As part of our celebration of Michigan Wine Month, Absolute Michigan will be featuring excerpts on each of Michigan’s five wine trails (and one taking you beyond the trails) from the Michigan Notable Book award-winning From the Vine: Exploring Michigan Wineries by Sharon Kegerreis and Lorri Hathaway.
Known for its lake vistas and pure beauty, Leelanau Peninsula is home to a growing number of wineries. Being ‘up north’, Leelanau is a cool climate grape growing region, so variety and clone selection has been critical â€“ both to ensure ripe flavors in the fruit and vine survival over the cold winters. The omnipresent Lake Michigan is the real key to our success. The ‘Big Lake’ keeps us cool in the spring, delaying bud break and helping growers avoid spring frosts; and, keeps us warm into the fall, prolonging the ripening season to help develop the wonderful flavors found in Leelanau Peninsula wines. The ‘lake effect’ moderates winter temperatures, which allows us to grow the tender Old world Vinifera varieties. Though many varieties are grown, there is general consensus that the white varieties Riesling, Pinot Gris and Chardonnay and the reds Pinot Noir and Cabernet Franc are quite well-suited to Leelanau Peninsula.
“World Class” has been bandied about for these varieties by customers and critics. An identifiable regional character that transcends winery style seems to be emerging for some of the aforementioned varieties. Grape growers tend to select south, southeast and southwest facing slopes to capture additional warmth from the sun. The slopes help ensure good air drainage to move cold air off-site. Vineyard soils tend to range from loamy sand to sandy loam and even to clay on some sites, with old lake bed shale present in some soils. This leads to an interesting array of flavors that local winemakers have taken advantage of to create wines in a variety of styles, offering exquisite fruit-forward wines that are a in world class of their own.
–Charlie Edson, PhD, Winemaker, Bel Lago Winery