“The best wine educator is a corkscrew and an open mind.” ............ James McMillan
Proving the Notion Wrong

There is a commonly held notion about Midwestern wineries, and it goes
something like this:

1) They do the best they can with what they have.
2) They don’t have much.
3) They make some decent white wine, but not red unless they “import” their grapes from other states (read that to mean California or Washington) because it gets very cold and snows a lot where they’re at..
4) They make a lot of fruit and sweet wine. That’s what the “red hat ladies” want and they have to stay in business after all, but “serious” red wine is not to be found there.

The problem with such notions is that if we accept that one of them is true, we tend to believe all of them are true.  And if we hear one of them repeated often enough, we accept all of them as fact.  It is true, for example, that the Midwest gets snow. It gets cold too. It is also true that most wineries, of course, will do their best with what they have. Why wouldn't they?  As for fruit and sweet wines, wineries making such can be found in all 50 states.  I suggest that if you don’t like sweet or fruit wines, you don’t buy them. 

But if you want to disavow yourself of any wrong assumptions you may have cluttering up your potential wine IQ, I suggest you taste some wine from Domaine Berrien Cellars of Berrien Springs, Michigan. I came across this gem of a winery recently while doing a section of the Lake Michigan Shore Wine Trail. Lake
Michigan Shore is a recognized AVA (American Viticultural Area) by the way, which should tell you something about grapes from this area.  You might also want to get out the old family globe, or just trust the map here. You’ll notice that much of Michigan lies between 42 and 47 degrees latitude, the same areas as that for Burgundy, Bordeaux and the Rhone in France. And as rivers in Germany and other bodies of water near France, Italy and other countries benefit conditions for grape growing, Lake Michigan (a substantial body of water) benefits this area of Michigan Shore.

I was initially attracted to this winery by its use of the word “Domaine.”  It gave me hope that a Midwestern winery using such spelling would be inclined to try to produce "old world" style wine. I was delighted to learn that they didn't just try, they succeeded!  Blended and varietal wines made from estate grown Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petite Verdot are available along with whites Pinot Gris, Viognier, Marsanne, Sauvignon Blanc and the famous Midwestern Traminette (a cross of Joannes Seyve 23.416 x Gewurztraminer. You don’t need to know all that; only that it tastes like Gewurtz). And there are others.

Grapes Are Estate Grown
I enjoyed the 2011 Lemberger (a late ripening, red wine grape popular in Central Europe and elsewhere) with its taste of plum with toasty over tones and a spicy, dry finish.  The 2009 Pinot Noir offered cherry, black currant, soft mocha and forest floor. I learned Domaine Berrien uses Dijon clones 113, 115 and 777  (which I seem to consistently enjoy) along with a Swiss clone “Mariafeld” for their Pinot. The Pinot is aged 12 months in French oak and bottle aged an additional 30 months before release. Not only is the wine impressive, at ARP of $15.50, it’s a bargain.

The winery began in the early 1990s and only opened to the public in 2001. Domaine Berrien enjoys the respect of other growers along Michigan Shore and word has gotten out beyond the area that this is a winery committed to making quality “old world” wines at value prices.  

Some of Domaine Berrien’s wines are being carried in the Chicago area, but I recommend you visit the winery. The tasting staff is friendly and very knowledgeable.  You can taste several wines, leaning about each, and enjoy looking at the beautiful rows of grapes.  Depending upon where you live in the Chicago area, the drive to Berrien Cellars is about 2 – 2.5 hours.  And if you’re visiting Saugatuck or Holland, you’re only about an hour away. I’ll be writing in the coming months about some of the wines I particularly enjoyed. But in the meantime, keep an open mind and make the trip to Berrien Spring Cellars yourself --- but don’t worry about the corkscrew. They’ll keep one handy.

……………………… Jim
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Domaine Berrien Cellars
398 E Lemon Creek Rd
Berrien Springs, MI 49103
PH: 269-473-9463

* If you prefer an overnight stay, click on hotel info on when routing your trip. There are several wineries in the area.


