Seven Michigan wines take center stage for private tasting dinner

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By: Frank Piaskowy

Photo supplied/Jessica King

Barb and I recently hosted a fundraiser in our home that we promoted to friends as “Nibbles and Michigan Sips.” Proceeds are supporting a youth group experience to Detroit in July.

Motown music played in the background as guests enjoyed tastes of seven Michigan wines and pairing foods. The wines were either purchased at the wineries or from the market at Food Dance restaurant in Kalamazoo.

Guests were welcomed with a sparkling rose from L. Mawby which was paired with truffle popcorn and prosciutto. In general, the acidity of sparkling wine gives a counterbalance to saltiness.

I met owner/winemaker Larry Mawby on my first trip to Traverse City and the Leelanau Peninsula seven years ago. He spent more than an hour giving me a personal tour and detailing his winemaking journey that included an apprenticeship in the Champagne district of France.

The second pour was a 2013 Pinot Grigio from Bowers Harbor near Leelanau Lake. It was paired with spanakopita and Muenster cheese. I really liked the lemon/lime crispness of the wine with the spinach-filled phyllo pastry.

When considering Pinot Grigio, Italy immediately comes to mind but Michigan, and in particular southwest Michigan, is receiving national attention for the varietal.  

We then progressed to the 2011 White Pine Riesling served with a tangy shrimp crostini and Fontina cheese. Slightly to moderately sweet wines work well with spicy Asian and Latin dishes.

White Pine Winery’s primary tasting room is in downtown St. Joseph with the actual winemaking in Fennville.

Two red wines were offered next. The first was a 2011 Gamay Noir from Chateau Grand Traverse on Old Mission Peninsula (OMP).

It was light bodied with a fruity tart cherry flavor which complemented both the duck quesadillas from Duck, Down and Above in Leesburg and the garlic mushrooms.

This was followed by the 2008 Byrs Estate (OMP) Cabernet franc. The wine was medium to full bodied, with a silky rich mouthfeel and profile of a dark fruit jam and cassis.

Caraway pork paired well but I actually had a “WOW” experience enjoying that wine with cinnamon-chile chocolate brownies. Several others enthusiastically agreed.

As a finale, guests chose between the Circa “Seduction” and the Round Barn Winery apricot dessert wine.

“Seduction” is made from Blaufrankisch and had a heavy alcohol, raspberry taste reminiscent of a brandy. Circa Estate Winery operated in the Leelanau Peninsula until bankruptcy in 2013 and their wines are no longer available.

The apricot wine was more viscous with concentrated sweet fruit and nice balance despite having an alcohol content of 20 percent. Round Barn is a very successful business in Baroda that has expanded beyond wine to include spirits and beer.

Nearly a case of wine, my wife’s food preparation and 20+ attendees over three hours resulted in a good time being had by all. I was even told by a self-admitted novice wine drinker that he “learned some things.” More importantly, he found a new wine that he really liked.

Vignettes:

  • April is Michigan wine month! Consider joining the Vintage Michigan Club to take advantage of membership benefits. There is a one time fee.
  • Tickets are available online for the annual Michigan Wine Showcase being held on April 20th in Detroit. Hope to see you there.
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