Grüner & Blaufränkisch Road Trip
This week I was back in Michigan to do a little end of season maintenance projects on the vineyard. Basically a little fertilizing, trellis work and checking on the new plantings from this summer. After being fairly efficient getting my list of things done I realized that I actually had time to take a road trip to Traverse City for the day.
Not thinking I was going to have time this week to make it to T.C. I really didn’t have a plan. Knowing it was only going to be a day trip I decided that I should focus on some of the varieties that we are growing and see how the pro’s are doing with those.
I don’t think I could have picked a better day to make the drive. After I drove north of Manistee the fall colors were amazing and it made the drive alone worth the trip.
Left Foot Charley
First stop on the inaugural Grüner/Blaufränkisch Road Trip was Left Foot Charley for their recently released 2011 Blaufrankisch. After stopping at the Pleasanton Bakery for a late morning snack I think I was the first customer at Charley’s. Walking by the garage door to the winery I could see the press working its magic getting next year’s wine started.
I probably should have started with the lighter whites, but since I was here for the Blaufränkisch I started with a taste of that. The wine had a touch of blackberry along with a hint of spiciness. Note to self…we should probably pair this with some venison tenderloin.
Leaving I grabbed a bottle of the Blaufränkisch and I also a bottle of their dry Riesling. You can never have too many dry Rieslings lying around. LFC also has a nice dry Gewurztraminer that in hindsight I should have picked up as well.
Chateau Grand Traverse
This stop was the main reason for the trip up north. We have tried (and still have a couple of bottles left to see how it ages) some of the Laika – Grüner Veltliner from 2010 (It is also available at our local wine store only a couple of blocks from our house in Minneapolis). But since the 2011 bottling was released we hadn’t had a chance to sample it yet.
After arriving at the tasting room and perusing the list of available wines I spotted the Laika on the back page of the list. Unfortunately it was under the “Wine not available for tasting” section so I was a little miffed.
So I tried the always solid and under-appreciated dry Riesling, a Vin Gris (white wine made from Pinot Noir grapes), and the Pinot Noir. All very nice, but let’s face it, I was here for the Gruner so I was fairly distracted tasting the other wines.
After I finished up the tasting my pourer asked if I’d like to try anything else. Dejected I said, no I was really hoping to try the Grüner but it was not available for tasting. With a smirk he reached into the cooler and pulled out a bottle and poured me sample. My trip was saved. Definite white pepper smell along with a little citrus. I can probably drink Grüner Veltliner every day and be happy, and I can definitely drink CGT’s any day.
I decided to double down on my good luck and ask if Lot 49 was in the cooler and available for a sample. It was. I thought that it had really good balance with nice mineral and fruit flavors. The wine surprised me (not in a bad way) a little as I was actually expecting it to taste drier than it did. Another wine made in small quantities so get it while you can. It would also be interesting to see how it tastes in 5-10 years but I don’t think many bottles will be left around for that to happen.
After finishing up the tastings I grabbed few bottles and hit the road for my next stop.
I had never been to Good Harbor before but when I heard that they released their first vintage of Grüner Veltliner I knew I had to make it one of the stops on the trip.
Good Harbors version is definitely Grüner but a more delicate version than compared to CGT’s offering. It will be interesting to see how the wines develop as these vines get older.
I think you can only get it at the winery or a handful of restaurants and with only 277 cases made you should probably get some soon. I got mine and headed back towards Traverse City.
I saved the last stop for one of the “old” growers of Blaufränkisch in Michigan. I think they had first harvest in 2007 so those “old vines” are not really that old.
My luck sort of ran out when I got to Shady Lane. We’ve had their Blue Franc in the past and been a fan so I was looking forward to trying the latest bottling. Their tasting room is on the smaller side compared to some of the places in T.C. so I actually had to wait my turn to try samples. Who would have thought that a Wednesday in early October I would need to wait to taste wine?
After looking at the available tasting list it was hard to miss the “SOLD OUT” stamped all over the Blue Franc – Blaufränkisch. Hopes springs eternal so I asked the tasting staff if they were just not pouring it for tasting but still had bottles to sell. Nope, no such luck, it was all gone. So I tried some of the Franc ‘n’ Franc a blend of Blaufränkisch, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot. It wasn’t what I was looking for but it was tasty…I grabbed a bottle and was on the road.
It is exciting to see that more and more vineyards are planting both Grüner and Blaufränkisch. I truly believe that both are ideally suited for Michigan’s growing environment. Actually driving between Traverse City and Chateau Grand Traverse I saw several new vineyards that are clearly only 1-2 years old. I am hoping that some of those new vineyards are planted to Grüner Veltliner and Blaufränkisch.