It's coming up on our favorite time of year here at BHV. Why, you ask? Pruning (yes, we really mean that!)! We spent February snowshoeing around, rolling through the vineyards, and checking on our vines. This time in the vines allowed us to fully see the quality of vine management from the previous vintage and make any necessary adjustments. It gave us a moment to pause and direct our attention to any new techniques that we may want to apply in the vineyard. It is also an opportune time to evaluate the position of the vines' shoots and anticipate changes we may want to make for not only the current growing season but for productivity of future vintages.
March is here, and for Michigan grape growers that means pruning is just around the corner. For us, grapevine pruning is an annual practice where nearly 90 percent of the previous year’s growth is removed. This is how we maintain the vine form and control the fruit and quality.
Spencer recently took me on a pruning lesson and it was so interesting to see what happens to, and how much labor goes into, each vine during pruning. If you take a look at the photos above you can see what the vine looked like before it was pruned, the middle stage and after it was finished. I threw the fourth photo in there just to show you what the vine looked like the very next day. One day it was a beautiful, bluebird day, and then the next, a complete whiteout...which is exactly why we start pruning early here! Shoot thinning early in the season is one way to overcome the crowding in these areas.
When pruning, we are trimming the vines to select our best two canes that we will then tie down on the weight-bearing wire, and count out to eight buds (ideal vine). We are looking for a pencil-sized diameter for the canes, not the bigger ones, sometimes referred to as bull wood. We want the pencil-size diameter because it has more vigor and the buds are tighter together.
With over 25 years experience, it's safe to say that Spencer is a fast pruner but just pruning one vine took about 20 minutes! It's pretty incredible to think that this happens by hand every year, on each and every one of our 18,000+ vines!
Stay tuned for the next edition of Designing the Vine!
Riesling is what I would consider to be the heart of our wine country. It is such a dynamic grape with an astonishing diversity of styles, pure fruit flavors and aromatic qualities. The biggest misconception about Riesling is that Rieslings are always sweet. Actually, that couldn’t be further from the truth! Here at Bowers Harbor Vineyards we have FIVE different Riesling wines, and they range from crisp and dry to dessert-sweet.
Did you know that acid is a crucial component in a well-balanced Riesling?
Riesling is immediately pleasing, even to new wine drinkers. It’s ALL about the fresh fruit, with no oak or heavy tannins. Michigan wine country has been exploding year after year, and more wine lovers are not only visiting us, but finding out about our wines. While we have a lot of other wines to offer them in addition to Riesling, Riesling is what originally put us on the map. Some of the best Rieslings in the entire world come from our very own backyard.
Spencer Stegenga, Proprietor of Bowers Harbor Vineyards, was the first in the state of Michigan to grow and bottle single-vineyard Rieslings. A single-vineyard Riesling is a limited bottling of a Riesling harvested from only one distinct vineyard plot, rather than combining grapes harvested from a variety of locations. The beauty of a single-vineyard Riesling is its ability to reflect the characteristics of its unique terroir (the complete natural environment in which a particular wine is produced, including factors such as the soil, topography, and climate).
We did a Riesling staff training last week and I learned SO much! It was fascinating listening to our winemaker talk about the different techniques that went into the wines that he made. It was also very interesting to try wines from all over the world and taste the vast differences between them. Flavor profiles were all across the board, from petrol and ripe fruit to spicy and earthy.
Our winemaker, Bryan Ulbrich, was voted as one of the Top 100 Most Influential U.S. Winemakers by IntoWine.com, which is a website that offers expert wine recommendations, wine and food pairings and other industry-specific information from around the world.
The fact that we have five different Rieslings on our tasting menu, and that every other winery around also has at least one on their menu, and that they ALL taste different from the next, is (in my opinion) the coolest thing about this grape. Not only that, but Michigan Rieslings will taste completely different than Rieslings from California, Washington, Australia, Germany... you get the idea.
Every growing region has its own style and taste due to many localized factors such as: the climate, terroir, micro-climates of the vineyard, farming methods, cultural tastes and of course, the techniques of the individual winemakers. Even vineyards a few miles apart can have striking differences in style.
