Better Know An AVA – Lake Michigan Shore

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

Continuing my Michigan winery planning I move on to Lake Michigan Shore. Why? Well it contains the Fennville AVA and is the appellation listed on the bottles for the only winery in the Fennville AVA. And frankly, it is the Michigan appellation that is closest to home for me as it takes about 90 minutes (not counting traffic snarls) to enter into Michigan.

Why is this area significant? Well, unlike most northern wine regions, Michigan Shores produces a good number of vitis vinifera grapes, including Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Gewurztraminer, Lemberger, Malbec, Marsanne, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, Riesling, Roussanne, Syrah, and Viognier. The reason? Something we Midwesterners* call “Lake Effect”. The water in the Great Lakes (essentially small fresh water inland seas) moderate the temperatures and the precipitation on lands west of each lake. Temperatures never become as frigid as they would on the east coast of a lake as they do on the west coast. Anyone who has lived in Chicago and Buffalo or Detroit can tell you how they differ (and this blog has a couple of gals who have experienced the difference. Chicago is much colder). This gives the grapes a longer growing season than is experienced in say, Iowa and a couple of weeks makes a big difference. The soils are a relatively uniform throughout the region, consisting of glacial moraines.

In addition to being relative close to home, there are a good number of wineries in the AVA. How many? Well that depends on who you ask and what you count. Why who you ask? Well, the folks at the Lake Michigan Shore Wine Trail list count twelve wineries as members. Me? I count about seventeen. More is better right? Well, that leads to the what you count part, as several of the wineries have multiple tasting rooms. Tasting rooms are great in a pinch, but frankly I prefer going to the winery directly, at least if it is possible. Given the number of beachfront cottages, condos and other casual getaway places in the area, I would have been surprised if there weren’t tasting rooms trying to take advantage of the numbers of summer people.

I am planning to head out on Sunday (barring teen disasters) to visit a couple these wineries. If you have a favorite? Let me know… contact me at gretchen at vinoverve.com

Where should I visit? Email me!

Lists for Locapours – Browntrout

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

Ever go into restaurant and look over the menu and see the Chef proudly proclaim that they are sourcing their proteins and veg from local farms? I see it alot here in Chicago.

Then I take a look at the winelist and there is nothing, I mean NOTHING local on it. When I have asked, I asked I get answers that relate to the economics of distribution (which is complex and a pain to figure out) or I get comments about the quality of the local wines as discussed in the comments of this Huffington Post piece.

So, when I see a wine list that has anything local on it, I want to cheer them on.

Kevin, I and the girls stopped for brunch recently at such a place. Browntrout.

The restaurant bills itself as serving sustainable, locally farmed, and organic products whenever possible. For most restaurants this has meant a trip to the Chicago Green Market. Browntrout grows its own herbs in their rooftop garden as well as establishing relationships with local farmers. Local and artisanal beers are also on the list as is locally roasted coffee and house made gingerale and Gale Gand’s Root Beer. But it is the wine list that interested me most.

Tasty!Most of the options were labels that I have previously seen and know to be sustainably produced. Ironically, many wine makers use sustainable practices but shy away from using in their advertising so that the focus is on the quality of their wine, not the method of production. I was pleased to see a couple of options on the list from local vineyards, specifically, the Pinot Grigio and Blaufrankisch from the Circa Vineyards in Leelanau Michigan. I was doubly delighted by the Blaufrankisch as it is a varietal that is largely only see in Germany and Austria. Unfortunately, I was eating brunch, so I skipped red wine and enjoyed the Pinot Grigio instead. It was a nice crisp wine with a lot of flavor. Kevin and I are certainly looking forward to trying the red at another point as the food at Browntrout was wonderful. Even the ever world-weary, Celia couldn’t find anything bad to say. That is high praise indeed.No mean featBrowntrout puts its "Loca" cred to the test and wins!

So get out there and support your Locapour restaurants. They aren’t just talking the local, green talk; they are walking the walk too!

Browntrout
4111 N. Lincoln Ave.
Chicago, IL 60618
(773) 472-4111
Good food+Happy Teens+Good Wine=Happy Parents!