Did you know that we have three Chardonnays on our menu? Why, you ask? Because we can! The Chardonnay grape is one of the most diverse – and most planted – white grapes on Earth. It’s used for everything from light and zesty champagne-style wines (like our Cuvee Evan and Blanc de Blanc) to rich, buttery California-style Oaked Chardonnay (like our RLS Reserve) and everything in between. The climate and terroir where the grapes grow, as well as the winemaking, are the difference makers here.
Today, we are going to talk about our three Chardonnays (only our still wines will be covered in this blog but click here to read about our sparkling Chardonnays), the differences between them, food pairings that go with each and finally tackle some common Chardonnay misconceptions. Instead of only reading about it, I thought it would be fun to do a little video series starring our rockstar duo Kevin and Jane.
Malolactic Fermentation is a process where tart malic acid in wine is converted to softer, creamier lactic acid (the same acid found in milk). The process reduces the acidity in wine and also releases some carbon dioxide. Technically, Malolactic Fermentation is not a fermentation because it does not use yeast, it uses a different kind of bacteria (Oenoccocus Oeni). The result is a wine with a creamy, velvety texture. YUM!
Side note: there is a simple and delicious recipe at the bottom of this blog for grilled pork chops from Kevin's kitchen!
Pouring all three Chardonnays for people at the tasting bar is fun for the staff. People often say that “they don’t like Chardonnay” and typically that means that they have only ever had the traditional oaky Chardonnay and that they don’t prefer the taste. If we can get them to try the Unwooded Chardonnay without telling them what it is, and then they like it because it drinks more like a Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc, they are always surprised to find out it is a Chardonnay. But that is what wine tastings are for, to open your horizons and try some varietals and styles that you are unfamiliar with. Oaked Chardonnay is like the cilantro of wine, people typically either love it or hate it.
We hope you enjoyed our Chardonnay Throwdown mini-series. Stay tuned as we continue having fun educating from behind the tasting bar, as well as behind the camera. Taste. Learn. Enjoy!
We suggest pairing with Big Paw Chardonnay. Bon Appétit!
“Have you ever thought about doing the Introductory Sommelier Course?” Kristy nonchalantly tossed the question my way. Um, well, yes. I had thought about it once for approximately two seconds and immediately dismissed the idea. My oldest daughter has passed her Intro, her Certified, and her Advanced Sommelier exams, and I know the massive amounts of information she has assimilated. It’s daunting.
Still, the thought was intriguing. After all, I’m going on my twelfth year working at Bowers Harbor Vineyards; part-time, of course, but still. I’ve been around wine and the wine industry long enough that I’ve listened, learned, read, tasted, asked a lot of questions, and developed a good working knowledge of wine basics.
“OK,” I thought, “I’ll just check online and see when the next Intro course is offered in the Midwest.” The Court of Master Sommeliers makes the various levels of sommelier certification courses available throughout the country on a yearly basis. The trick is to find one that works with your geography and time schedule, and that isn’t already full. I pulled up the website, went to the calendar, and checked the schedule for the upcoming 12 months. There was only one Intro course scheduled for the Midwest, and it was – gulp – in Detroit 5 days hence. Seriously?? “Well”, I thought, “what do I have to lose? My pride? Three days of time? A small chunk of money? But it might be a great learning experience, even if I don’t pass.” So I pulled the trigger, registered, booked a hotel room, and headed home from work that evening ready to download the study manual. All 300 pages.
Five days later, I arrived at the hotel in Detroit around 7:30 a.m. for the first day of the course. There were about 90 other attendees, most from some segment of the beverage or hospitality industry, although the fellow sitting next to me was in the mortgage industry and simply wanted to put this on his resume. We were seated at long tables in a comfortable conference room, and after a brief introduction by the four Master Sommeliers teaching the course, the barrage of information began.
The next 10 hours were filled with viticulture and vinification theory; detailed explanation of and practice with the “deductive tasting method”; the basics of food and wine pairing; and then - FRANCE. France, in all its historical and viticultural glory, with exquisite attention to every detail of Burgundy, Bordeaux, Champagne, the Loire Valley, Alsace, and the Rhone Valley. The day ended with a discussion and demonstration of service, salesmanship, and hospitality. Then 90 people filed glaze-eyed out of the conference room to either drink themselves into oblivion or go back to their rooms to study. I studied.
The following day we returned for a second bombardment of information, this time covering Italy, Germany, Austria, Spain, Portugal, North America, South America, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand. And for good measure they completed the day with detailed instruction on fortified wines, beer, sake, cider and spirits. And in between all of those we had managed to do six different deductive tasting sessions, exploring 18 white wines and 18 red wines.
At the conclusion of Day Two, we were given a 70-question exam, with 45 minutes to complete it. I finished my exam in about 15 minutes, and then went to wait with others in the lobby outside the conference room. There was a lot of nervous dialogue and mild tension as we waited for everyone to complete the exam, and then another long wait before we were all invited back into the conference room. Glasses of champagne were distributed, and each person waited anxiously to hear their name called. Happily, I passed!