The 2016 Block II was the highest rated wine in a recent James Suckling report, at 93 points. This wine is very dry and really showcases what a single vineyard Riesling from our region can provide: acidity, minerality and spice. I love to serve Block II with buttery scallops or a sharp cheddar cheese.
2016 Smokey Hollow just took home Best of Class at the San Francisco Chronicle, which is the biggest wine competition for American wines. Hints of red apple and grapefruit on the nose while the palate mellows to suggest golden delicious apple and citrus zest. Smokey Hollow pairs perfectly with grilled salmon or lemon pepper chicken.
Hand-harvested and lovingly vinified, the grapes for our Medium Dry Riesling are sourced from some of the finest vineyards on Old Mission Peninsula. Each vineyard, with its own unique terroir, offers something a bit different – some yielding tropical notes, some bursting with bright stone fruit aromas, some supplying gorgeous minerality and complex floral and stone aromatics. All those beautiful berries combine to make benchmark Old Mission Riesling.
I am so excited that this one is back in the tasting room! The 2017 vintage was just released this past week! Our most prolific Riesling, the Medium Sweet strikes a stunning balance between mouth-watering acidity and soft sweetness. You’ll be amazed at the initial flood of sugar on your palate, but just a moment later, it is whisked off by quintessential Old Mission acidity. This wine will wow Riesling connoisseurs and convert the staunchest of dry wine drinkers! Our winemaker said “this is the best vintage yet!”
Langley Late Harvest:
Late harvest Rieslings are among the most beloved of sweet white wines. Our Langley Late Harvest is grown on a beautiful west-facing slope dipping down toward Bowers Harbor. Not harvested until Nov. 1st, 2016, these grapes absorbed all those beautiful, sunny Northern Michigan afternoons and evenings and translated it into an ethereal, sun-dappled dessert-style wine. Novice drinkers will be drawn in by the smooth, sweet fruit-forward character, while aficionados will appreciate the fine balance of sugar and acidity, as well as this wine’s lovely age-ability.
The Riesling wines in this blog are listed (and pictured) in tasting order, dry to sweet:
There are even more reasons to love a Riesling. Because of its strong acid structure, Rieslings can age much longer than most other wines, white or red. Some of the best Rieslings can still be amazing after 100 years! That is longer than most people live! As the wine matures, the taste will drastically change. Young Rieslings are fruit-forward, very bright and fresh-tasting, but those characteristics soften and mellow after they’ve been bottled for 2-3 years. Then there can be a muted period for up to 10 years (the wine will still taste pleasant) before they gain even more complexity and depth. They become drier to the taste and develop a stronger expression of that inherent minerality, along with a unique petrol character.
Going forward, I’ll be thinking of Riesling as the diamond of grapes. It is so multi-faceted! At its simplest, Riesling is an easily accessible wine that can be enjoyed on its own or with food. But tasting a great Riesling can be extremely rewarding, both from a sensory and an intellectual perspective.
When I say Super Bowl, you think—what? Football? I think… comfort food, cool commercials, hanging out with friends and Justin Timberlake (halftime performance!). The snacks served on Super Bowl Sunday are typically comfort food on steroids. The flavors are spicy, salty, bold and vibrant.
While beer is the natural match for Super Bowl food, don’t discount the wine (I got you, wine lover!). The same qualities that make Super Bowl appetizers good with beer, also make the perfect pairing with fruit-forward, slightly sweet and bubbly wine. And since the food is easygoing, the wines should be, too. No need to break the bank supplying beverages for a crowd if you’re hosting.
Below are some of my favorite Super Bowl foods along with Bowers Harbor Vineyards wines that are guaranteed to make them taste even better.
Pair with 2016 Riesling, Medium Dry. The bright, green apple flavor and perfect acidity is a nice complement to the wings. And there is just enough sweetness to cut through the spiciness and cool the palate. Spicy wings would also be amazing with the 2017 Riesling, Medium Sweet, which we just bottled and will be available to purchase in the next couple of days!
