First saw wine made at age 7, became a Master Gardner and now my favorite plant is Vitis vinifera. Published wine reviewer, teach wine appreciation at the local school district. And at my old age completed some WSET levels just because I love all things wine. I pour wine for various distributors, have worked with chefs pairing wine and food at corporate events and do private home parties too. Between events, I meet with winemakers in various states and countries.
“The best wine
educator is a corkscrew and an open mind.” ............
Proving the Notion Wrong
There is a
commonly held notion about Midwestern wineries, and it goes
They do the best they can with what they have.
They don’t have much.
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..
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.
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
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.
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“If God forbade
drinking, would He have made wine so good?” …Cardinal
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
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
“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
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.
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Bastianich Friulano “Adriatico” ALC: 13%
This wine best enjoyed within
a few years of harvest.