Local Wine Update: Verterra Winery a Revelation at Pacific Rim Wine Competition; Michigan Rieslings Beat Finger Lakes At Their Own Game
I’m not one to go agog over wine competitions, but I have to remind myself from time-to-time that they’re invaluable in helping a fledgling wine industry like Michigan’s gain regional, national and even international exposure. Lately, Michigan wines have been holding up quite well in competition, especially in two that fixed Michigan’s place as a force in Riesling production.
A trio of awards were just handed out at the Pacific Rim Wine Competition in San Bernardino, California to Verterra Winery in the remote fishing village of Leland, Michigan. Verterra Winery is one of the Leelanau’s newest wineries (it only opened last year), and also their newest recipient of accolades. I happened to be visiting the Leelanau this weekend for a media event, and unknowingly popped into Verterra as they were basking in the excitement of just having learned (the night before) that three of their wines won. Verterra’s 2011 Pinot Blanc, a varietal that doesn’t get a lot of attention or respect, and the 2011 Chaos White Cuvée, a slightly sweeter blend tempered by acidity, each won “Best in Class” in their respective categories, an especially noteworthy designation because the judges must be unanimous in their approval of the wine. Verterra’s 2011 Dry Riesling won a gold medal at this competition. Paul Hamelin, who operates the family-owned winery with his wife and son, credits his “great winemaker” as well as the prime locations of their vineyards for the winery’s sprint to the top tier of Leelanau winemakers in only one year.
Chateau Fontaine, an understated winery located near the huge, inland Lake Leelanau, took the top prize for its 2011 Dry Riesling in the 2012 Finger Lakes International Wine Competition. This award is especially worth celebrating because many wines produced in the Finger Lakes region—in particular, Riesling—have been steadily gaining serious attention, and are often mentioned ahead of Michigan’s. Chateau Fontaine’s Dry Riesling has a vivacious, interesting, sweet-tart complexity that complements a variety of foods. A truly great wine if you can get it. Black Star Farm’s 2008 A Capella Ice Wine, also made from 100% Riesling, took a top prize, besting ice wine producers in the competition from Canada and the Finger Lakes. Fenn Valley, located in Southwest Michigan, took a double gold for its Riesling, solidifying Michigan’s burgeoning reputation for Riesling.
Note: Leelanau Peninsula Vintner’s Association is holding an event, Sip and Savor, on May 5 and 6. See below for details.