Pair with our newly released 2017 Pinot Grigio. This is our #1 selling wine for a reason! We call it a crowd pleaser because it’s bright, tropical, citrus flavors pair well with just about any food (including all of the appetizers in this list). It is also the perfect pairing for this dip! Top Tip: avoid red wines with spinach dip since spinach can coax an unpleasant metallic note out of red win.
Golden Delicious apple and pear flavors with the crisp finish of 2017 Unwooded Chardonnay cut through the richness of the ooey, gooey, mouth-watering cheese.
50/50 Merlot and Cab Franc blend, the 2016 Claret, Wind Whistle, pairs perfectly with chili. It’s aged in French Oak barrels and the black pepper spice and toast from the barrels is sure to compliment the heartiest of chilis!
And here is my favorite combo on the list: potato chips and sparkling wine! There is just something so satisfying about pairing an everyday food item, like potato chips, with a glass of sparkling wine, which screams celebration! The bubbles of Blanc de Blanc will cut through the saltiness of the potato chip and be a match made in heaven in your mouth! If you are getting fancy and serving something like truffle potato chips (to DIE for!) then try pairing them with 2014 Cuvee Evan Blanc de Blanc for it's rich and creamy characteristics.
No matter who you’re rooting for this weekend and even if you’re only watching to see Justin Timberlake at halftime….these food and wine pairings are sure to make for a fun night! Try a few of them and let us know which one is your favorite!
Planning a New Year’s Eve celebration? The New Year can be such an exciting time, full of fresh starts and future plans. It makes sense to ring it in with your closest family and friends. Popping open a bottle of bubbly is a surefire way to get the party started. But keeping the party going is another story, you don’t want to have to pour bottle after bottle throughout the night. Setting up a self-serve champagne bar will not only stretch your bubbly supply with the addition of juices and liquors, it will also leave you free to hang with your guests and actually enjoy your own bash.
So put some bubbly on ice, stock up on aperitifs and fresh juices, and gather up some other garnishes. Here’s how to set up the ultimate bubbly bar:
Skip the high-end vintage Champagne. Opt for a dry, domestic, sparkling wine. One bottle of bubbly is enough for about eight cocktails, so keep your RSVP list in mind when shopping. My personal favorites are:
Experimentation is half the fun of a self-service Champagne bar, so make sure to gather up a wide range of liqueurs and spirits. Some of my favorites include:
Dry Champagne works well with most juices, so encourage your guests to mix, match and try something they otherwise wouldn’t order at a bar. I suggest stocking up on the following:
Not only will a variety of garnishes make your bubbly cocktails look beautiful, booze-soaked fruit is always a treat to find at the bottom of your flute. Set up bowls of raspberries, strawberries and cranberries for guests to plop into their bubbly libations. Pre-cut lemon and grapefruit twists are also great flavor enhancers and a lot of fun.
Now that your bubbly bar is all set up, it’s time to make the cocktails. Fill a large bucket with ice to keep a few opened bottles on hand. Store the extra bottles in the fridge for later use.
Label your booze, mixers and garnishes with note cards, mini chalkboards or simply line a table with butcher paper and write ingredient names directly on the surface. Set out Champagne flutes, jiggers and bar spoons.
While I say go ahead and experiment with new flavors and inventing unique cocktails, here are a few of my favorite classic combinations to get you started.
Hope this inspires you to set up your own version of bubbly bar, I know that I have never NOT had a good time at a party where there’s been a self-serve bar...
Happy New Year everyone! Wishing you all a safe and fun holiday! Cheers to 2018!
This is one of the most fun things to do in the winter. Who doesn’t like snowshoeing through the beautiful vineyards and wine tasting with a group of friends or as a fun day date? This tour starts at Jolly Pumpkin where the Brew Bus will pick you up and drop you off at Brys Estate Vineyard and Winery. From there you will snowshoe a marked trail to Bowers Harbor Vineyards, and then follow the interpretive trail back to Jolly Pumpkin. Enjoy 5 tastes and glass specials at each spot!