I walked away with not only a certificate and a pin, but a far greater understanding of and appreciation for what we do here at Bowers Harbor Vineyards. There is a balance in the world of wine between complexity and simplicity that is striking. The simple is obvious: we grow grapes out of which we make wine. We’re farmers. The complexity is an everchanging landscape of factors; we have control over some of the factors. Others, not so much. The soil is there as the foundation of what we do. It can be nurtured, cultivated, or depleted depending on what we do. But we cannot change it, and we would do well to respect and understand its unique character and draw on its strengths. The region in which we farm is Northern Michigan, no more or less stunning than Burgundy or Bordeaux. And therein lies its beauty, and the reason we love what we do here.
There is no other place on earth that will ever make wine exactly like the wine we make here at Bowers Harbor Vineyards. Similar, perhaps, of the same varietal with a similar chemical profile. But never quite like the grapes that bask in the morning sun along Bowers Harbor Road, lean toward the evening sunset in the Langley Vineyard, or get buffeted by the West wind howling through Block I. Those are the grapes gifted to us, and with which we seek to make wines that express the distinct character of this place. Those are the wines we love to share with family and friends. That is the challenge and the privilege of who we strive to be at Bowers Harbor Vineyards.
Here at Bowers Harbor Vineyards, we're a pretty passionate bunch. We're passionate about the wines we produce. We're passionate about the land and water we have the privilege of stewarding. We're passionate about offering exceptional hospitality to the guests who visit our vineyard. And, we're passionate about our team – the people who introduce you to our BHV wines.
That's why – when one of our team members accomplishes something extraordinary – we like to celebrate!
Rachel Van Til began her journey with wine working in the BHV tasting room during her summers home from college. She earned her Certified Sommelier pin while working at Trattoria Stella here in Traverse City, and in 2016 was recognized by Wine and Spirits Magazine as "One of the Top 8 New Sommeliers of 2016". She moved to Detroit the summer of 2016 to open and serve as Beverage Director and Front of House manager for Mabel Gray, named "2017 Restaurant of the Year" by the Detroit Free Press.
Last year she moved to Dallas to serve as a sommelier at Pappas Brothers Steak House in Dallas, TX. On July 11, Rachel traveled to Phoenix to take the grueling 3-day Advanced Sommelier Exam. She passed with flying colors, and we're proud to say she got her start at Bowers Harbor Vineyards. Kristy McClellan, our Director of Operations, continues to be a mentor and a role model for Rachel.
Congratulations, Rachel! Here's to pursuing our dreams with passion and excellence!
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!
I am now three weeks into my new position as Marketing Manager for Bowers Harbor Vineyards (BHV) and wow, I have learned a lot! I came into this position having been familiar with BHV for years, as I’ve helped in the tasting room here and there during busy seasons and events, am an avid wine drinker myself and have a passion for the bustling wine scene here on Old Mission Peninsula. I have years of experience in the marketing world, which is also something I love and the opportunity to combine two of my biggest passions at my favorite winery is like a dream come true. I’m so excited to be here and learn all about the wine making process and everything behind the scenes. So hi! I’m Alaina Dodds and I look forward to meeting all of you when you visit us!
Visiting a winery and doing wine tastings with your family and friends is so much fun, right?! I’ve witnessed couples, singles, regulars, first-timers, bachelorette parties, anniversaries, groups of friends and families enjoying their time at BHV in just the past few weeks. I love watching the enjoyment on everyone’s faces.
It is our job to make working in the wine industry look and feel fun and carefree. We want you to come into our tasting room and truly relax, learn something, have some laughs and go home a little happier than you were before (and tell your friends about us).
What I have never really thought about…until now, is how much work actually goes into ONE bottle of wine! Or how much happens behind the scenes to ensure that the guests have a variety of high quality wine to choose from and that the staff is educated on the entire selection. The labor of wine is intensive, finicky, tough, stressful and oh so rewarding.
The grapes shown in this photo below are the Chardonnay grapes grown in the block of vines right in front of the tasting room. The first picking of these grapes will be in mid-to-late September and will make our 2017 vintage of Cuvee Evan Blanc de Blanc. This is really exciting because the fist vintage of this wine was in 2005, then 2009, then 2014 and this year’s will be our 2017 vintage which won’t be available until 2020, due to the three-year aging process. We follow the traditional champagne method (methode champenoise), which is universally acknowledged as producing the highest quality and most age-worthy sparkling wines.
The Chardonnay grapes are currently measuring 8-10 degrees brix and we want them to be at 19 brix before we harvest. Because we have had some cooler weather this summer, harvest will be a bit later than usual. We pick these grapes earlier in the harvest season because they retain more acid and not too much sugar. Acid helps the fruit characteristics come forward and also helps to have longer aging potential. This block of chardonnay grapes was planted in 1991 and has 750 vines. It’s incredible to think about how 26 years of growth and 750 vines of grapes can produce just a few kinds of wines. Our first picking of this block will be used to make our Cuvee Evan Blanc de Blanc and our second picking (once the residual sugar levels have increased) will make our Chardonnay RLS Reserve.
I know you don’t want to wait all the way until 2020 to try our Cuvee Evan Blanc de Blanc, good thing you don’t have to! We just released our 2014 vintage, we only have 90 cases though! You can pick up your own bottle ($38) or case when visiting our tasting room or by purchasing online here.
See you next time when we take another journey through the vines and behind the scenes at Bowers Harbor Vineyards!
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