Also located in the Michigan Lake Shore appellation is Domaine Berrien Cellars. Owned by Wally and Katie Walsh, their love of Rhone wines inspired them to plant traditional Rhone varietals including Marsanne, Roussanne, Viognier and Syrah.
The 2011 Marsanne and 2011 Viognier were both fermented in stainless steel (no cask) thereby showcasing the fruit and terroir. The Marsanne was clean with crisp acidity, a predominance of green apple on the nose and palate. Perfect with oysters on the half shell. True to its aromatic character, the Viognier displayed floral notes as well as mango and pineapple. Compared to its Rhone counterpart, I found the Michigan version to exhibit a higher level of acidity giving the wine a more steely character. All in all these white perfect pairings with seafood, chicken, salads or on their own.
On the red side, the 2010 Syrah, Abigail’s Vineyard presented the lush, dark ruby-red hue that we expect from the grape that has more coloring matter than any other. The winemaker shows to add complexity and structure by ageing the wine in French oak barrels (both new and old) followed by ageing in bottle for 16 months. I immediately noticed evidence of oak ageing when nosing the wine: smoky cherry and vanilla unveiled their aromas along with red and black fruits including plum and blackberry. Truly accessible on the palate.
Michigan is predominantly growing the vitis vinifera species of grapes from which so many of the world’s most revered wines originate. It is impressive that so much care and attention is being invested by people who vow to carry on the tradition of quality wine-making right here in the Midwest. The winemakers and vineyard owners I have talked with so far are not interested in copying the old World, but rather prefer to take what the old World has given them and see what their terroir will bring to them. They are visionaries looking to carve out their own niche and call it their own.
Go Michigan wines!