Our brand new Spirit Cider Society is here!
Join in December for only $125!
*Starting January 1st, $150 one-time joining fee
Delight your family and friends with a special gift basket created just for them! We've curated a few of our favorite gifts inside the basket for them to enjoy. A gift basket is a unique wedding, holiday or housewarming gift! We have a few different options available, just click on Gift Basket above to check them out!
Our Brut Rosé came out on top in a recent poll as to what people would prefer to get under their tree at Christmas and we think it’s a wonderful gift to give or get all year long. There’s just something about bubbles that screams “Celebrate!”
Gift cards are the perfect gift for someone who has everything! They can be used on wine and merchandise both. We have two different gift cards to serve every gifting need.
There are some people who don’t think saving evidence of how many bottles of wine you drink is cool…but we aren’t one of them. We have a wide variety of decorative cork cages that you can use to save the corks from your favorite wines and remember the memories for years to come.
Our wine club membership is amazing. It is one of the few wine club memberships that is customizable to your liking! We pick our favorites each quarter but if you’d rather have something different, then we will switch them out! We have three different clubs to choose from and offer a ton of fun in the form of wine club dinners and tasting room perks.
Everyone can use a date night, right? Wow your special someone with a special night, just for the two of you. Click on the link above to view the menu, it is sure to impress!
There are few things I’d rather get as a gift than a case of wine….I mean WHO wouldn’t want that? Our mix & match options gives you the chance to choose your favorites, their favorites, some new ones AND a cider or two. All orders of a case of wine automatically get 15% off!
Because your pooch deserves it.
Since it is Opening Day for (rifle) deer season, I thought it would be appropriate to share a recent episode of Michigan Out of Doors that Spencer Stegenga, Proprietor of Bowers Harbor Vineyards and Doug Koch, Owner of Boathouse Restaurant, were featured on. If you’re not familiar with the show, it airs all over Michigan and highlights all things outdoors from hunting and fishing, new gear and apps to recipes with local chefs. It’s a well-put-together show with charismatic and knowledgeable people in the forefront and behind the scenes.
The particular episode aired in October and covered Spencer and Doug hunting pheasants at the Thundering Aspens Sportsman Club, a private hunting club in Mesick, MI. They offer pheasant, grouse, quail, waterfowl, turkey, Hungarian partridge and woodcock. They have over 600 acres and are in their 30th year of business, opening in 1987. There are currently 220 members and they have a growing waiting list. Their personal goal is for the pheasants to make it through the winter and hatch out chicks in the spring, so they stop shooting hens in December. 300 – 400 are expected to make it through the winter and are native-hatched. Spencer said the hunt was a lot of fun, they got about 19 birds that morning, mostly roosters and a few hens.
I also learned all about the HuntWise app during this episode, a sportsman tracker where hunting meets high technology. HuntWise developed the strongest hunt algorithm, HuntCast, which offers 14 different species to choose from and predicts the optimal kill time for each. It was designed to help hunters improve their success in the outdoors by utilizing advanced tracking and technology. It’s also helpful in “hunting down” (see what I did there…) the property lines and other land owner information so you can contact them to ask if you can hunt on their property. This app also connects hunters to a community of dedicated sportsman to seek and share advice. You can learn more and download the app here.
Looking for something different to do with the venison in your freezer? Try this delicious recipe by Chef Jim Wood from Antlers Fireside Grill, located just outside of Big Rapids, MI. We suggest pairing this meal with a bottle of Bowers Harbor Vineyard’s spicy and complex 2016 Claret, Wind Whistle, which is a 50/50 blend of Cab Franc and Merlot.
