Michigan winemakers celebrate their achievements as state lawmakers determine their fate.
Wines produced in Michigan’s four recognized viticultural areas (Old Mission Peninsula, Leelanau Peninsula, Lake Michigan Shore, and Fennville) stand out from those produced anywhere else in America, and are a testament to the diversity of quality wines being produced in the United States today.
August 8, 2005
The loss of Michigan wine, aside from the devastating economic implications for the state, would be a tremendous blow to wine lovers, as the wines produced in Michigan’s four recognized viticultural areas (Old Mission Peninsula, Leelanau Peninsula, Lake Michigan Shore, and Fennville) stand out from those produced anywhere else in America, and are a testament to the diversity of quality wines being produced in the United States today.
Evidence of the momentum building in Michigan’s vineyards and wine cellars – a momentum with hopefully enough inertia to get past the legislative threat – came the first week of August with the Michigan Wine & Spirits Competition, held August 2 at the Kellogg Hotel and Conference Center in East Lansing. The Michigan Wine & Spirits Competition is a showcase of the state’s best wines and is open only to wines produced from Michigan-grown fruit. Judges from across the country gathered to swirl, sniff and sip their way through a record number of entries. From 300 Michigan grown and produced wines, the judges awarded 11 Double Gold, 29 Gold, 62 Silver, and 84 Bronze Medals -- an amazing ratio of award winners that speaks to the overall high quality of the state’s wines. Dan Berger, Appellation America's Editor-at-Large and director of the respected Riverside Wine Competition, commented that "these wines can compete with the best in the world."
The standout this year came from the state’s youngest region, Old Mission Peninsula, and a small farm winery that typifies the Michigan wine industry. Peninsula Cellars and its young winemaker Bryan Ulbrich scored a nearly complete sweep of top honors taking three of five Best of Class awards plus a Judges' Special Award. In addition, Old Mission's newest winery, Brys Estate which only opened this past May -- almost simultaneously with the drafting of the bills that potentially could close its doors -- won Gold and Double Gold medals.
Despite the apparent dominance of the competition’s awards by Peninsula Cellars and the Old Mission Peninsula appellation, a total of 18 wineries from across the state were honored with Gold medals. Competition Superintendent Christopher Cook commented on this stating that, “these wines just keep getting better and better" – words that ring with optimism for the future of the Michigan's burgeoning wine industry, and hopefully words that will resonate with the state’s lawmakers as they approach a decision on HB 4959.
A summary of the top awards is as follows:
- Best Sparkling Wine: Good Harbor Vineyards Moonstruck Brut (Leelanau Peninsula)
- Best Dry White Wine: Chateau Grand Traverse Dry Riesling 2004 (Old Mission Peninsula)
- Best Red Wine: Peninsula Cellars Cabernet-Merlot 2002 (Old Mission Peninsula)
- Best Semi-Dry White Wine: Peninsula Cellars Semi-Dry Riesling 2004 (Old Mission Peninsula)
- Best Dessert Wine: Peninsula Cellars Select Riesling 2004 (Old Mission Peninsula)
- Judges' Special Award: Peninsula Cellars Chardonnay 2004 (Old Mission Peninsula)
The Michigan Wine & Spirits Competition is sponsored by the Michigan Grape and Wine Industry Council, which is administered by the Michigan Department of Agriculture. For a complete list of medal-winning wines, or for more information about the wines and wineries of Michigan, contact the council online at www.michiganwines.com, or by phone at (517) 241-2178.