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

Willamette Valley AVA

It’s Willamette Dammit! And rightfully so, as this appellation is the big daddy of Oregon winemaking. (also, it is pronounced Ora-gun not Or-e-gone. These folks are making you delicious wine. Be respectful of their ways).  Stretching 150 miles north to south and 60 miles wide in some places, this is the home of Pinot.  The climate is perfect for it.  Located in the same latitudes as the vineyards of Alsace and Burgundy with warm dry summers and a cool rainy season all that this viticultural area needed for success was the perfect soil conditions.  And what do you know?  They got them.  Oregon’s Jory soils are located in the foothills of the region are are composed of igneous rocks that were swept through the region thousands of years ago at the time of the Missoula Floods.  The soil is thick, well drained and full of minerally deposits that grapes just love.

While there is a long history of agriculture in the region, viticulture didn’t really take off until the mid to late 1960s  when UC Davis alum Charles Coury, Dick Erath and David Lett found their way up north of California.  From there the industry has grown by leaps and bounds with around 200 wineries and an additionally six new sub-appellations in existence.  And while Pinot Noir is King, it isn’t the only game in town, additionally grown are:

  • Auxerrois
  • Cabernet Franc
  • Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Cascade
  • Chardonnay
  • Dolcetto
  • Gamay
  • Gewürztraminer
  • Malbec
  • Marechal Foch
  • Melon
  • Merlot
  • Muller Thurgau
  • Muscat Canelli
  • Muscat Ottonel
  • Nebbiolo
  • Pinot Blanc
  • Pinot Gris
  • Pinot Noir
  • Riesling
  • Sauvignon Blanc
  • Syrah
  • Tocai Fruiulano
  • Viognier

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

Walla Walla AVA

A town so nice, they named it twice!

Well, not so much the town in this scenario as the entire appellation. This seems only fair as the this AVA is located in two separate states – Oregon and Washington. The justifications for the establishment of the viticultural area are historic, geologic, geographic and climatic.

Walla Walla translates at “rapid stream” or “many waters” in the Sahaptin language that is shared by the Walla Walla, Umatilla, Yakama, Nez Perce and Tenino peoples. Western settlers moved into the area beginning in the 1830s when Marcus and Narcissa Whitman came as missionaries to the Walla Walla people but were murdered by the Cayuse following outbreaks of measles that the indians believed were caused by the whites (they were, but they didn’t do it on purpose as no one was aware of germ theory quite yet).  Viticulture began informally with French fur trappers in the 1840s in an area previously known as Frenchtown, now called Lowden.

The geologic basis of the creation of the appellation is based in part  on the similarity of the river plain of assorted wind blown loess soils well drained by smaller streams that cut through the area.  Being located  between the Cascades and the Blue Mountains along the Washington, Oregon and Idaho border means that the area is blocked from the moderating temperatures nearer the Pacific but also in a rain shadow as well.  This means that the climate is more intense with warmer days with cool evenings and semi-arid which requires irrigation for cultivation.

Modern viticulture (i.e. post-(the dreaded) Prohibition) began with Leonetti Cellars in the 1970s with Woodward Canyon Cellars and L’Ecole 41 coming along in the 1980s .  The Walla Walla AVA was established in 1984 and amended to extend the territory in 2001.  Varietals produced in the area include:

  • Barbera
  • Cabernet Franc
  • Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Carmenere
  • Chardonnay
  • Cinsault
  • Counoise
  • Dolcetto
  • Gewürztraminer
  • Grenache
  • Malbec
  • Marsanne
  • Merlot
  • Mourvedre
  • Nebbiolo
  • Petit Verdot
  • Pinot Gris
  • Pinot Noir
  • Riesling
  • Rousanne
  • Sangiovese
  • Semillon
  • Sauvignon Blanc
  • Syrah
  • Tempranillo
  • Viognier
Oh, and I have actually been to this viticultural area!  The Wine Bloggers’ Conference in 2010 was in Walla Walla.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

Umpqua Valley AVA

One man’s basin is another man’s valley.

The Umpqua is formed by three mountain ranges:  The Cascades, the Coastal Range and he Klamath, but often the area is often known as the 100 valleys of the Umpquas.  The Umpqua River runs through the valley but is no way responsible for the formation of this appellation.  The soils are a diverse mixture of igneous, metamorphic and sedimentary rocks with alluvial and clays dominating the valley floor and clays.  In fact, the contains at least 150 separate soil types.  The climate of the region is also varied with the northern areas being cool and  moist, the southern being warm and dry and the central area transitional.

