Michigan Uncorked is a regular column by Lorri Hathaway and Sharon Kegerreis, writers who are passionate for Michigan and authors of award-winning From the Vine: Exploring Michigan Wineries. Learn all about Lorri & Sharon and their book at www.michiganvine.com.
Italian Roots, Michigan Soil – a tagline so rich in winemaking history, it’s no wonder that St. Julian is one of Michigan’s powerhouse wineries.
St. Julian Winery, the state’s oldest and most-awarded winery, was established in Canada during Prohibition in 1921. Bootlegging across the Detroit River allowed Michiganders to enjoy the wines since the beginning. Today, the winery, which relocated to Michigan shortly after the repeal, thrives in southwest Michigan in Paw Paw.
During a recent visit, we chatted with third generation owner David Braganini as he reflected on the accomplishments of his grandfather, Mariano Meconi, the â€œItalian rootsâ€ behind the company. Mariano moved from Italy in 1908, held jobs with Studebaker and a railroad company and found a way to transport grapes from California to sell to other Italians in the area. Too optimistic about the quantity of grapes one year, Mariano made wine from the excess to avoid waste â€“ igniting his passion for winemaking.
David, who started at the winery in 1973, has carried on his grandfather’s spirit in the winemaking and turned St. Julian into a booming enterprise. A solid reputation for sweeter whites, the primary style of wine made in Michigan prior to the 1950s, has assisted in the winery’s success.
Today, you will still find sweet whites, such as the very popular Blue Heron, an inspiration from David’s late father, Apollo, who spent 23 years at the winery. Incidentally, Blue Heron is the state’s top selling wine at 30,000 cases each year.
Complementing St. Julian’s impressive list of more than 40 wines is a newer label called Braganini Reserve. These drier style wines are polished, elegant and bursting with vibrant characteristics. We sampled the wines and found several favorites to add to our home cellars â€“ 2007 Pinot Noir and 2007 Sauvignon Blanc (Sharon) and 2005 Cabernet Franc and 2007 Riesling (Lorri). Other varieties under Braganini Reserve include Traminette, Meritage, Chancellor, Merlot and Syrah.
Get more information about St. Julian at www.stjulian.com and plan a visit to Michigan’s most history-rich winery soon.