Straits Area Competition Showcases Growing Northern Michigan Wine Industry
The wine industry is expanding rapidly in Northern Michigan around Petoskey, Charlevoix and Harbor Springs. Evidence of this growth was on display last week as fifty winemakers from north of the 45th parallel in Michigan showcased their wines at a wine competition sponsored by North Central Michigan College and the Straits Area Grape Growers Association.
Twenty two medals were awarded to northern Michigan winemakers, both amateur and professional. Awards were presented for wines made using northern cold hardy grape varieties as well as wines made from the traditional European varietals.
Competing wineries included Mackinaw Trail Winery, Seasons of the North, Crooked Vine Vineyard and Winery, Pleasantview Winery, Harbor Springs Vineyards and Winery and Cellars of Royal Farms. During 2013, these wineries formed the Northwest Michigan Bay View Wine Trail.
In the American Varietal Cold-Hardy Red category of the competition, Mackinaw Trail Winery took Double Gold with Big Red, a Chambourcin wine made with grapes grown in Southwest Michigan.
Seasons of the North Winery received two Gold medals; one for The Cabin, a Michigan Marechal Foch wine, and one for Burt Lake Breeze, which is made from imported Seyval Blanc.
In the American Varietal Cold-Hardy White wines category, Crooked Vine Vineyards was awarded a Double Gold for their Frontenac Gris which is made from locally grown grapes.
Of the European Varietal Red wines, Mackinaw Trail Winery received a Double Gold for their Cabernet Franc 2011, a Gold for their Cabernet Merlot 2011 and a Silver for their Syrah 2010. The grapes used to make all these red wines were grown in Michigan. (Mackinaw Trail also won a Gold Medal at the Indy International Wine Competition for their ’11 Cab Franc.)
In the European Varietal White wines, Mackinaw Trails took a Double Gold for their Late Harvest Riesling 2012; Harbor Springs Vineyards and Winery received a Gold for both their 2012 Pinot Gris and Chardonnay 2012.
In the Fruit category, David Short, a hobby vintner, took a Gold for his Raspberry wine, while Mackinaw Trail received a Double Gold for their Razzberry.
In the Dessert wine category, Christine Engle, a hobby vintner, received a Gold for her Maple wine, while Harbor Springs Vineyards and Winery took a Double Gold for Cherry Finale.
Judges of this year’s competition were Robert Waugh with the Straits Area Grape Growers Association, Mark Ganchiff with Midwest Wine Press, Vern Hiar with Neath the Birches, Phil Parr with Inn at Bay Harbor, Robin Krause with Glen’s North Fresh Market, Chris Bryant of Boyne Highlands, and Deanna Alfredo and Erik Bauss of Tee-to-Table. The judges rated the wines on six criteria: visual, aroma, texture, taste, finish, and price point.
Following the awards presentations, guests sampled wines offered by competing wineries and food donated by area restaurants.
North Central’s Corporate and Community Education department began offering workshops on grape growing and wine making in 2009. The success of the workshops, coupled with the growth in Michigan’s wine industry, prompted the college to develop an academic viticulture program. Now the college offers certificates and an associate’s degree program in viticulture and enology preparing students for careers in Michigan’s wine industry.
Photos courtesy of Budd Wagner of Wagner 8th Day Vineyard in Levering Michigan