Meadowbrook (Michigan) Wine and Food Festival

Saturday, August 22

Picture perfect weather and a gorgeous location among the lawns and gardens of the Meadowbrook Music Festival north of Detroit, the 2015 Meadowbrook Wine and Food Festival didn’t disappoint… at least not with the wines.

With five large tents housing more than 150 wines from 18 regions and featuring 9 Michigan wineries there was something for everyone.

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I spent my drink tickets principally on the Michigan wines.   As expected I found a few that were sweeter than I prefer but on the whole Michigan made a strong showing.

St. Julian Winery
Late Harvest Riesling
Established shortly after the repeal of Prohibition, St. Julian is one of Michigan’s oldest and most well-known wineries.    The Late Harvest Riesling is a sweet wine yet crisp and very approachable even for those, like me, who prefer dryer table wines.   The wine is smooth on the palate with notes of peach and honey.

Fieldstone Winery
Motor City Dry Red – Syrah
The most “local” of the local wineries pouring at the festival, Fieldstone is located in downtown Rochester Hills, about 30 minutes north of Detroit and a few miles from the festival site.  A local winery in that they make their wines here in southeast Michigan, Fieldstone sources their grapes from “all over,” including bringing the syrah in from California.   A new line, the Motor City Red is lovely: soft, dry and medium-bodied, with notes of black cherry and a pleasant minerally finish.   Locapour purists will argue this doesn’t classify as a local wine, and I agree.  But with results like this I’m more than happy to support local winemakers.

Warner Vineyards Winery
2 Cab Merlot
A Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot blend, this wine has nice notes of dark berries without being overly jammy.    Full-bodied with medium tannins, the wine has a nice, slightly “dusty” finish.

Vidal Blanc Ice Wine
I am a sucker for a good ice wine, and Warner’s didn’t disappoint.    The wine had a silky, rather than satiny, mouth feel and lovely notes of pear and honeysuckle.

Bel Lago
Pinot Noir “North”
Located in the northwest corner of the Lower Peninsula, not far from Traverse City, Bel Lago grows a number of cool climate grapes including Pinot Noir, Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay, Riesling and Gewurztraminer.    Their Pinot Noir was my choice for pairing with lunch.  Smooth, with soft notes of raspberry and cherry, medium-tannins, and a nice finish.   The wine held up well against the beef brisket BBQ nachos I had for lunch, balancing the smoky sweetness of the BBQ sauce.

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And speaking of food, for a festival advertised as a “Wine and Food Festival,” the food options were very slim.   Kroger, the largest grocery chain in Michigan and a sponsor of the event, had a large tent at the entrance to the event featuring a sampling of standard grocery-store deli fare: Boar’s Head turkey or ham sandwiches, cheese and coleslaw.   There were two food trucks: The Pistons Maplewood BBQ and Chick-A-Dee.    The Maplewood BBQ beef brisket nachos were very good, but there’s no question this is NOT a food festival.

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Seven Lakes Vineyard
Cappricio
I started my day with the Seven Lakes Capriccio, and at the end of the day this remained my favorite of all the wines sampled.    Nice nose with light notes of cherry blossoms.  In the mouth, the wine is juicy rather than jammy with bright notes of cherry.  The finish has a very light pepper which balances the fruitiness, yielding a very nice wine.   Looking forward to opening the bottle I brought home.

Cabernet Franc
I finished out the afternoon with samples of two grapes I had come to love during my time exploring Connecticut Wineries.     Seven Lakes’ Cab Franc was surprisingly earthy – surprising to me who had grown so accustomed to the very fruit-forward cherry I found in Connecticut Cab Francs.   Full-bodied with lovely notes of grass and well-balanced tannins and a smooth finish.

