of flavor that go well past the usual caramel and nuttiness. There is almost a tea-like flavor, as well as hint of baking spices and a kind of toffee instead of the caramel. And, despite the high alcohol and residual sugar, it’s not even especially sweet or especially hot. That points to quality winemaking, not always easy to do given the complexity of port.

In this, it shows how futile it is to cut costs in an attempt to make a mass market port, several of which I’ve tasted with regret over the past couple of years. It’s like the difference between cheese food slices and aged cheddar cheese; what’s the point?

Highly recommended. And the good news, even at this price, is that one small glass of the Graham’s 20-year-Tawny Port is usually sufficient. So the bottle will last three to four times as long as a table wine.

Wine of the week: Kopke Fine Tawny Port NV

kopke tawny portThe Wine Curmudgeon likes port. I just don’t drink much of it, mostly because the price/value ratio is completely out of whack. Too much cheap port – and that means anything less than $20 – is not worth drinking. So when I find something like the Kopke tawny port ($13, purchased, 19.5%), I run to the keyboard as quickly as possible.

Port has its own vocabulary and can be quite complicated, but don’t let that intimidate you. Know that it’s a dessert wine, sweet but balanced, and that a little goes a long a way thanks to the high alcohol. A couple of small pours after dinner can make a terrific meal that much better.

The Kopke is amazingly well done for the price, and I didn’t expect nearly as much as it delivered. This is another example of a simple, well-made wine that doesn’t try to do more than it should. Look for fresh red fruit, some dried fruit (plums?), brown sugar sweetness, and just a touch of oak to round it out. You may also notice a sort of nutty aroma, which is typical for well-made port. I’d open the bottle well before you want to drink it; it actually gets rounder and more interesting after being open for a couple of days.

Highly recommended, and especially as a Father’s Day gift. And, if I expand the price range for the 2017 Hall of Fame, the Kopke may well get in.

Expensive wine 38: Inniskillin Pearl Icewine 2007

Inniskillin Pearl IcewineThis is one of the most expensive wines ever reviewed on the blog — $50 for a half bottle, assuming you can find it. Icewine requires bitterly cold winter temperatures, and the past couple of winters have been so mild that not much has been made. Hence, this is the current vintage, and there isn't a lot of it left.

Icewine is made from grapes that are left to hang on the vine and only picked on the coldest day of the year. Leaving the grapes on the vine concentrates the sugars, just like a raisin. Picking the grapes after they freeze concentrates the sugars even more. The result is a dessert wine of amazing qualities, somehow very sweet and yet also balanced. The residual sugar is 24.2 percent, about eight times that of white zinfandel.

So the equivalent of $100 a bottle for the Inniskillin (sample), one of the world's top producers, is not as ridiculous as it sounds. This vintage, made with the vidal grape from Canada's Niagara region, is a stunning wine, sweet and luscious and rich and overwhelming. A couple or three sips are almost enough; swish the wine slowly around in your mouth before you swallow, and savor the way the apple, pineapple, and honey flavors blend together.

Some people claim they can pair icewine with food — cheeses and berry desserts. But, frankly, there's no need. If you're lucky enough to find some, drink it slightly chilled as dessert, and make the bottle last as long as you can. It will be worth it.