Venison cutlets with Biscuits and Gravy
2 venison loin medallions cut half an inch thick
1 cup flour seasoned with 1 tsp garlic powder, 1 tsp onion powder and ½ tsp mustard powder
3 tbsp butter
salt to taste
1. Pound venison medallions until they are thin like a cutlet
2. Melt butter over medium high heat
3. Coat venison in seasoned flour and season with salt to taste
4. Once pan begins to barely smoke and all butter is melted add cutlets to pan and cook to desired doneness
5. Remove from heat and set aside
4 tbsp butter
½ an onion, finely diced
1 clove garlic, minced
4 tbsp flour
1lb breakfast sausage
3 cups heavy cream
1 cup chicken stock
Salt to taste
1. Over medium heat melt butter
2. Add onion, garlic and sausage
3. Break up sausage into small bits until completely cooked through
4. Add flour and whisk to incorporate
5. Slowly add cream and stock whisking vigorously
6. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer
7. Simmer on low for 10 minutes
8. Add salt to taste
1. Top with venison cutlet
2. Ladle sausage gravy over venison cutlet
3. Place top of biscuits over gravy
4. Ladle more sausage gravy over top of biscuits
Michigan has so much to offer! In just one episode we learned about salmon fishing on the Betsie River, bird hunting with Thundering Aspens Sportman Club, how the HuntWise app makes it easier for hunters to pursue their passions and learned a new way to cook venison to boot! Huge thanks to Michigan Out of Doors for sharing these experiences with us!
Last Wednesday, Wine Specialist Tom took our tasting room staff on a brix tour. We were able to walk around the vineyards and test the brix levels in the fruit, and also learn about pH levels and acid content. It was AMAZING learning about how much goes into the testing and preparation of the vines and grapes (AKA berries). The timing of harvest is key and thus testing the berries on key metrics is vital: sugar, acid, pH and phenolics, the latter having few metrics. On top of everything that needs to be measured, all grape varietals need to be picked at different times and each have their own ripening schedule.
Measuring the levels of brix in a berry is how you figure out the sugar content. The sugar level itself is measured with a refractometer. The juice is placed on the refractometer lens and light travels through the juice to refract on a degree scale. The thicker the juice the more it bends the light and the higher the brix that registers on the scale.
2) Acid content
Organic acids are responsible for the various levels of bitter tastes in the wine and have influence on the wine’s stability, color and pH. It is perhaps the most critical of the measured components. Don't forget...wine is an acidic beverage after all.
3) Level of pH
pH is the measure of a balance of active acidity in the juice and wine, so acid and pH are directly related. Generally white grapes are harvested at pH level of 3.1 – 3.3 and red grapes at 3.3 – 3.5. A pH meter is used to measure pH. Before this is done the grower and the winemaker can taste the berry and get a feel for the sugar and pH ripeness.
In addition to using the technical tools to measure the ripeness, you should also be tasting the fruit along the way.
All in all we had a lot of fun as a group testing the brix levels and learning about each varietal and what to do look for. Interested to learn more about this topic yourself? We offer private and group vineyard tours! Click here to learn more about what we offer and to sign up for one, they are a blast!
Hope you enjoyed this edition of Through the Vines and Behind the Scenes! If you missed Part One, you can catch up here and stay tuned for Part Three!
(Available in our Tasting Room and Online Store very soon. Stay tuned!)
(Available in our Tasting Room and Online Store very soon. Stay tuned!)
One of my very favorite things to do is to host cocktail parties for my friends. I love getting everyone together relaxing and catching up. As much fun as the actual party is, it isn’t exactly stress-free deciding what to serve and getting everything ready. Gone are the days when I can throw some Doritos in a bowl and some Bud Light in a cooler and call it a day. Now, there is a little bit of pressure to serve something that people actually want to eat and drink, and also something a little outside the norm. Say hello to wine and cheese. A match made in culinary Heaven.
Last week, the Bowers Harbor Vineyards staff was treated to a wine/cheese pairing put together by our Chef Morgan. It was beyond delicious and we all learned so much about what wines go with which cheeses, and why. It was so cool to see what happens to the flavor profiles of both the cheese and the wine when tried separately, and then together. All of the cheeses from this evening were from The Cheese Lady, if you haven’t been to her shop in Downtown Traverse City, definitely make a point to visit. Delicious! They also have locations in Muskegon, Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, Farmington and Rochester.