Dizzy Daisy
Marechal Foch
Dizzy Daisy’s Marechal Foch, like the Cab Franc which I sampled shortly afterward, came as a surprise – in this case a shock… it was sweet!    I had my first encounter with Marechal Foch almost seven years ago when I first started traveling the CT Wine Trail.   Finding the grape to come across as very young and green, it took me quite a few samplings before I came to appreciate it, and even longer before I became a fan.   Like so many other CT reds it was very fruit forward, but it was always a dry wine.    As a semi-sweet wine, the fruit notes were much stronger and also smoother than in other Marechal Foch’s I’ve tried.  The additional sugars balanced out the “greenness” I often detected, and as a result I suspect Dizzy Daisy’s is more approachable to a majority of wine drinkers.   But as my preference leans towards dry wines, I found this to be less interesting.

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It’s hard to glean a lot about wines and winemakers from 1 oz samples, especially when you are sampling across a range of wineries.   With people lined up behind you, there’s not much time to chat.  But as a small introduction to the wines of my new home state it was a great afternoon.

Marguerite Barrett
Contributing Writer

Cherry Creek Winery @ The Old Schoolhouse – Brooklyn, MI

After seven years in New England, I relocated to southeast Michigan in December 2014.   Despite having been born and raised in Detroit (proud graduate of Cass Tech High School!), Michigan hasn’t been home for more years than I am willing to admit to.

Relocating in winter while also working 100% from home is not conducive to exploration – my first several months’ experiences were limited to weekly grocery store runs, babysitting for my sister, and an occasional weekend movie with cousins.

So with a few days vacation in late May I decided it was time to learn my new home state of Michigan the way I learned my last – one winery at a time.   With a full tank of gas and a randomly chosen winery on Michigan’s Pioneer Wine Trail, I headed out for what turned out to be an auspicious start to my latest Win(e)ding Roads adventures.

Cherry Creek Winery @ the Old Schoolhouse, Brooklyn, MI

Cherry Creek Winery @ the Old Schoolhouse, Brooklyn, MI

Housed in a beautifully restored 1870s schoolhouse in the heart of the Irish Hills, only a few short miles from the Michigan International Speedway, Cherry Creek Winery and Vineyards is a great find – neither the winery nor the wines disappoint.

Founded more than 15 years ago by Denise and John Burtkas, Cherry Creek Winery has two locations, the original in Albion, MI and the Old Schoolhouse, which opened about 10 years ago.   All wines are 100% Michigan grapes sourced from the Burtkas’s vineyards in southeast Michigan and through partnerships with vineyards along the Lake Michigan coastline.

With a menu that includes reds, whites, rosés and a fruit wine (Michigan Cherry, of course),    picking only five for this first tasting was the hard part…

Wood Duck White (Dry Riesling)
I’ve found myself more interested in Rieslings recently, particularly as I’m finding more local wineries making a dry Riesling, instead of the often too sweet versions that seemed to be everywhere only a few short years ago.

The Wood Duck White is a really nice wine.   Light, crisp, with just a hint of grapefruit on the finish, I found it soft in the mouth and very drinkable.  The fruit and acid are nicely balanced, and the wine has a nice full body which gives it structure.   A great wine for a lazy summer afternoon.

It was one of the bottles I brought home with me, and we uncorked it last night pairing it with grilled Lake Superior whitefish and fresh Michigan corn.   The wine complimented the fish beautifully, and the corn’s sweetness brought out some of the wine’s lightly floral notes.

Gewürztraminer
I loved the nose on this wine – notes of citrus, honeysuckle (perhaps?  I am not as good differentiating florals as I should be), the nose evoked light spring breezes.   In the mouth, the wine was sharp, but not tart, with citrus notes that hit the edges of my tongue.   The wine also evolved in the mouth, starting out smooth and somewhat quiet in the front of the mouth only to open up on the finish.

Tasting Room bar was made from reclaimed wood from the original structure. Jenna, my host for the afternoon, is an enthusiastic ambassador for the winery.

Merlot
Moving on to the Reds, I started with the Merlot, which came highly recommended by my tasting room host, Jenna, as one of her personal favorites.   The nose was fruity, predominately cherry, very reminiscent of the red wines I found in Connecticut (in fact, I once participated in a blind tasting of Merlots at McLaughlin Vineyards in Connecticut and was the only person to correctly identify the McLaughlin Merlot, which I did solely from the nose).

