Wine Scene

Dave Ethridge — Wine Columnist

Dave Ethridge — Wine Columnist

The Michigan Wine & Spirits Competition was held in East Lansing last week and Michigan’s Best of Show winners have now been announced. Once again there are some surprising results proving that some of Michigan’s wines are among the best in the world. Great strides have been made in the last 10 or 20 years in the Michigan wine industry and the wines named in this competition deserve our attention.

Over 400 wines were submitted for judging by panels made up of experts from across the country. Without exception, these noted wine judges were not just impressed with the quality of Michigan wines but were at times astounded by the wines placed before them for their consideration. One judge commented that “it is amazing to me that Michigan wines are about the best kept secret in the industry — why on earth they are not better known is a mystery.” A part answer to all of that is that all too often Michigan wines are produced in such small quantities that they do not get wide distribution and are available at the winery only; you just can’t find them on the wine shelves of most wine shops. Most are available by ordering directly from the winery on-line, but few people avail themselves of this opportunity

The winners this year are:

Best of Class Dry White Wine — Chateau Fontaine 2011 Pinot Blanc. Pinot Blanc is a relatively new wine variety to many in Michigan but has long been produced in Italy and the Alsace. It is a flavorful dry white wine perfect as an aperitif and with fish or poultry. We’ll be seeing more and more of this variety produced here if this wine is any indicator.

Best of Class Dry Red Wine — Shady Lane Cellars 2010 Blue Franc. Another variety new to Michigan but popular in other locales like Austria and the state of Washington. The Blue Franc has often been called Lemberger but the association with the stinky cheese has made some change the name to that of the German blaufrankish which has been shorted to Blue Franc. It is a lush, soft, fruity red wine the soft tannins, a touch of black pepper flavor and is perfect with grilled chicken or lamb chops.

Best of Class Semi-Dry White Wine — Fenn Vally Vineyards 2011 Vignoles Reserve. The Vignoles variety has been a staple in the Michigan wine industry for years, producing a light flavorful, almost peachy flavored white wine very popular with those who like the soft fruity flavors. Pairs well with lighter foods and particularly luncheon salads. This Reserve bottling is one of the finest we’ve seen in years.

Best of Class Sparkling

Wine — l. Mawby Blanc de

Blancs. It is indeed a delight to see that

Larry Mawby is being recognized for producing some of the finest sparkling wines made in the U.S. This Blanc de Blancs is almost totally Chardonnay, has a spiced apple like flavor, is zesty and crisp on the finish and quite stylish. A great all-purpose sparkling wine.

Best of Class Dessert Wine — Lawton Ridge Winery 2011 Late Harvest Vignoles. An example of what a wine maker can do by leaving the grapes on the vine until late in the season and then harvesting them after they have sweetened to make a lovely dessert wine. Quite rich with the typical Vignoles peachiness, this matched up with a lovely peach pie would be heavenly.

Best of Class Fruit Wine — Chateau de Leelanau Cherry Wine. Michigan is noted for its cherries — and for its cherry wine. This is a great example; sweet, flavorful and a whole mouthful of cherries. This could be served after dinner as a cordial or with a rich cherry tart.

Judges’ Merit Award — L. Mawby Blanc de Noirs The judges do not made a special merit award every year, only when a wine that did not win a Best of Class award is so good that it deserve special recognition. It is obvious that this Pinot Noir based sparkling wine was such a close second to its counterpart that the judges awarded it special recognition.

So, there you have this year’s winners of the Michigan Wine Competition. They also awarded a whole list of wines Gold, Silver and Bronze medals. You can get the whole list from the website n/2012. Your best bet in tracking down the wines is to visit the website of each of the wineries listed and ordered on-line. But hurry, these winners sell out quickly. Enjoy the best that Michigan has to offer.

Dave Ethridge is a nationally known wine writer, certified wine judge and the Director of the Lapeer Chapter of Tasters Guild International.

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