“If God forbade drinking, would He have made wine so good?”Cardinal Richeleu

Summer is fading here. Soon, the berries will give way to the squash, the melons to the root vegetables and the white wine to the red.   As much red wine as I enjoy, I will miss the fresh, crisp, acidity and minerality of some summer whites. My recent example is another of Italy’s whites: Friulano.  Like so many other Italian whites, (See earlier posts on Vietti Roero Arneis, DeAngelis LaCrima Christi del Vesuvio, (Bibi Graetz) Cicala del Giglio and Feudi di San Gregorio Greco Di Tufo) this grape produces wine of joy and easy drinking at budget friendly prices.
Bastianich winery was founded in 1997. If the name sounds familiar, you’ve likely encountered it on public television (Lydia Bastianich) or on Fox network’s “Master Chef” (Joe Bastianich). Both are blessed with good palettes and the family has put those gifts and the income those gifts generated to good use in a winery named as Wine and Spirit’s Magazine’s 2006 Winery of the Year.”

Friulano was known as “Tocai Friulano” which caused some confusion with Hungary’s Tokai. In March of 2007 that confusion ended with an earlier agreement between the European Union and Hungary and the wine today is simply known (or should be) as Friulano.  The area of the Adriatic where these grapes are grown  includes Slovenia (where the grape is known as Sauvignonasse).  And you may know it also as Sauvignon Vert from Chile and elsewhere.  But if you believe in terroir, you believe too that where the grape is farmed makes a difference.

The Bastianich winery is located in Northeast Italy (see map),
specifically in the Friuli-Venezia-Giulia region, in the Colli Orientali del Friuli appellation (D.O.C.). The winery has 70 acres under production, producing several wines and its star white is Friulano (Free-oh-LAH-no) “Adriatico.”  Bastianich may be a “celebrity” winery but it is very serious in its commitment to producing excellent wine as evidenced by some of its wines having earned the Tre Bicchieri Award from Italy’s Gambero Rosso  guide. Joe Bastianich himself was not too famous in his own mind during his twenties to avoid working in the vineyards of Friuli-Venezia-Giulia.

Was it worth it?  I vote a definite yes. In the glass, this wine is pale straw and presents
a pleasing floral nose accented strongly with tree fruit. The taste offers peach. I enjoyed a definite taste of ripe pear. The finish offers almond and, for me, a hint at lemon. The wine is crisp, clean yet gives a very lush mouth feel that is very rewarding for a white and finishes in perfect acidity and minerality throughout the experience.  That’s a lot of experience for $14 a bottle! 

Porcini mushroom & truffle ravioli
Bastianich Friulano “Adriatico” is 100% indigenous Friulano, steel fermented to preserve fruit and freshness and accomplished without excess acidity that sometimes is evident (my opinion) in some steeled Chardonnays that are produced without malolactic fermentation.  Not only is the enamel on your teeth safe with this wine, your mouth will feel refreshed.  Bastianich undergoes 30% malolactic fermentation and the must rests 7 months on its lees with frequent batonnage (pump over). The result is a smooth, rich, lush white wine.

A nice summer salad of heirloom tomatoes, red onion
& French, goat-Feta cheese with fresh oregano.
This is a perfect summer wine, an outdoor pleaser if you have a gathering and an excellent wine for wine “geeks” to huddle over and discuss.  It’s super food friendly and versatile. Serve it with a cheese plate appetizer. Enjoy it with smoked salmon. It would do well with spicy foods, or most any seafood (depending on how sauced) or veal.  Prosciutto?  Absolutely. Take a step back in time, wrap some around a melon piece and enjoy them together.  I made some porcini mushroom and truffle ravioli glazed in a light cream-pumpkin sauce with roasted organic orange bell pepper and an heirloom tomato salad. The Bastianich Friulano elevated the whole experience.

As I continue my travels around the world’s wine road,
I find that I most appreciate wines that reflect their terroir and give me a sense of place, and grapes that are handled so as to retain their characteristic identity throughout the process of becoming wine. It’s a travelogue you can inexpensively enjoy without leaving the kitchen table. Today, when some old-world wine is becoming more new world through technique, good “travel agents” are to be appreciated.  My thanks to winemaker Emilio de Medicio and the Bastianich family for making this “trip” available. 
…………………  Jim
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Bastianich  Friulano “Adriatico”  ALC: 13%
This wine best enjoyed within a few years of harvest.