In the mouth, the wine is more subtle than I expected – I think the nose misled me, and I expected a more fruit-forward wine such as the ones I had been drinking in Connecticut.    I found this wine to be more herbaceous than fruity, medium-bodied with mineral notes and an interesting slight chalky finish.

Montage
A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Chancellor Noir, this was my favorite of the afternoon.    Deeper nose than the Merlot but with similar notes of cherry, the wine is smooth and rich.   In the mouth, the wine has notes of stone fruits but not so strong that the wine becomes “jammy.”   Brought a bottle of this home as well, and am looking forward to opening it later this summer, perhaps paired with grilled steaks or lamb chops.

Frontenac
100% estate grown at the Old Schoolhouse location, the Frontenac was the most interesting wine of my visit.    Served chilled, the wine had strong notes of cranberry – which I admit, I don’t come across often.   Fruit forward with a strong but smooth finish.   The wine wasn’t available for sale the day I was there, but it’s definitely worth a return visit later in the year for another taste.

In addition to the wines, Cherry Creek also has a small gift shop featuring locally made sauces, jams and jellies and a Michigan cherry salsa which is highly addictive!    The winery hosts local musicians from 5-8pm Saturdays through mid-September and will be opening a cafe sometime this summer.   The Burtkas have also recently launched the Grand River Brewery, in Jackson, Michigan featuring local craft beers, handcrafted spirits, and Cherry Creek wines.

Marguerite Barrett
Contributing Writer

Virginia, You Really Rolled Out The Red Carpet – WBC’11

Marguerite Barrett
Contributing Writer

The 2011 Wine Bloggers Conference exceeded my expectations.  Being a conference newcomer, I can’t say that my expectations were all that well-formed, but I overheard many a conference veteran also commenting on how impressed they were with this year’s conference.

Having now arrived home, shaken the dust from my feet and begun the process of trying to get the red wine stains out of my shirts, I thought it worth taking a moment to reflect on what I took away from the conference.

First and foremost, Virginia’s wine culture is alive and thriving and producing some very nice wine.

Second, both the Commonwealth of Virginia and the City of Charlottesville know how to welcome people in style – from the welcome signs in many shop windows in downtown Charlottesville to the warm welcome and graciousness of the winemakers and wineries, throughout the entire weekend it was clear that both Charlottesville and Virginia were really glad to host the conference.    There was even a video-taped message from the governor shown at Saturday night’s dinner.   Now, I’ve been to many conferences over the years, including ASTD’s National Conference which has several thousand participants – talk about a quick-hit tourism boom to the local economy when they show up!   And yet this is the first conference where politicians and leaders of the tourism boards as well as local industry representatives showed up.   Needless to say, I was impressed.

WBC'11 Wine Reception at Monticello

The overall highlight of the conference for me was the connection to the local community and the local wines.   Friday’s dinner and wine reception at Monticello was great fun – good food, a chance to sample wines from 32 Virigina wineries (although I didn’t even come close…) and the opportunity to tour the house and grounds of Virginia’s, and America’s, patron saint of wine, Thomas Jefferson.   Between the history and the wine I was in heaven.

The focus on Virignia wines continued into Saturday with trips to several local wineries.  We were told to get on a bus – any bus – and we wouldn’t find out where we were going until after the bus left the hotel.    As much as Gretchen and I wanted to spend the day together, we decided to split up so between us we could cover twice as many wineries.   My bus stayed fairly close to Charlottesville in Southeastern Albermarle County, visiting the Virgina WineWorks (Michael Shaps’s winery), First Colony Winery, and finished with a fairly leisurely lunch at Blenheim Winery, owned by Dave Matthews.   No, Dave wasn’t there that day, but we did get a chance to meet Blenheim’s winemaker Kirsty Harmon as well as being treated to a surprise visit from and chance to chat with Gabriele Rausse, one of Virginia’s premier winemakers.   But more to come on the wineries and the wines in upcoming posts.

