Michigan Wine: The Good, The Bad and the Ugly

As promised, here are some tasting notes taken over the past couple weeks on some Michigan wines.  Looking back on my posts and comments, I realize that my own preferences for dry wines are likely to influence my ratings.  No apologies, but if you like residual sugar, increase the numbers slightly. A brief word on tasting notes:  there's no perfect rating system or format for notes, but I like to include
  • basic info about maker, varietal (or blend), vintage and price
  • appearance, including color and viscosity
  • initial aroma
  • weight and flavor perceptions
  • aftertaste, overall impressions, and food pairing thoughts
If you have never written down tasting notes on the wines you drink, please start!  This is probably the best way to gain a better understanding of your own preferences, and also get a solid understanding of value for price. I use an arbitrary 11 point system to honor Spinal Tap.  Let's go! The Good Peninsula Cellars is a 150-year-old farm that focused on apples and cherries until 20 years ago, when the growing wine trade drew them in.  They recently re-booted the wine operation in 2007.

Peninsula Cellars, Old Mission Peninsula AVA

Peninsula Cellars 2007 Pinot Grigio, 13% Alcohol (about $15) Sunlight white/gold in the glass, with heavy legs. Lemon, lime, honeysuckle on the nose, with notes of orange blossom.  A good example of the varietal, with a nice balance.  Unlike most Michigan Pinot Gris, this is a touch more Grigio than Gris.  Good news for fans of Italian styles. Medium Body, with flavors of nectarines, apricots, and a slight smoke on the finish. Rating 7 of 11 A solid Summer white at a competitive price. The Bad Established in 1968 along the Lake Michigan Shore AVA, Tabor Hill has a storied tradition, including Gerald Ford's stocking of the White House with their white wines.  To be fair, the only Tabor Hill wines available to me locally are their inexpensive table wines.  They do have better offerings, and I plan to try them. Tabor Hill Red Arrow Red NV, Cabernet Franc/Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot, 12% Alcohol (About $10)

Tabor Hill Red Arrow Red

A light ruby pink in the glass with nice legs. A light floral nose, just a bit tight, with lilies and violets characteristic of Cab Sauvignon Tart red cherries and cranberries on the tongue, and it seems to be lightly oaked, which may contribute to the tight aroma.  Rather unremarkable. There is a spicy but almost medicinal finish, not very pleasant.  Overall the wine seems young and unrefined. Rating 4 of 11. The Ugly I hate to do this, but there are very few occasions I have purchased a wine and disposed of it.  This was one of those occasions.

Lake Effect "Wines"

Lake Effect is a newer winery based out of Muskegon, MI.  The owner is a hobbyist fond of expanding the market for wines made of other fruits and berries.  I dove in with an open mind... Lake Effect Winery Aronia Blue Wine NV, Blueberry with Chokeberry, 10% Alcohol (about $15) A cloudy medium violet red in the glass, syrupy. Crude/homemade odors of beeswax and bile, with bad yeasts and rotted cherries. On the tongue some grape jelly, as well as rye bread. Heavy tannins, and a milky texture.  This wine was awful. I even tried to save it with toasted cheese, the miracle food for improving wine.  It still sucked. Rating 0 of 11. Lake Effect makes a "Black and Blue" composed of Blueberries and Black Currants, which was only marginally better, rating 1 of 11.  Both of them ended back in the lake via the drain. Next up?  Better wines from Fenn Valley, Bel Lago, and Left Foot Charley.  And maybe another Cabernet Franc taste-off.

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