If you are looking for a deeply colored, spicy and full flavored wine, than you need look no further than your own back yard. Karma Vista Vineyards, located in Coloma, has produced an award-winning Syrah that is ready to drink now. Being a Syrah lover myself, I was delighted to discover the character of this Lake Michigan Shore wine. Syrah (also known as Shiraz), is a very old grape variety which first earned its status as one the world’s highest quality wines in the Rhône region of France, namely Hermitage. It re-discovered its potential in Australia where, due to the warm climate, wines are lush, robust, and very full-bodied. The Rhône Rangers brought Syrah from relative obscurity to fame in California. Today when you peruse the aisles of your favorite wine store, you will find not only one hundred percent Syrahs but blends, or cuvees, from winemakers as far away as South Africa and Washington State. Now Lake Michigan Shore can boast its own version.
Award-winning Syrah Reserve
According to Joe and Susan Herman, the owners of the winery, karma means the great things that happen from the little things you do. Well, they had karma on their side when they made the non-vintage Syrah Reserve! Known for making a range of wines, both dry and sweet, the Hermans saw gold when this red wine recently won a gold medal at the 2014 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition. A rich ruby in color, spicy black pepper aromas jump right out to greet you along with ripe blackberry, smoky plum, and sweet vanilla from the French barrels that were used for aging. Smooth and pleasant on the palate with a persistent finish, pair with grilled meats (maybe add a little mushrooms) or your favorite barbecue.
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.
Matt Moersch, Katie & Wally Berrien & Me
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!