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!
You may have heard the good news! We have THREE new and very glorious red wines! We know you have been “patiently” waiting for the release of these red wines and we are so excited to announce that they are available for both tasting and purchase! We are doing a special tasting fee of $5 to taste all three of the new wines, so you can either taste these in addition to your normal five for $5 or just come in and taste these three. Wine Club Member? You can taste them for free as part of your normal free tastings per visit!
Tasting Notes: Ripe raspberry, rosemary, grippy structure from the tannins of the thick skins of the Cab Franc, long finish. Age 1-2 years before drinking. Will age 8-10 years, plus.
Tasting Notes: Blackberry, tellicherry peppercorn, chocolate. Age 2-3 years before drinking. Will age 10-12 years, plus.
Tasting Notes: Currant, leather, tobacco. Age 3-4 before drinking. Will age 12-14 years, plus.
Cabernet Franc, 2896 and Selection S are only produced on really warm, perfect grape growing vintages. We are not able to make them every year. In fact, we have only made the Selection S twice, in 2012 and 2106. The prices of these wines are based on the growing season and quality of the grapes, the cooperage and barrel selection we use and how many times the barrels are used, and the potential to age and mature beautifully. The 2896 was $50 in 2010, $75 in 2012, $55 in 2013, and we were not graced by Mother Nature to be able to make it in 2014 or 2015. Spencer feels this wine is even better than the 2012!
The barrel program Spencer has built with Bryan Ulbrich (our talented winemaker) and several high-end cooperages from France is like NO OTHER barrel program in the Midwest. The time and money spent on this program is remarkable and focused. We have 20 years of barrel experience and have improved the program each year by learning, tasting, listening to Mother Nature, training our vines and taking meticulous care of them, and only bottling our high-end reds in the superior growing years. It is a three-year process for each vintage to really see what barrels perform the best. We’ve taken Old-World lessons in this aspect of winemaking to learn, modify and improve every time we make wine. The 2896 wine was aged 18 months in first use and second use barrels. They cost approximately $1,200 each, and we only use the barrels twice for this program. For the Selection S, we aged this wine for 18 months in all brand-new barrels; expensive but worth it! This will give this wine the ability to age 10-15 years, and give it a complex flavor and finish.
In today's fast-paced, instant gratification world, the concept of buying wine and purposefully laying it down to age is a bit counter intuitive. Trust us. This wine is worth waiting for! When it comes to fine red wine, patience truly is a virtue!! AGE THE WINE! We believe in you! You can do it! You will thank us!
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.
(Available in our Tasting Room and Online Store very soon. Stay tuned!)
(Available in our Tasting Room and Online Store very soon. Stay tuned!)
The estate vineyards are meticulously cared for and their wines express both the sophistication and fun that is characteristic of everything with the BHV moniker. They operate their tasting room with standards of hospitality that are at the top in the industry, always maintaining a certain levity that reminds you that wine is supposed to be fun.
Amanda Danielson, Level III Advanced Sommelier
Prioprietress & Beveraage Director, Off The MAP Hospitality (Trattoria Stella & The Franklin)
Bowers Harbor Vineyard is one of my favorite local wine destinations. The tasting room at Bowers Harbor Vineyard is a traveler’s destination, a foodie’s delight, and a wine connoisseur’s haven.
Traveling from Traverse City to Bowers Harbor Vineyards, you’ll find yourself in a quiet realm with the Grand Traverse Bay’s brilliant blue water framing the peninsula. Your worries will soon be left behind.
I like to start with the 2896 Sparkling Rose wine while overlooking the vines and Bowers Harbor Bay, although the friendly staff can make your wine choice very easy. They might recommend a very reasonably priced wine flight or a wine and food pairing flight. All you have to do is sit back and relax.
For the more adventuresome travelers, a vineyard wine specialist can take you on a private tour and wine tasting. This is a great way to introduce yourself to the local history, the wine growing and insider’s look and tastes of some of the region’s finest limited release wines.
You can also attend one of Bowers Harbor Vineyards’ special events: Dining in the Vines. This experience is a four-course gourmet food and wine event among the vines catered by their close neighbors, The Boathouse Restaurant. This is a unique event you don’t want to miss, because of its delicious wine and food pairings in a beautiful atmosphere.
Take the short drive up Old Mission Peninsula, enjoy the stunning views, let the friendly staff lead you on a pleasant wine journey, and enjoy Bowers Harbor Vineyards. We locals certainly do!
Sommelier and General Manager
The Boathouse Restaurant
Traverse City, MI