With approaching fall color, this might be an ideal time to explore the countryside north of Elkhart. Friends in Cassopolis invited Barb and me to join them on a recent Saturday afternoon.
The four of us planned to have lunch before attending the festival. Cindy had earlier searched eateries in the Mattawan area and found Nonla Vietnamese Street Food, a restaurant that opened just this summer.
The Yelp reviews of the restaurant were excellent. We arrived after the noon hour rush and enjoyed the beautiful weather while dining al fresco. Reservations are not taken and we were told there is frequently waiting on weekends.
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Barb shared her Vietnamese crepe appetizer with me. Although tempted by the pho, I could not resist the seafood special. It was a pan roasted, fresh rainbow trout with broccoli, truffle puree, grilled asparagus, toasted almonds and sriracha hollandaise.
Both the ambiance and food did not disappoint. Be advised, Nonla does not have a liquor license, although a dry riesling or sauvignon blanc would have been perfect with my dish. At any rate, we were pleasantly satiated and primed for wine tasting.
Driving 10 minutes southwest from the restaurant in downtown Mattawan, we reached the winery. The grounds were nicely organized with vendor stands interspersed between buildings and parking assistance.
The main tasting room was warmly appointed with a serving bar and a large landscape wall mural. The room opened to the right into a gift shop while to the left was a patio that overlooked the adjoining fields and vineyard.
Despite the carefully orchestrated commotion, I had the opportunity to speak with David and Mary Lou Butkovich, the owners/operators. David is a third generation grape grower turned winemaker who was mentored by Jim Lester of Wyncroft Winery.
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The Butkovich family takes great pride in their wines that are made from grapes exclusively grown in the Lake Michigan Shores AVA. Fruit is sourced from their estate vineyard, as well as contracted growers in Berrien and Van Buren counties.
Some of my favorite tastings that day were:
- 2012 Pinot Gris: Floral notes with a rich texture and hint of citrus with overlying melon flavor — $15.95.
- 2011 “Cetiri” (Croatian for “four”): A blend of Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Chambourcin. Medium to full body, dry red with soft tannins and restrained fruit, yet rich texture — $30.95.
- Cabernet Franc “Reserve”: David’s “rockstar” wine, which is a blend of 2012 and 2013 vintages with firm tannins and lingering finish. Normally not available for tasting but poured during the festival event — $40.
- 2014 “Petoro”: A sweet dessert wine, think Riesling ice wine, that is made from Traminette, Vidal Blanc, Seyval Blanc, Riesling and white Cabernet Franc. The wine began as a personal project to celebrate an anniversary, but demand has David now making the wine regularly available — $13.95.
Afterward, Barb and Cindy surveyed the local artists’ displays while John and I people watched. We ended our day with a pontoon boat ride on Little Fish Lake enjoying cheese and crackers with a bottle of Cetiri and watching the sunset over the shoreline.
Our experience that day certainly lived up to the promise of “Pure Michigan.”
- With the temperate effects of Lake Michigan and a location 200 miles away, southwestern Michigan has a growing season as much as two weeks longer than the Traverse City area.
- As of July 1, Senate Bill 113 was enacted into Indiana law. Most out of state wineries are now more easily able to direct ship to consumers in the state.