This past season my friends and I visited Traverse City Michigan and explored the wine regions known as Old Mission Peninsula and the Leelanau Peninsula. These two land formations jut out into Lake Michigan and offer a marvelous vista and environment, especially one to winemakers.
The land itself is carved up, and since it resembles upstate New York so very much I can only assume it’s glacial carving that gave the land such compelling contours. Along with this, there are lots of hillsides and the land is good for growing grapes. There is also a very neat geographical component and that is that the 45th Parrallel runs right through these two peninsulas. There is at least one winery that uses that geographical fact as their namesake, and there even is a special place where you can learn all about the 45th Parrallel.
So what are the great wines of the region? I will list the ones that got special notes in my wine journal below. If you are reading this and your winery is on this list, I visited you and enjoyed what you had to offer. I can only hope that my recommendations help other people discover you as well.
- Longview 2008 Riesling, noted honey, starfruit and pineapple.
- Longview 2008 Pinot Noir, cherries and strawberries on the nose, plums, red fruit and chocolate on the palate.
- Longview 2008 Cabernet Franc, nose has pickles, palate was of black cherries, cocoa and vanilla
- Chateau Chantal Chardonnay, nose of pool water and meunster cheese, palate of grapefruits and pears with a fair acid kick in the teeth.
- Left Foot Charlies Longcove Reisling, honey and sweet, very refreshing.
- Black Star Farms 2009 Chardonnay, nose had vanilla, roses, apricots and peaches. Palate was acidic, oaky, loaded with vanilla. This wine surprised me with it’s mid-palate development.
- Chateau Leelanau Semi-Dry Reisling, nose had pineapple and apple, palate had warm honey, apples and spice. This was one of my top picks during the tasting.
- Bel Lago 2009 Auxerrois, nose was lightly floral, palate was buttery and creamy. I give this wine a score of 97. Every time I visit Bel Lago I buy a bottle, it’s that good. Was one of the most magnificent wines I tasted in the entire region. Bel Lago wins a Bravo for their wines.
- 2 Lads 2009 Pinot Noir, nose of plums, cheese, meat. A very well rounded red and this one surprised me because it unfolded as I was tasting it, changing over time. Wines that do that almost always start at 90 and usually go up.
- 2 Lads 2009 Cabernet Franc / Merlot, nose of plums, cassis, pine sol cleanser, antifreeze. Palate of pickles, rye, nicely acidic and wrenchingly tannic. This wines note indicates that this wine would be a perfect pair to a corned beef dinner with a beautifully sharp mustard.
- Chateau Grand Traverse 2009 Gamay Noir, nose of bread crusts and peanut butter. Palate of red, plum, and tomato. This wine won high marks because it unfolds mid-palate.
- Left Foot Charlie 2009 Uncle, nose of strawberries and raspberries and blueberries. Palate was very tannic and chewy. This wine won high marks because it continued to linger after it was consumed, the post-palate play was very shocking and welcome.
- Chateau Leelanau Hawkins Red, nose of strawberry, red fruit, raspberries. Palate of spice, chewy, tannic.
- Good Neighbor Organics Chardonnay, nose of road, pavement, plums. Palate of butter, apples, pears. The wine was excellent, the hosts were absolutely charming. Great salesmen.
- Bowers Harbor Vineyards 2009 Cabernet Franc Rose, nose of strawberry and peaches. Palate of spice, caramel, dulce de leche. This wine won a note of “Delicious!!!”
- Ciccone 2009 Pinot Grigio, nose of natural gas and sulphur. Palate of bright lemons, apple, tart blueberries.
- Ciccone 2008 Cabernet Franc, nose of pickles, cheese, asphalt, and clay. Palate was very tannic and had quite a lot of acidity.
- Ciccone 2009 Tre Rossi, nose of cheese, cream, vanilla and oak. Palate of cake, chocolate, smoke and tannins. I bought three bottles and this wine I reflexively buy in two bottles when tempted. It is magnificent.
- 45 North Pear Cider, not really a wine, but if you like pears, you’ll love this.