Southwest sip: College's tasting room open, region's wines are award winners

When it comes to growing grapes, Michigan has 13,700 acres of vineyards making Michigan the fourth largest grape-growing state. About 3,000 acres are devoted to wine grapes, making Michigan the fifth state in wine grape production in the nation. Vineyard area has doubled over the last 10 years. 

Michigan wineries are benefitting from the trend that has seen a surge in the number of those who consume wine several times each week, or daily — it has more than doubled – from 7.6 percent of all those in the U.S. of legal drinking age 2000 to 13 percent in 2015. The trend is being led by women who account for 57 percent of wine volume in the U.S. 

And wineries are popular tourist destinations, attracting more than 2 million visitors to Michigan annually.

With that context, consider this regional wine news roundup.

Lake Michigan Vintners open for public tastings

Lake Michigan College’s Wine & Viticulture students are now sharing what they have been growing, fermenting, blending, and perfecting since the program began in 2015. 

Visitors to Lake Michigan Vintners, the new boutique winery’s tasting room in downtown Baroda, recently had the opportunity to enjoy live music, food trucks, and specially priced wines poured by the folks who knew the wine when it was still a grape.  

During the recent grand opening, Lake Michigan Vintners introduced nine small-batch, limited production varietals and blends made from locally sourced fruit. 

From the dry Inaugural Red Blend with hints of chocolate covered strawberries, to a semi-sweet Riesling with aromas of green tea and candied orange, the tasting room has a wine or hard cider to suit almost every taste. 

"We’ve employed old world techniques with a modern understanding to best express the unique qualities of our local grapes and vineyards,” says Michael Moyer, who oversees the academic program, teaching winery, and tasting room.   

"Because of Southwest Michigan’s soil and climate, they are more representative of European wines than those from the U.S. West Coast," Moyer says. "They represent the naturally fruit forward, balanced, and food friendly wines our region is capable of producing.” 

The teaching winery is the first of its kind in the Midwest. Lake Michigan College launched the Wine & Viticulture Technology program with the support of leading wineries spanning the Lake Michigan Shore Wine Trail up to Old Mission Peninsula. 

The aim is to foster the next generation of expert winemakers, and to advance Michigan in its burgeoning status as a recognized, world class wine region. Students of the program experience every aspect of the wine industry, including vineyard management, winemaking, lab analysis, and all aspects of business and tasting room operations.   

Moyer was recruited by Lake Michigan College from the state of Washington to run the program. Since earning a Master’s Degree in Enology from University of California-Davis, Moyer worked for some of the nation’s most esteemed wineries. Now, Moyer has become an evangelist for Michigan wine.

"Southwest Michigan has a longer growing season than Burgundy, France, but we’re still one of the best kept secrets in the wine world. It’s exciting to partner with our area wineries who’ve been laying the groundwork and see our potential unfolding."

To learn more about the Lake Michigan College Wine and Viticulture Technology program, visit here.  

Lake Michigan Vintners Tasting Room is located in downtown Baroda on 8972 First Street. The tasting room is open Wednesday and Thursday from noon to 5 p.m.; Friday and Saturday from noon to 6 p.m.; and Sundays from noon to 5 p.m. It is closed on Monday and Tuesday. For more information visit here. — Lake Michigan College

Wine competitions recognize the quality wines of Southwest Michigan
When the results of two major wine competitions were recently announced wineries of the Lake Michigan Shore Wine Trail were celebrating their wins.  The Indy International Wine Competition and the Michigan Wine Competition both recognized the quality wine produced in Southwest Michigan.  

The Indy International Wine Competition at Purdue University featured over 2,000 wine entries, making it the largest independently organized wine competition in the county for the last 25 years. The entrants represented 37 U.S. states and 14 countries. The wines were judged in a blind evaluation based on their aromas and tastes.

Cody Kresta Vineyard and Winery of Mattawan and St. Julian Wine Company of Paw Paw received numerous awards, including Best in Class, Double Gold, and Gold for various wines.

Major awards presented, from this competition to members of the Lake Michigan Shore Wine Trail:

Best in Class
Cody Kresta Vineyard and Winery, Mattawan – 2015 Chardonnay (oaked)
St. Julian Wine Company, Paw Paw – 2016 Braganini Reserve Gruner Veltliner
St. Julian Wine Company, Paw Paw – 2016 St. Julian Reserve Pinot Grigio

Double Gold
Cody Kresta Vineyard and Winery, Mattawan – 2015 Chardonnay (oaked)
St. Julian Wine Company, Paw Paw – NV Sweet Nancie Sparkling
St. Julian Wine Company, Paw Paw – NV Michcato
St. Julian Wine Company, Paw Paw – 2016 St Julian Reserve Pinot Grigio

The full list of winners can be found here.

The Michigan Wine Competition results
The results from the Michigan Wine Competition also have been announced.

"I was very impressed with the quality of the wines, and know that Michigan has a very bright future," says Jim Trezise, president of WineAmerica and president of the International Riesling Foundation.

Here are the results awarded to the member wineries.

Best in Class and Double Gold
Semi-dry White – Tabor Hill Winery, Buchanan – 2016 Gerwurtztraminer 
Semi-dry Red – Lemon Creek Winery, Grand Haven – Pheasant Run Red  
Dessert – St. Julian Wine Company, Paw Paw – Solera Cream Sherry 

Double Gold
Lawton Ridge Winery, Kalamazoo – 2015 AZO Red
Lemon Creek Winery, Berrien Springs – Grand Lacs Blanc; Silver Beach Sauterne
St Julian Wine Company, Paw Paw – Sweet Nancie Peach Sparkling

To see the Gold Medal winners and find out if your favorites were award winning wines, visit here

The Lake Michigan Shore Wine Trail is a not-for-profit organization that promotes the development of the outstanding wine producing and tourism industry in Southwest Michigan. Lake Michigan Shore Wine Trail is a way to explore the state's wine growing region with rolling hills close to beach towns. — Lake Michigan Shore Wine Trail

'Wine Spectator' Award of Excellence goes to Bistro on the Boulevard

Wine Spectator’s 2017 Awards have been announced and The Bistro on the Boulevard has received the "Award of Excellence." This annual award is presented to restaurants offering a wine list that meets the Wine Spectator's international standards of quality and variety.

The Bistro on the Boulevard is the only restaurant in Berrien County to be recognized with this award. There were 2,335 restaurants (worldwide) that received the 2017 award, according to The Bistro on the Boulevard. Currently, the wine list at the St. Joseph restaurant hosts over 150 bottles, ranging in price from $20 to $300, and representing international wine culture.

The "Award of Excellence” at the Bistro on the Boulevard represents the work of Mâitré d’ Samer Badreddine, who curates the extensive wine list. "Receiving the Wine Spectator Award of Excellence places the Bistro on the Boulevard in a new caliber of restaurants, and puts us on the map," Badreddine says. "A labor of love, our wine list represents years of research and development. We are thrilled to be recognized by Wine Spectator, and are very excited about the potential this award holds for us and for Southwest Michigan."

The Bistro on the Boulevard, 521 Lake Boulevard St. Joseph, is a farm-to-table restaurant with French influence overlooking Lake Michigan.  — Bistro on the Boulevard 

And here's what's going on in Southeast Michigan's wine scene: 
Despite a beer and cocktail boom, Ann Arbor's wine scene keeps it cutting-edge
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