On April 30, I attended the Michigan Wine Showcase at the RattleSnake Club in Detroit. The event was organized through The Michigan Grape and Wine Industry Council (MGWIC), which is a function of the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.
The council’s mission is to “provide for research, education and the promotion of Michigan wine grape and wine industry.” Its membership includes an advisory board appointed by the governor with administrative support from state personnel.
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Initiated in 2012, the showcase is a biannual event open to the public. There is a spring session held in metro Detroit followed by a summer version in Chicago.
The event is limited to no more than 30 producers, who submit requests and are accepted on a first-come basis. Participants must source their fruit exclusively from Michigan.
The 2015 Detroit showcase was sold out online with more than 250 attendees and had a predominance of Traverse City area wineries. Linda Jones, MGWIC Executive Director, indicated that the Chicago event is more of a target for southwest Michigan wineries.
There was a potpourri of product to taste that ranged from hard ciders and fruit wines to sparkling and French styled wines.
Appropriately, there was a food table with pairings for the white wines, including roasted herb chicken breasts, grilled vegetables and four-cheese macaroni and cheese.
On the other side of the atrium space was a table offering porcini-scented roasted pork with wild mushrooms, grilled five spice salmon and baby spinach/arugula salad to enjoy with the red wines.
Midway through the event, a dessert table was set out to complement the sweet wines.
While there was great diversity in styles, I was pleasantly surprised by some wines exhibiting well balanced acidity with tantalizing, rich fruit profiles. Because of the cold climate growing region, many Michigan wines can lack mouth texture, complexity and savory fruit unless vinified sweet.
Here are my favorites from the evening
- 2014 Laurentide Winery “Estate” sauvignon blanc, Leelanau Peninsula
- 2011 Bel Lago Winery pinot grigio/chardonnay, Leelanau Peninsula
- 2010 Wyncroft “Avonlea Vineyard” chardonnay, Lake Michigan Shore
- 2010 Three Fires Wine merlot, Lake Michigan Shore
- 2011 Chateau Aeronautique syrah, Jackson
- 2010 Villa Mari Vineyards cabernet sauvignon; “Ultima Thule” syrah/nebbiolo/malbec; Old Mission Peninsula
This experience only served to affirm my impression that Midwest wines continue to progress to a competitive level with international wines. This is all happening while producers continue to satisfy the local consumer’s palate.
- This year’s Michigan Wine Showcase in Chicago is scheduled for June 1 at City Winery. Tickets may be purchased online.
- Reading wine labels can provide significant information. For example, if the fruit used to produce a wine is sourced from vineyards on premise, it may be labeled “estate bottled.”
When labeled by state, it signifies that the fruit comes from anywhere within that state.
If any portion of the fruit is sourced from outside the state, the wine bottle is commonly labeled as “American.” Sourcing out of state fruit is a common practice among both small and large wineries when local supplies are limited, or to add depth and complexity.
- There are currently 117 wineries operating in the state of Michigan, compared to 73 in Indiana.