Viticulture has been active since the 1880s when German settlers left California and headed north.  In the modern era winemaking was established in the early 1960s and has grown to at least 60 vineyards and 12 wineries.  The appellation also distinguishes itself by being the first place in the U.S. growing Grüner Veltliner.  Other varietals being produced include:

  • Albariño
  • Baco Noir
  • Barbera
  • Cabernet Franc
  • Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Chardonnay
  • Chenin Blanc
  • Dolcetto
  • Gewürztraminers
  • Grenache
  • Grüner Veltliner
  • Kadarka
  • Malbec
  • Marechal Foch
  • Merlot
  • Muller Thurgau
  • Muscat Canelli
  • Petite Sirah
  • Pinot gris
  • Pinot noir
  • Pinotage
  • Riesling
  • Roussane
  • Sangiovese
  • Semillon
  • Sauvigon Blanc
  • Syrah
  • Tannat
  • Tempranillo
  • Valdiguie
  • Vermentino
  • Viognier
  • Zinfandel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

Southern Oregon AVA

While over time the focus has been on smaller and smaller wine regions, in 2004 the TTB went completely the other way, creating a super-AVA in the form of the Southern Oregon AVA. This region consists of the Umpqua, Rogue and Applegate Valleys and Red Hill Douglas County, Oregon AVAs as well as additional territory linking the regions together. The idea for the super-sized AVA was that of H. Earl Jones of Abacela and his son, associate professor of geography, Gregory V. Jones of Southern Oregon University. (editor’s note: See? I am not the only person with a degree in geography!) They evidence cited to justify the designation includes historical, cultural, climatic, geologic and geographical justifications for the creation of the viticultural area.

Historically, the region has been a wine producing area since the 1850s with modern viticulture restarting in the 1950s. From a cultural perspective, they cite the “physical and cultural” divisions of the state of which Southern Oregon is an example. The region is located south of Eugene to the California border largely within the Umpqua, Rogue, Applegate, Illinois and Bear Creek Valleys. The petition indicates that the soils in the area, while varied are older than those in the Willamette to the north or the coastal zones to the west and contain fewer silts from ancient oceans and lakes. The temperatures in the area are on average the warmest in the state which allows for the cultivation of warmer climate grapes as well as allowing for select microclimates that are perfect for colder acclimated varietals. Additionally, the elevations in the region are higher than the surrounds areas and it receives less rainfall.

The appellations is home to over fifty (50) wineries and produces wines from varietals including:

  • Albarino
  • Bastardo
  • Cabernet Franc
  • Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Chardonnay
  • Dolcetto
  • Gewurztraminer
  • Grenache
  • Malbec
  • Merlot
  • Muscat Canelli
  • Petit Verdot
  • Petite Sirah
  • Pinot Blanc
  • Pinot gris
  • Pinot Noir
  • Riesling
  • Sangiovese
  • Sauvignon Blanc
  • Semillon
  • Syrah
  • Tempranillo
  • Viognier
  • Zinfandel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

How To Drink Local Wine

My favorite way to discover local wine is through travel. As I drive to conferences or visiting relative, I like to stop by the local winery and taste what they are producing.  I love talking to the wine makers and learning about their story.  Their passion for wine is always infectious.  Currently, I have a problem. Getting away has increasingly become difficult due to family responsibilities (i.e., reining in teens)

My solution? Well the first option is to comb my local wine shops (which may in fact be local grocery stores). Grocery stores? Well, being a foodie type, it makes for easier menu planning.  I have found myself doing this on the road as well.  In part, because I eat better on the road when I am picking fruit and veg instead of eating fast food, but also because in many states, grocery stores have wine (Yes, I know you don’t New York State – get over yourselves on that matter).

I have picked up great wines in Virginia, Indiana Illinois and Nebraska at grocers or their closely associated liquor stores.

Some standouts? Bloom, a small chain that I found while visiting my 104 year old grandmother and other relatives in Virginia Beach. They have a nice wine section that has got one of the nicest selections of local wines that I have ever seen.

My nationwide? Whole Foods is a great choice. With its dedication to fresh and local ingredients, it makes sense that they would feature local wine. Given their national reach? Local wines extend to regional options extending my non-travelling reach. Lately, I have found Firelands Gewurztraminer from Isle St. George, near Sandusky, OH and from Illinois, Prairie State Winery, Lynfred and Glunz Family all in my local WF.

Surprisingly, in Chicago, I have found that smaller, ethnic groceries are full of local options as well. Maybe this is because they are being supplied by alternative distributors. I am not going to argue the point so long as I can find new and original options. In my neighborhood, I am recommending Foremost liquors which vary from neighborhood to neighborhood as to their options.

