Saturday, February 20, 2010

Michigan Winery Visit: Sandhill Crane Vineyards

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The second leg of our recent tasting trip to Michigan found us at Sandhill Crane Vineyards in Jackson. The road to the winery was rutted and icy. We felt that way too, until we stepped inside the friendly and inviting tasting room.

Anne was our server and was helped by Rose the winery dog. The Sandhill Crane winery is a family owned and operated winery and features estate bottled wine. The winery is part of the Pioneer Wine Trail, located in Southeast Michigan. The winery is in a picturesque setting and looks like a perfect venue for warm weather fun.

The tasting room offers one of our favorite vintages -- “free.” There is no charge for tastings, but the wide array of great wines almost guarantees you’ll be going home with a bottle or two.  The tasting menu offers a tantalizing 32 wines.

We began with the Chanson, which is made from the Chardonelle grape. This grape was originated at Cornell University. This is the driest Sandhill Crane wine and is crisp with a hint of butter and oak.
The Chardonnay followed and  is citrusy with a note of green apples.

We enjoy tasting some off-beat varietals, and Sandhill is a good place to do this. The 2007 Legacy is a limited edition dry blend of Chardonnay and Vignoles. It has a touch of sweetness and goes well with chicken and fish. An added bonus is that $4 from the sale of each bottle goes to the Legacy Land Conservancy, which protects local nature and farmland.

Traminette is another unusual grape. It is related to Gewürztraminer and shares many of the same traits. This is a dry, floral wine. We felt this wine wasn’t quite crisp enough for our taste.

The Vintner’s Select Riesling brought smiles to our faces. This is a dry Riesling with pear and green apple flavor notes. This unique wine also had a pleasing clean acidity.

Moving to the reds we sampled the Moulin Rouge. It is a light blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Chancellor. It is a golden red color and surprisingly has a caramel aroma.

The 2004 Merlot struck a black cherry and currant chord with us and is lightly oaked. This has a pleasing red berry bouquet and has a smooth and lingering finish.

The 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon was the winner of the 2008 Great Lakes Wine Judging and is made with grapes from Michigan’s oldest vines (Lemon Creek). It has dried cherries and black pepper flavors. We judged it pleasant, but wasn’t full-bodied enough.

We can’t get enough of Chancellor. The 2005 Proprietor’s Reserve Chancellor features a deep purple hue and a rich and velvety body. It might have been the frosty day outside, but we enjoyed a nice warming effect followed by a cranberry finish. This was one of our favorites.

The Abrazo wine has a great story to it. It was developed in honor of the Cascades Humane Society who rescued Rusty (pictured on the label) from the animal pound on the last day. Rusty, one of the world’s greatest huggers, now lives with Holly, the Sandhill winemaker. $2 from every bottle goes to the CHS. The wine features De Chaunac and Chambourcin and has a twangy, jammy taste.

We finished up our tastings of the dry and off-dry wines with the Vidal Blanc. This is complex and sophisticated. The finish is long and clean. This is a great white (peachy and floral) and one or our favorites. It’s also a steal at only $13.95. We picked up a bottle of this baby.

The rest of the Sandhill lineup ramp up the sugar scale from semi-sweet to sweet. We tried  Overture, Staccato and Rhapsody in Red. Of the three, Staccato was most noteworthy.

Sandhill Crane Vineyards is a great destination for a wine getaway or a day trip. It offers friendly people, great wine and a super setting.
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Shannon Casey said...

I agree with your assessment of Chancellor. It was one of our favorites as well!

Joyce Ervin said...

Sandhill Crane is our favorite Michigan Winery, we visit often and usually go away with a case each time. Loved your write-up.

Dave Nershi, CSW said...

Thanks, Joyce. We can't wait to visit again in the Spring. The winery has a great line up of entertainment and events...