I’ll take you through the pairings just as we tried them. Print this off, save it, serve a few of these at your next happy-hour get together, and you are sure to wow your guests. I serve mine on a chalk-board serving dish that I can write on to let guests know which cheeses are which. Similar to this one on Etsy. Side note: these trays are also a perfect housewarming gift!
1. Delice de Bourgogne- a French classic triple crème brie-style cheese originating from the Burgundy region of France. The cheese is made through the process of blending a high fat cow’s milk cheese with crème fraiche that gives it a very creamy light texture almost like a whipped butter. Unlike many brie’s of this style it has a very heavy bloomed rind that gives it an earthy note on the palate.
The Blanc de Blanc Cuvee Evan, makes a great pairing. The fine bubbles help to cut through the heavy fat content of the cheese.
2. Capra- This Belgium chevre is a unique style goat cheese, which the goats are grazed on herbs and grasses on the hills of the Ardennes and it's made with the local honey which gives this cheese a hint of sweetness.
Pinot Noir Rose, a light, dry Rose will help to cut back on the sweetness while also helping to bring out the fruit flavor of the wine.
3. Fresh Ricotta- Made from whole milk, this is a creamy rich cheese with a little sweetness and tanginess.
Our Pinot Grigio has a very crisp and clean taste that will help to cut through the heavy rich cheese and bring out the refreshing citrus in the wine.
4. Fontina Fontal- found commonly in Northern Italy, is a younger, creamier style of Fontina. A lighter style of cheese with just a touch of sweetness and a very mild flavor.
Our Wind Whistle Gewurztraminer is very fitting in its light refreshing flavor with just a hint of sweetness to match the intensity of the Fontina Fontal.
5. Prairie Breeze- An interesting twist on a hard-white cheddar, it's crumbly with a creamy-crunchy finish. It is made on Mennonite farms in Iowa.
Riesling Block II – A refreshing, almost Sauvignon Blanc style of Riesling, works wonderfully to cut the sharpness of the cheese while giving it a more of the creamy mouthfeel.
6. Appenzeller- Found in the Appenzell region of northeast Switzerland, has a very strong herbal rind that is typically coated in wines or ciders to help its growth. This nutty, tangy cheese has a history documented over 700 years ago. A very pungent smelling cheese.
The sweetness of the Medium Sweet Riesling, will help to cut through some of the strength of this cheese, and bring out the nuttiness.
7. 12 month aged Manchego- Originating from La Mancha Spain, a very nutty semi-hard cheese made from sheep’s milk.
The strong berry fruit flavors and the hint of smoke from our 2016 Pinot Noir are a wonderful way to complement the nutty firm texture and flavor of this aged Manchego.
8. Beemster Goat Gouda- The unique blue sea clay soil grows special grasses, that when ingested by the goats helps to produce a soft, sweeter style of Dutch Gouda.
Bowers Harbor Red is a lighter red, subtle raspberry and cherry fruit flavors complement the Beemster Goat Gouda.
9. Stilton- This pungent blue cheese is a staple in English cuisine. Stilton can only be made in 3 counties within the country (Derbyshire, Leicestershire, and Nottinghamshire) and can only be made from 6 different dairies. This is a semisoft blue cheese with a very sharp must aromatic and flavor profile.
Maggie being a strong assertive red wine, will be a nice pairing for a stronger blue cheese.
(Editor's note: since our wine/cheese event, we have sold out of Maggie. We are in turn recommending our 2013 2896, Langley to go with the Stilton because of it's bold blend.)
10. Cambozola- This crème brie style blue cheese come from the German region of Allgau. The cheese is made by injecting a brie style cheese with the Penicillium roquefotri mold used in many strong blue cheeses. By doing this the cheese has a soft creamy texture, and not a pungent of an aroma, but the strong rich blue cheese flavor.
The richness of this cheese goes great with dessert style wine and liquors, both the Appletage and the Ice Cider make nice pairings to help cut through the strong blue cheese flavor and go nicely with the creamy texture.
Hope this list helps you decide which cheese and wine to serve at your next party. It sure helped me! All of the wine on this list can be purchased in our tasting room or at our online store. Click here to shop! Cheers!
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