What a wonderful idea, a month devoted to the wines of Michigan, and no this is not my idea, but is listed on the “Wine Lover’s Calendar.” I was born in Michigan, so I am a Michigander or a Michiganian, all depending on the term that one prefers. I remember when I first discovered the joys of wine; I immediately became a self-appointed wine snob and have my thoughts have changed drastically. At first I only drank wines from Europe, now granted this was back in the late 1960’s and I had the good fortune to have had some of the best wines early in my wine drinking past-time. I mean to say that when I was young and naïve at best, to have been able to drink a Richebourg, a Chateau Latour and a Chateau Ausone in my teens; I thought I knew it all. I mean why would I even want to buy a California wine, when a lot of them were priced similar to the great wines of the Continent? Michigan was not even a consideration at the time, so yes I can say that I was a self-appointed “wine snob.”
Then somewhere at some unknown point in my life, I had a domestic wine that changed my thoughts and I started to enjoy the wines from the New World and yes, I even discovered Michigan. This was all new fertile territory for me and my eyes opened up to new vistas, as if Toto had pulled away the drapes. I started going to Michigan wine tasting dinners, I visited wineries in Michigan and I even attended some Wine festivals. I discovered that I enjoyed some wines from Michigan, not every wine, but that is true, about wines that I have had from around the world. Michigan is not the center of the wine industry in the United States and it seems that it is ignored by the big boys, but there are some hardy individuals that are doing their best to change that situation. While the Traverse City area seems to be the main area for the finest wines, grapes are grow all over the place. I remember once, my Bride and I were making a road trip to Chicago and we stopped at a famous/infamous fast food establishment to get a couple of milkshakes while driving. We stopped at this fast food emporium, and to be honest, most of them are “cookie-cutter” corporate images, but this one in Paw Paw, Michigan was different; it was celebrating the vineyards of the area and had a decidedly wine theme about it and it tickled us to no end. Paw Paw, Michigan is an area that grows more bulk type wines, but one of our favorite sparkling wines of the state gets some of their fruit for one of their wines from this area. Chateau Chantal up in the Traverse City area has probably one of the finest views and estates in the state and they make a bubbly called Celebrate that we first tried at the winery. I remember the first time we tried it; my Bride tasted it and said that it was too sweet, as she thought that all sparkling wines had to be “dry” and I told her to try another taste of it, which she did. I told her that this wine would become a favorite of hers and for her friends, and it proved to be true. In fact she became so thrilled with the wine that when we celebrated her Fiftieth birthday with a few hundred friends and family that was the wine we toasted her with at the restaurant.
While Michigan may not have the celebrity cachet that other areas have, there are some very dedicated people producing wine here. There are growers here that are using some of the great varietals that everyone knows, and then some are using hybrids that are “Cold Hardy” types as well, and to my taste, some have achieved remarkable success with both. I remember a road trip we took up North to try some wineries and restaurants with one of my Bride’s best girl friend and we ended up with so many cases of wine that it took me almost an hour to get the trunk of our car packed (and one of the main features that we shop for in a vehicle is the size of the trunk, because of the many times when she has to travel with display booth equipment for her job), because I had to get all of our luggage and the wine packed and I used every square inch of the trunk and it was a marvel to see. In fact my Bride and her friend on another trip without me did some wine tastings at the wineries and vineyards and she even brought me a bottle autographed by as close to a wine making celebrity here in Michigan that we have. They did a wine tasting at Ciccone Vineyard and Winery, while the winery may not be famous; the winemaker has a famous daughter you may have heard of by the name of Madonna. I shall visit this theme perhaps a couple of more times this month, because it is a month long celebration of wines from the state.