Monticello, Virginia

My weekend ended with Saturday evening’s dinner, a pairing of local food and wine, as I was scheduled to leave first thing Sunday morning.  Having the chance to sit down, enjoy the wine in a slightly more leisurely fashion and paired with food made for a truly satisfying experience.   And having a number of Virignia winemakers join us at the dinner to chat about their wines and Virginia wines in general was an added bonus.

My favorites of the dinner included the Afton Mountain Vineyards 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon which I found fruity, smooth and lush, and the Michael Shaps 2007 Meritage, a lovely, well structured red wine, both of which paired very well with the rib-eyes and grilled vegetables served as the main course; Horton Vineyard’s Sparkling Viognier, whose light citrus notes and effervescence were a lovely complement to the Duck Paté which started the meal, and the Gray Ghost Vineyards 2010 Adieu, a late harvest Vidal Blanc that was mellow, lush and not overly sweet in the mouth.

WBC’12 and ’13

As I hit the road Sunday morning for the drive back to Connecticut, the Twitter feed was already buzzing with the news that WBC’12 would be held in Oregon and WBC’13 in Vancouver (!).   Both great wine regions with lots to offer – and I’m confident they’ll both be great conferences.

But as the conference organizers start thinking beyond 2013, I hope our experience in Virginia will encourage them to look east again.  And to help with the planning, I offer the following suggestions for potential sites for WBC’14 and beyond…

  • North Carolina – gorgeous countryside, a strong up and coming wine region, and as the centerpiece, the Biltmore Estate, which like Monticello is not only a great local landmark for an outdoor wine reception/dinner, but also boasts their own vineyard and produces some rather interesting wines themselves.
  • New York – in some ways this is the easy one.  With several great wine regions to choose from, Finger Lakes, Long Island or the Hudson River Valley, how could you go wrong with New York?  And with three-time Wine Blog Award winner Lenn Thompson and the team of the New York Cork Report on hand, I’m sure they could provide us with some great suggestions for winery visits and featured wines.
  • The Niagara Region in Ontario – personally this is one of my favorite wine regions in the Northeast.
  • And last, and perhaps more of a stretch than the others, may I also suggest Southeastern New England?   With Newport as the center, it could be a very interesting conference spanning the wines of three states, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts.   Newport is a great town and summer playground and much easier to navigate than Cape Cod.   There are three wineries in the vicinity of Newport and the wineries of southeastern Connecticut and southeastern Massachusetts are only an hour away.   Newport is also home to Nancy Knowles Parker, founder and editor of the New England Wine Gazette.   A little local expertise can always come in handy…

So I throw these out as potential suggestions for the future, and in the meantime look forward to whatever the conference organizers have in store for WBC’12.

And Virginia, your southern hospitality has charmed this Yankee girl; I’ll be back … and soon.

WBC’11 – Drinking Local

Marguerite Barrett
Contributing Writer

First, let me say – great job so far to the conference organizers.  The first day of WBC’11 went off without a hitch, the sessions were all good, discussion was lively and interesting, and, despite the heat, dinner and the Virginia wine tasting at Monticello was tremendous.

Not surprisingly the breakout session that really drew me was the Drink Local panel featuring Lenn Thompson of the New York Cork Report and, we learned yesterday, a new board member of DrinkLocalWine.com; Rémy Charest from Quebec, who blogs at The Wine Case, and Frank Martin, wine writer for The Washington Post and founder of DrinkLocalWine.com.

The panel quickly turned into a group discussion with the full room with two topics generating the most discussion, the price of local wines, which to many consumers often feel quite expensive being in the $15-$30 range, and the locapour/locavore issue, in particular why more chefs and restaurants who say they are committed to use of local ingredients don’t also include local wines in their restaurants.

The thoughts and ideas were varied.  The panelists pointed out that too often chefs don’t go out to the wineries to source local wines, and the winemakers don’t visit the restaurants to try to place their wines.    It was also noted that many local wineries don’t produce enough volume to distribute widely in restaurants and that often in smaller markets you’ll find local restaurants serving local wines because the restaurant and the winery are both part of the same community.

