Traverse City Winter Wine Update

We checked in with some of our local winemakers on the 2013 vintage and the state of Old Mission & Leelanau vineyards in the face of bitterly cold temperatures.

Winter at Chateau Grand Traverse

Winter at Chateau Grand Traverse

Bryan Ulbrich of Left Foot Charley explains that he remains cautiously optimistic, “The buds and plants are largely protected by snow right now. Canes and the buds above the snow will be pruned out, and we’ll use renewal canes at the base of the plant for fruiting and rebuilding the plant structure if needed. We cut out 90% if the growth every year anyway, so our management methods assume this will happen. I’m not saying this is fun, but we aren’t knocked out yet. It’s definitely going to make canopy management more laborious in 2014, but to quote the great Monty: “It’s only a flesh wound!”

Forty-Five North vineyard manager & winemaker Jay Briggs agrees, “We have a LOT of snow in the vineyard, which is critical for insulation. It’ll be the early spring that will be critical as things start to thaw. A warm-up followed by freezing is when real damage usually occurs! If there’s any damage it probably happened in early December for things that were left to hang. It got so cold so fast. The early outlook is for a cool fall, so we might be facing a short growing season.”

Pruning at Willow

Pruning at Willow

Weather was a factor in the 2013 vintage as well, as Sean O’Keefe of Chateau Grand Traverse relates. “Last year’s fall was cold, rainy and challenging. Years like that are one reason we’ve planted a lot of Riesling. In addition to some really awesome dry and medium dry Riesling, our Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris are shaping up well.”

Regarding the upcoming 2013 vintage, Lee Lutes of Black Star Farms says, “Whites from 2013 are delicious with ripe aromas and flavors and bright acidity, typical for our northern style. Grüner Veltliner is new for us this year, and very good.”

Sundog at Black Star Farms

Sundog at Black Star Farms

Coenraad Stassen of Brys Estates adds, “In 2013 we had a above average crop. The great thing was that acidity was well balanced, meaning our white wines should be elegant and luscious. Because of a shorter growing season due to a lot of rain in September and October, reds will need a little more time in barrel, but all around it’s a very exiting vintage.

Kristin Hosmer of Bel Lago was featured recently in Michigan By the Bottle’s Women Who Rock the Michigan Wine Scene. In the article she listed Auxerrois as one of her favorite wines to work with and tells us, “I’m particularly excited by our 2013 Auxerrois. It’s on gross lees aging in neutral barrels right now and is developing a delicious melon flavor with balanced acid.”

“I’m really liking how our Pinot Gris is turning out. It’s on a terrific site and came in very nice. Nice, aromatic and a little heavier than a normal white,” shares Jay Briggs. “We’re working with some hybrids for the first time and having a lot of fun blending La Crescent, a Muscat hybrid. I will probably bubble some as well.”

Winter at Crain Hill Vineyards

Winter at Crain Hill Vineyards

Nathaniel Rose of Brengman Brothers says “We definitely had more quantity than 2012 and the quality & ripeness was very close to ‘12 as well. It was an enormous crop with very good quality highlighted by a 27 brix noble rot Riesling and our Cabernet Sauvignon.”

Bryan Ulbrich concludes, “I have high opinion of our 2013 Riesling vintage – really cool this year with strong but balanced acidity and powerful aromas. Although Pinot Blanc had to be selectively harvested to maintain quality pushing yields are down, quality is high. Chardonnay is solid, the bubbly is shaping up well and once again apple cider is abundant and flavorful. 2013 looks very promising!”