I have also found increasing local options at my neighborhood Jewel where the wines of Indiana’s Oliver Winery  and Michigan’s Tabor Hill have found themselves on the shelves.

These are very pleasant surprise for a local wine lover.

My new way to get local wine? If I can’t get to the wine? I am having it brought to me.

While not all smaller wineries can and do ship, we should take advantage of those that do. How to chose?  I am using results for wine competitions.  An imperfect system to be sure, but one that is making it easier for a lover of local wine to extend their selections.

What are your favorite regional American wines?  Let us know and maybe I will be checking them out soon!

 

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor
October 10, 2011

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!

Tip O’Neill Would Enjoy This!

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

I love local wine. But that doesn’t mean that I won’t drink wine that is made more than 100 miles away from my home. Why? Well at the moment there are only 37 wineries within that boundary and I don’t love all of them (Though I do love several that I have encountered so far). Plus, I love to explore and tasting new wine and food is like taking a little vacation from your everyday life. I call this seeming paradox the Tip O’Neill Corollary. Why? Well, Tip O’Neil once famously remarked that all politics is local. And the fact of the matter is, that all wine is too. It is local to someone. So I go ahead an enjoy those wines too and sometimes I even write about them.

This last week I tried a Crémant d’Alsace , a sparkling wine from Alsace (home of my Miller ancestors). I had tried still wines from the same House, Gustave Lorentz and had always liked them. So I was really looking forward to tasting this sparkler.

And I wasn’t disappointed. The wine was wonderful with medium sized bubbles and a dry but fruity taste. The varietals used to produce this bottle were Chardonnay 60%, Pinot Blanc 20% and Pinot Noir 20%. The winemakers feel that this provides fruity liveliness (from the Chardonnay), freshness and elegance from the Pinot Blanc and depth and persistance from the Pinot Noir.

In addition to the Crémant, the Maison Lorentz also produces still wines from traditional Alsatian variatels, including several Grand Cru Rieslings, Gewurztraminer and Pinot Gris, several late harvest wines and Eaux-de-Vie, liqueurs and an Alsatian Marc which is a type of grappa made from the skins of Gewurztraminer grapes.

The Crémant and still wines (Gewurztraminer, Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris) are available at my favorite wine shop, Good Grapes. The Crémant is about $20.

Chillin’ at Lake Chelan

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

Wine has been produced near Lake Chelan since 1891 by Italian immigrants and that 154 acres were planted as of 1949 only 260 acres are currently under cultivation. There are fifteen wineries in the AVA (with one on the way). Grape varietals grown in the region include Syrah, Merlot, Malbec, Riesling, Pinot Gris, Gewürtztraminer, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

The area is unique in the Columbia Valley due to the micro-climate created by the lake which increases the amount of time that fruit stays on the vine. This allows the additional development of complexity building phenols while keeping the sugars and acids in balance. Additionally glaciers on ice-age Lake Chelan left the appellation with a coarse, sandy soil that is full of quartz and mica.

The Lake Chelan AVA is yet another subset of the Columbia Valley and was designated in April of 2009. . The AVA application for Lake Chelan was delayed for several years as Alcohol and Tabacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) froze all petitions due to a controversy related to the Calistoga designation. It was determined that any winery that included the name of the AVA or substantially similar to it must source 85% of its grapes from within the region. This required five wineries in the AVA with “Chelan” in their names to comply with the regulation.

Nothing is ever simple…

Lake Chelan AVA

I Hope There Are No Rattlesnakes In Those Hills

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

Located completely within the Columbia Valley AVA and within Benton and Yakima Counties, Rattlesnake Hills is a 16 mile long stretch of territory of basalt mountains. The AVA was created in 2006 but has been under cultivation since 1968 when the Morrison Vineyard was planted with Cabernet Sauvignon and Riesling for Chateau St. Michelle. Currently there are nearly 30 vineyards in the area some of which can be found here

Grape varietals grown in the hills include Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Gewürtztraminer, Malbec, Merlot, Muscat Canelli, Petite Sirah, Riesling, Semillion and Viognier.

The AVA is centered around Zillah, Washington. I am hoping given that I will be in Walla Walla which is relatively close by, that I will get to experience the hills for myself. I was especially relieved to learn that the name “rattlesnake” comes from the shape of the hills… and not for any reptilian invaders in the area. I am like Indiana Jones that way. I hate snakes.

Rattlesnake Hills AVA