Lenn Thompson pointed out that people who enjoy local wines need to be more vocal about asking for local wines when they are in restaurants.   I agree.

However, are there enough of us who truly embrace the Locapour philosophy to make a difference?   How many bloggers attending this year’s conference have featured local wines in their blog this year?   Probably more than I anticipate, but far less than should.

Should we be spending more time and energy building the Locapour movement among our neighbors – and let the restaurants follow?  Having a local wine on the menu is great, but not if I’m one of only a few people who might select it each year.

When I moved to Connecticut about 4 1/2 years ago and started down this journey of exploring my new home one winery at a time, I was absolutely amazed at how many of my colleagues at work, who had lived their entire lives in Connecticut, had no idea that Connecticut had any wineries, no less a very vibrant and thriving local wine community.  Or, if they were aware of Connecticut wine, they either thought it was all crap, or all fruit wine, or it was just Ballet of Angels, the one wine that has a fairly wide distribution across Connecticut.  They had no clue that there were over 30 wineries in all areas of the state, that several of them were no more than 30-45 minutes away, and all of them were well within a 2-hour drive from their homes.

Some of my more open-minded, adventurous friends soon joined me on the wine trail and began to experience for themselves the range of wines available throughout the state.   They began to expand their palates, learning they liked a wider range of wines and grapes than they had believed, and while not all the wines were great, they found some new favorite wines right in their own backyards.

Best of all, they enjoyed the experience and the wines so much that they began planning their own trips with husbands, friends, and relatives, and now when we get together, people are including as part of their regular conversations new wineries they’ve visited, trading notes on the new wines they’ve discovered, and generally encouraging others to hit the trail.

This was the piece of the puzzle that I felt we missed at the Drinking Local Wine panel yesterday.   With all the talk of encouraging local wines into restaurants, of confronting the often long-standing mis-impressions of local wines as being bad, of encouraging state tourism boards to better promote their local wine culture, and of better marketing local wine regions to those outside the region, I didn’t hear much discussion on how we foster a local Locapour community.

I would argue that people like Gretchen or me – or indeed, many of the people attending yesterday’s panel – are the vanguard not the target audience for Locapour efforts.  Just speaking for myself, I’m already very committed to the Locapour philosophy and at any given time you’ll find 50-75% of the wines in my house are from local vineyards that I have personally visited.   I am curious about other regions and am regularly searching both the internet and the library for information about different wine regions, local wineries, reviews of local wines, blogs, etc.   And whenever and wherever I travel, I try to find time to include a visit to at least one local winery on the agenda.   And yes, I go into wine shops and restaurants and ask if they offer local wines.

But I also have almost daily conversations with neighbors and colleagues who believe the only good wines come from the West Coast, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and South America.    Pointing out that even 10-12 years ago people were not embracing wines from South Africa they way they do today, or unless you were a serious wine drinker had never heard of Malbec or Tempranillo and now even the most basic restaurant wine list carries them, usually gets me a “but that’s different” response.

Really?  How is that different?  Why, if the wine comes from an emerging wine region overseas is that “different?”  Why if you’d never heard of Malbec or Tempranillo grapes before everyone seemed to be talking about them is that any different than trying a St. Croix or Marechal Foch from your local winery?

Is the real answer, my cynical side asks, because “everyone was talking about” the Malbecs and Tempranillos and few, if any, are talking about local wines?  Is it because we are snobs – even if we won’t admit it – pooh-poohing anything local because it’s familiar, and the familiar often doesn’t have the same caché as a far-off quasi-exotic location?

And is it because we are lemmings, again however much we won’t admit it, and if the wine press, the wine bloggers, and the wine “buzz” isn’t talking about wines from the “Other 46” it must be because they aren’t worth talking about?

And if that is the answer, then should we focus more time and energy on building a wine region’s buzz from within?  How do we get our neighbors, colleagues, families out on the wine trails?  How do we engage more of the bloggers?  How do we publicize the local wine community to the local community?  And then how do we get the mainstream wine community to notice?

