New SW Michigan Winery Embraces Essential Michigan Style
Alice and I were golfing at Lake Michigan Hills Golf Club, a superb example of lush Midwestern landscaping in the midst of rolling dunes. It is quite hilly, but, no blind greens. It is very playable for the average golfer, yet, has the scale and feel of a PGA course. As we pulled out onto Red Arrow Highway heading northeast up to the Maple Grove Tavern near South Haven, right at the intersection of Kerlikowski Road and Red Arrow, Alice noticed what appeared to be a new winery. We decided to have a look.
Always a joy
to discover a new Michigan winery like Vineyard 2121.
Vineyard 2121 is a family farm owned by Jeff and Deb Pallas with about 20 acres of vineyard and a very modern winery and tasting room. The tasting room is hosted by their daughter Jordan Pallas. Typically, when one goes into a brand new tasting room, the shelves are stocked with wines made somewhere else by someone else with someone else’s grapes providing cash flow until the winery can make their own wines. I really give Deb and Jeff credit for having the foresight to establish the vineyard a few years prior to opening the winery in order to utilize to a large measure their own estate grapes for the majority of the inaugural vintages made at their own winery. I also appreciate that as newcomers to the Michigan wine industry, they have embraced what is unique to Michigan rather than attempting to make something that mimics California or Europe. Their wines boldly proclaim “this is Michigan wine”! The hybrids are full bodied, lush and exude powerful Midwestern grape flavors and aromas. Even the bubbly, shows a true sense of terroir with a prominent bright clean grape component as well as a complex yeasty bouquet not unlike some of the prestige cuvees from up North. Perhaps their crowning achievement is the 2015 Cabernet Franc Reserve which retains the weight and texture of their hybrid wines, while exhibiting nothing but pure class.
Something that we learned while speaking with Jordan is that the late Len Olson gave them a great deal of help getting established. Len had always been one of our favorite people in the wine business and we were thrilled to have seen him enjoy as an elder statesman so much of the success which eluded him as a young man. The fact that in his typical common sense manner, he tutored the Pallas family has our hearts, and the hearts of all of those who admired him, feeling good. Len's son, Gunnar, continues his good work as winemaker at both Baroda Founders and Vineyard 2121.
The Pallas’ recognize the value of tourism and entertainment and actively expand the facility to host wine festivals, musical entertainment, weddings and other events where wine is served. Expect some fun times here this summer. Light hors d’oeuvres and sandwiches are available in the tasting room or on the beautiful panoramic patio.
Below are a few of the wines we enjoyed on our visit.
Longing Lips Dry Rose $25 This off-dry rose blends Piont Noir, Chambourcin and other varieties into a fine, light pinkish salmon colored rose with nice minerality, peachy aromas and a long fresh fruity finish that build for a few seconds afterwards.
Le Rouge De Trois $27 No question here regarding the origin of powerful scents and tastes from some of Michigan’s most distinctively flavored hybrid grape varieties. The Foch, DeChaunac and Rougeon combine to thrust up a big hybrid grape nose. Though not particularly classy, the rich rustic Lake Michigan Shore terroir comes through loud and clear giving this wine real guts. Anyone who loves bold dry reds that taste like grapes will enjoy it as much as I do.
DeChaunac Pres du Lac $25 Here is another unabashed gutsy red with potent hybrid Lake Michigan Shore gout de terroir yet offers a much calmer classier approach than the Rouge de Trois blend. The softly tannic mouth feel finishes soft and easy.
Third Time’s a Charm $29 This is a true Meritage-style blend of estate grown Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Though the color is light, the big ripe nose serves up plenty of distinct currant and berry scents typical of these varietals. In the mouth, warm rich texture surrounds the palate with plenty of fine fruit in the finish.
2015 Cabernet Franc Estate Reserve $45 Yes, I know that’s a lot of dough for a bottle of wine, but, it isn’t exactly run of the mill vino either. This is real Cab! It is remarkably deep and dark with an abundance of fat tannic fruit lasting several seconds into the finish. It is indeed a classy effort.
Sparkling Michigan Bubbly $22 Like most of the red hybrids, this white bubbly also makes no pretense of its origin. Seyval, Vidal and Vignoles emerge through the big yeasty nose as pleasant froth coats the palate. The effervescence is persistent and grips the palate, again, surrounding your taste buds with ample fruit belying its dry texture.
Enjoy in Good Health, A Brian Cain, the Michigan Vintner