Local Gems: Some Thoughts from Valentine's Night...
First of all, hope everyone enjoyed your Valentineís, either with your significant other or other loved ones. As for me, I had an absolutely wonderful night! Apart from the fact that I had a pleasant evening out on a date with my angel, who happens to be the love of my life, another important reason is that I was really impressed by the wines that we ordered over dinnerÖ
No, ah-uh, you must be thinking, did I order some grand cru de Bordeaux or a beautiful Meritage blend from California? The truth is, it was nothing from France or California. Actually, you donít need to go as far as France or California, or Italy, Spain or any other parts of the world, for that matter, to find some good wines. They are right around your corner: your local gems! The wines we ordered were all from Michigan.
For Apťritif, we ordered the L Mawby Rosť sparkling wine from Leelanau Peninsula in Northern Michigan. You may not have heard of the producer, but the name is actually pretty big in Michigan. Their wines are widely distributed in Michigan, and Iíve got to say, the one I tasted really prepped me well for the big dinner I was about to devour into. It gave you those nice citrus and pear aromas on the nose and a palate-cleansing attack of crisp grapefruit and oranges. Not very conventional, but quite nice and enjoyable! Over the course of the dinner, we had a Bel Lago Pinot Noir, from the 07 vintage. What really impressed me was the dusty and earthy nose the wine brings out, very terroir-driven. As close to nature as it possibly can get to, I think the wine is trying to confuse me, the novice Pinot drinker, with some nice Oregon counterparts or even BurgundyÖ Very solid effort on both wines and I applaud the Michigan wine makers for putting out enjoyable wines like these!
This reminds me of a recent trip that I took to Chicago, where in a local restaurant, I had the pleasure of tasting their Prairie State Cabernet Franc, which was grown and bottled in Aurora, just an hour away from downtown Chicago in northern Illinois. Iíve been a Chinon lover for quite a while, a celebrated region from the Loire valley of France that is famous for their Cabernet Franc, one of my favorable varietals. The world-class dusty, ashlike nose coupled with a palate thatís full of nice fruit really won me over, which can easily confuse me in a blind-tasting with Chinon or Bourgueil (another Loire valley equivalent).
I guess the point Iím trying to make is, you donít have to go out of your way to find nice fine wines to taste. I am definitely a hard-core Bordeaux guy, but there are definitely local gems, unsung heroes if you will, that can really shine just around the corner. All 50 states now grow and make wines and over 30 of them (I think the exact number to this date is 31, but donít quote me for it) have AVAís, officially designated wine grape-growing areas by the U.S. government (Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, TTB, a part of the U.S. Department of Treasury). That means increasing amount of wines are being recognized all across the country. Go out there on a nice weekend trip and taste around! If you have tasted them or, like me, been impressed by them, please share your experience. Iím sure we would all love to hear wine stories from your home states, as who knows, one day we may be on a business trip there and would love to have a nice wine destination to blow off some steam.
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