I don’t have all the answers, but I am certainly interested in the discussion.

 

 

WBC’11 Speed Blogging – Tabarrini Winery

Marguerite Barrett

2008 Adarmando

100% Trebbiano Spoletino, from 70 year old vines.

Region: Umbria

Aged in stainless steel; no oaking

Nose: very interesting; there’s a depth to the nose without a single really strong discernible note – I picked up a bit of green pepper; Gretchen picked up honey.  The interesting thing is it changes with each breath.

Palate: Crisp, dry, with notes of grass and a hint of acidity on the finish.   Very interesting wine.

Price point: $17.00 – $22.00

Distribution across the United States; lowest price is on tabarrini.us

 

WBC’11 Speed Blogging – Barboursville Vineyards

Marguerite Barrett

2009 Virginia Vioginier Reserve

An Italian winery that has moved into Virginia.

Nose is lightly fruity with notes of melon.

Palate has more citrus with notes of pineapple and a touch of grapefruit.  Crisp and refreshing, the wine is very well balanced with a clean mouth feel, and a slight creaminess.

Price point is $20 – $22.

Currently distributed in mid-Atlantic and starting to distribute more widely.

WBC’11 Speed Blogging – Boxwood Estate Winery

Marguerite Barrett

2010 Boxwood Rose

Family owned winery – prior to launching the vineyard, the family owned the Washington Redskins.  Built a winery in Middleburg Virginia in 2005.

Area: northern Virgina – 50 miles west of Washington DC, and in between the Bull Run and Blue Ridge Mountains.

Grapes: Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot; winemaking method is a bordeaux style with 24-hour skin contact; 30% of the juice is bled from the reds and that’s how they make their roses.

Vineyard is small, 17 acres, sustainably farmed vineyard – dry-farmed (no irrigation); only grow the Bordeaux red varietals: Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Malbec.   Produce two reds and two roses.

Nose is very subtle – no strong notes, but slight grassiness.

Palate: dry, crisp with light floral/fruity notes – hint of berries, and a touch of citrus on the finish.

 

WBC’11 Speed Blogging – Chateau Morrisette

Marguerite Barrett

2010 Dry Rose

Region: Virginia Commonwealth

Produce 80,000 cases of wine.    This is their latest release.

Grape: 100% Chambourcin

Nose: Slightly sweet and floral with notes of strawberry.

Palate: Crisp, dry with light notes of strawberry and a grassy earthiness on the finish.   Drier than I generally anticipate from a rose.

 

WBC’11 Speed Blogging – Llano Estacado Winery

Marguerite Barrett

Viviana 2009

Region: Texas – yes there is wine in Texas!

Four varietals: 30% Gewurtztraminer, 30% Riesling, 10% Viognier and 30% Muscat Canelli – all grown locally in Texas.

Nose: lovely nose with lush notes of honeysuckle.

Palate: In the mouth the wine is a bit of a surprise; I expected something slightly sweeter because of the nose, but it has stronger citrus notes balanced by notes of melon and tropical fruits – I caught a hint of pineapple.   The wine has a really nice acid finish.   Crisp and refreshing.

Retail price is $22.95

Distribute only in Texas, but you can order it through the winery website.

WBC’11 Speed Blogging – Afton Mountain Vineyards

Marguerite Barrett

2008 Tete Cuvee – a Brut sparkling wine.  Made in the traditional method and aged for two years.

50/50 Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, all estate grown; vines were planted in the 1970s and Afton Mountain is one Virginia’s oldest wineries.

Picked the fruit a bit earlier than normally, at about 19 bricks to make sure it has acidity and the grapes aren’t too sweet.

Price point – $30.00; distributed in Virginia, DC and southern Maryland

Nose is very soft and slightly floral.

Palate is crisp and lightly sweet with soft lemon notes.  Refreshing and those who like Brut-style wines should really like this.

Other varietals are Gewurtztraminer and 100% Estate Cabernet Sauvignon – these are among their most popular wines.