Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The "Coastal" Wine Hunt

Much to catch up on these days as I begin my quest for "coastal" inspired wines for a new restaurant project opening later this year in DC's Penn Quarter.

As of late, I have been sampling a myriad of wines from "Coastal" regions unknown to most wine consumers--like Michigan's Leelanau and Old Mission Peninsulas in Northern Michigan, which lie at roughly the same latitude as Burgundy in France. Both wine regions are heavily influenced by Lake Michigan (get it--Coastal?), which helps to moderate the climate for the production of vinifera grapes.

I've uncovered a handful of amazing methode champenoise sparklers and some pretty darn good Pinot Noir--and who knows, if our global temperatures continue to rise, Michigan might just be the next great spot for Pinot Noir and more. Could it be the next Oregon?

If you can get your hands on any of these wines, whether via a retail shop in Michigan or via the wineries direct, you are in for a treat.

L. Mawby 'Cremant' Brut NV, Leelanau Peninsula, Michigan--L. Mawby only produces sparkling wines, both methode champenoise and charmat method. This is one of their best produced from the Vignoles grape. Soft with nut and yeast aromas followed by honey and truffles. Crisp with fine bubbles.

L. Mawby 'Conservancy' Extra Brut NV, Leelanau Peninsula, Michigan
--just a touch fruitier than than Cremant with 1.5% sweetness. Fresh with floral and candied fruit aromas, honeysuckle and lemon-citrus zing on the finish. A hint of sweetness. For each bottle sold, the winery contributes $2 to the Farmland Preservation Fund of the Leelanau Conservancy, a fund dedicated to the preservation of farmland in perpetuity. Nice.

L. Mawby 'Consort' Sec NV, Leelanau Peninsula, Michigan--Blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Gris. Fresh and ripe with luscious peach and mango notes plus a hint of toast on the finish. Just a touch sweet with 2% sweetness.

Shady Lane Cellars Pinot Noir 2005, Leelanau Peninsula, Michigan--lighter style of Pinot with floral and cherry notes, tad bit earthy with a hint of spice. Smooth. Light body.

Black Star Farms 'Arcturos' Pinot Noir 2005, Leelanau Peninsula/Old Mission Peninsula, Michigan--a little subdued on the nose with cherry, truffles and a hint of spice. Not overly expressive. Smooth. Light body.

Isidor's Choice Pinot Noir 2003, Leelanau Peninsula, Michigan--bit more meaty that the others with black cherry aromas followed by earth and truffles plus a whiff of spice. Smooth with a fresh finish. Light/medium body.

Pelee Island Winery Pinot Noir 2005, Pelee Island, Ontario, Canada
--from another "coastal" region, this small island is situated in Lake Erie between Ohio and Ontario, Canada. This was by far the favorite of the lot of Pinots--intense earth and black cherry aromas followed by truffles, tobacco and a touch of spice. Smooth and crisp finish. Light bodied.

Brys Estate'Signature' Red 2005, Old Mission Peninsula, Michigan
--blend of 50% Cab Fran, 45% Merlot and 5% Pinot Noir. Smooth and silky with layers of vanilla, wild red berries and pepper spice. Soft tannins with a touch of chocolate on the finish. Medium bodied.

Last but not least, I tasted an amazing Zinfandel from Australia--yes, AUSTRALIA.

Groom 'Bush Block' Zinfandel, Barossa Valley, Australia--This one definitely rivals the best in California Zin--loads of juicy red fruit aromas with the standard candied red fruit flavors and spice plus a whiff of vanilla. Smooth and silky with soft tannins. Medium bodied.

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