Michigan Wines Sip Well
By Linda Kissam
Michigan isn’t generally top-of mind when most of us are deciding what to drink tonight or serve at an upcoming party. But maybe it should be. My head was certainly turned after I tried one of their premiere Pinot’s.
Michigan is more than you think
When you think Michigan, I am guessing the Great Lakes, warm mittens, furry hats and blistering cold pop up in your mind. Put that aside. Michigan is known for something much more exciting than any of those things. It is an up and coming wine region you should put on your radar.
Did you know that Michigan ranks in the top 10 states for wine production? That’s pretty significant. Wineries alone attract more than 1.7 million tourists every year. Annually, the state bottles more than 2.75 million gallons of wine. Michigan has over 160 commercial wineries and more than 3,000 acres of wine grape vineyards.
The Great Lakes play an important role in the success of the Michigan wine program. The surrounding lakes and resulting glacial soil influence the grapes taste and production, in a very tasteful way. In fact, most of Michigan’s wine grapes grow in vineyards that are 25 miles from Lake Michigan or less. Although you might expect the lake to give off lake effect snow and extremely cold air, actually the lake effect, snow and frost from Lake Michigan help protect wine grape plants. The harvest season lasts fairly long. The typical harvest season in the northern hemisphere lasts from August to October. In Michigan, it can last all the way into November for late-ripening grapes in the northwest area of the state.
The state’s number 1 planted variety is Riesling, but some of the world’s best known grapes are also grown in Michigan. There are many types of wines you can taste and buy throughout Michigan wineries, but there are a few distinct types of grapes that set the stage for success. Chardonnay, Cab Franc, Riesling, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc and Merlot. Gewürztraminer, Grüner Veltliner, Marsanne, Pinot Meunier, Viognier, Seyval, and Vidal can also be found in the vineyards.
Wineries in Michigan make a wide variety of styles to choose from. Dry, semi-dry, and sweet versions of wines can be found, so there is something for nearly every taste. In addition, harsh winters make it possible to produce ice wine. Cold temperatures are perfect for making ice wine. Ice wine is created when grapes are picked at the right temperature where the water is frozen inside of the grapes, but the sugar hasn’t frozen. Michigan ice wine has a honey-like flavor that is unparalleled to many other varieties. Only a small number of wineries in the state actually make the wine because it is such a time consuming and strenuous process to properly harvest these partly frozen wine grapes. Because of the temperament of grapes for ice wine, there aren’t many bottles produced every year, but Michigan remains one of the premier wine-making states for ice wine.
I had the pleasure of tasting a 2018 Pinot Noir from Rove Winery . I was feeling a little iffy on the whole subject of Pinot from Michigan, but the sample I received was fabulously bold. As a dry wine, this Pinot Noir held layered flavors of plums, dark cherries, blueberries and fall spices. The color was darker than many Pinot’s I have enjoyed, but it held my attention from first look to last taste. This 2018 Pinot Noir will be released this fall, first to wine club members exclusively, then later on for the general public. The price will be $32. It is the perfect wine for fall and holiday celebrations. Try it with the lamb recipe I have included for you below.
Rove Estate has been open for about four years. Creighton Gallagher is co-owner of Rove Estate Vineyard & Winery with his wife, McKenzie Gallagher. In 2010, they took the opportunity to purchase 100 acres of their family’s cherry farm and began to transition their 5th generation cherry farm into a more sustainable and progressive value-added farming situation. For their efforts, they have received more than 40 accolades in state and international wine competitions, competing against some of the most renowned wine regions in the country and across the world. That’s how good they are. Pay attention. Just sayin…
Per their website, “Rove is one of Michigan’s only farm and vineyard focusing on bold wines made with exclusively estate-grown grapes,* Rove Estate believes that excellent wine comes from the terroir of the vineyard itself. Allowing the grapes to express themselves in the final product and minimally manipulating the season’s harvest creates wines that are a direct representation of the land.” The 1165 foot elevation, a landscape that creates the perfect conditions for premium estate-grown grapes: southern-exposed slopes, abundant sunlight, and cool-air drainage with protection from the frost all comes together to showcase hat success looks like. Yup. I get it.
Visit Michigan Wine Country
You should think about visiting Michigan Wine Country. Plan a 2-3 day stay. Use this resource as a starting point.
There are five premier regions to choose from and thousands of acres and miles to explore in order to get the most out of your Michigan wine tasting experience. No matter what your traditional wine preference is, there is something to please your taste buds, but there are also other unique wines that you might not find elsewhere.
The five wine trails are diverse and rival other famous wine areas. You can taste unique flavors and check out the sunny vineyards without breaking the bank. This land is ideal for handcrafting fine wines. Give it a try. Its charming resort towns and incredible shoreline are like bottles of bubbly are just waiting to be uncorked—by you.
Cranberry Clean Snax® Crusted Roasted Rack of Lamb
Recipe by Chef Tom Fraker
Recipe Courtesy of Melissa’s/World Variety Produce, Inc.
1 Frenched 7-8 Bone Rack of Lamb, trimmed of excess fat
Kosher Salt & Freshly Ground Pepper, to taste
3 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil, divided use
2 containers Melissa’s Cranberry Clean Snax®, crushed
5 cloves Melissa’s Peeled Garlic, minced
2 tablespoons Fresh Rosemary Leaves, finely chopped
1 tablespoon Fresh Thyme Leaves, finely chopped
Preheat the oven to 350ºF.
Heat a cast iron pan over high heat. Pat the lamb rack dry and season it with salt and pepper on all sides. Swirl 1 tablespoon of the olive oil into the hot pan and add the rack. Sear the lamb to a nice medium brown color on both sides. Transfer the rack to a roasting pan.
In a bowl, combine the rest of the olive oil, crushed Clean Snax®, garlic and herbs until mixed well. Using your hands, massage the mixture all over the meaty parts of the rack. Place in the oven and roast for 15 minutes. Loosely cover the pan with foil and roast for an additional 10-15 minutes or until the internal temperature reads 120ºF on a meat thermometer. Remove from the oven and let rest for 10 minutes.
Makes about 2-4 servings.
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Note: I only review wine that I find have value for my readers. This article is not an endorsement, but a professional review. Rove Winery provided a free sample of Pinot Noir for review purposes. No fee was paid by the winery for this review.