The SOMM Journal

August/September 2014

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16 { THE SOMM JOURNAL } AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2014 { spit bucket } DISCOVERING A WINE REGION SOMETIMES TAKES the form of piggybacking vineyard and winery visits onto an event to which one is invited. It was an annual gathering of Michigan's wine communicators, corralled by the Leelanau Peninsula Wine Trail (LPWT) that allowed for my first work-related visit. Having motorcycled the entirety of Lake Michigan in 1996, when living in Chicago, I had fond memories of the state's woodlands and meadows, farms at which could be found cherry orchards and the occasional vineyard. Round about that time there was a mini- boom of interest in developing the cherry sector for distilling, though quality wine production was still gestating. Michigan's second AVA, dating to 1982, is Leelanau Peninsula, encompassing all of Leelanau County. Its neighboring AVA, Old Mission Peninsula, was established in 1987, in great part due to the efforts of the venerable Ed O'Keefe of Chateau Grand Traverse, the area's big dog winery for its combination of age, quality, size and diversity. Michigan's largest producer is Leelanau Wine Cellars, working with 110 acres of its own, but through its size and strategy often acquiring tons of grapes from throughout the state. "When you have a growing wine region with more buy - ers than sellers, there's always someone willing to pay a dollar more," says owner Bob Jacobson. Jacobson makes many wines; his new Sauvignon Blanc, culled from an acre owned by his fam - ily, was brisk, varietally correct and immensely refreshing, even on an unseasonably chilly late April afternoon. The twin AVAs' elevations run between 600 and 1,200 feet, with a surprising diversity of soil types based upon glacial moraine with striated variations—clays of various colors, silica, sandy loam, gravel and pulses of granite and limestone. With nearly 2,600 growing hours, "our diurnal swings are often as wide as 30 degrees," according to winemaker Adam Satchwell of Shady Lane, "and we have an hour more sunlight in July than other, more southerly U.S. wine regions." His two acres of Riesling upon calcium-rich sand yielded a very good, dry 2012 release, with a complex nose of lanolin, flowers and lime with a clean and ripe finish. The region's main town, Traverse City, is quite the foodie destination, with Mario Batali and comedian Tim Allen summer - ing here, along with native rockers Mark Farner and Bob Seger. Dinner at its Trattoria Stella with the LPWT's Lorri Hathaway and Lee Lutes, owner of Black Star Farms, consisted of mixed offal from pig, lamb and cow, accompanied by an aromatic 2012 Brengman Brothers Gewurztraminer served by co-owner Amanda Danielson, an Advanced Level somm currently study - ing for her Master's exam. 2012 was a very ripe, late-harvested year yielding many of the best wines the areas have produced. "We celebrate vintage variation here; in the better vintages you'll recognize differences vaster than you would on the West Coast" says Lutes. "For some it's problematic, but I like to think it's part of wines' pleasure." A later tasting with Lutes showed several great wines, including two from 2012 under his Arcturos brand: a lees-stirred Pinot Gris with extended skin contact, sporting brisk minerality and a longish finish, and an unoaked Chardonnay sub - jected to lots of lees stirring; layered and with an alluring finish, it's a terrific value at $16. But LP/OMP isn't only about still wines. Arguably the state's most famous winemaker is Larry Mawby, who makes wines under the L. Mawby label. The sparkling wine stalwart's top wine is Mille; the 2005 vintage of this méthode champenoise is a deli - cious bubbly from 100 percent Chardonnay, both smelling and tasting creamy, long-ending and worth the $50. Pinot Noirs from LP's Bel Lago and OMP's Chateau Chantal, a 2010 Dijon Clone Reserve and a 2011 respectively, showed the diversity of flavor and style this northerly location offers; Bel Lago's release is brooding and chewy as befits the clone, with high-toned spicy notes on the finish; by contrast, the Chantal emphasizes elegance and poise. A pink version from newcomer Verterra was the best rosé I tried in Leelanau. And odder offerings can also be found. The aforementioned Shady Lane and Black Star Farms just began working with Grüner Veltliner, while the flagship wine from Tony Ciccone of Ciccone Vineyard & Winery, with help from daughter Paula, is a Dolcetto—the only planting in the state. A Tale of Two Peninsulas MICHIGAN'S LEELANAU PENINSULA AND OLD MISSION PENINSULA ARE TWIN AVAS WITH SURPRISING DIVERSITY by David Furer PHOTOS COURTESY OF CHATEAU GRAND TRAVERSE

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