Monday, September 19, 2011

Michigan Winery Visit: Chateau Aeronautique

Chateau Aeronautique 001The future of Chateau Aeronautique Winery is up in the air – and that’s a good thing.

While other wineries might have farm animals, a golf course, or a boat dock, this Michigan winery embraces  the airpark lifestyle of flying and vintage airplanes. We paid a visit to this Jackson winery during their annual fly-in.

Chateau Aeronautique is located in Williams Aero Estates. It’s very typical of upscale subdivisions in Michigan, but then you notice the very long, large garage doors. The houses have hangars that open up to a grass landing strip. Lorenzo Lizzaralde, the winery owner, is an airline pilot with a love of flying – and of wine.

Chateau Aeronautique 002On most days, visitors can enjoy wine at a gazebo and deck which serve as a tasting bar. During the fly-in event, which was attended by hundreds, the hangar was converted to a tasting room, with oak barrels serving as tables. The food was plentiful – and free.

Guests could enjoy the live music while relaxing on a sun splashed deck overlooking the airfield.

Chateau Aeronautique 015Wine is good. Wine with music and a nice setting is better. Wine with music, a nice setting and vintage planes periodically buzzing by is a real happening.

After enjoying some hamburgers and hotdogs hot off the grill, we were ready to sample the high-flying Chateau Aeronautique wine. Green Dragon and I were joined by Kelly and Gary for the tasting.

The tasting menu offers 15 different wines with a cost of $5 per person, which includes a nice winery glass. We opened with the 2009 Seyval Blanc, a hybrid white that fares very well in Michigan and Ohio. This was my favorite of the dry whites. Light in body, it had a refreshing sweetness and touch of citrus.

Chateau Aeronautique 009The Chardonnel is an unusual hybrid grape developed by Cornell University. The 2010 vintage has apricot on the nose but less flair than the Seyval and less body than the Chardonnay.

A limited edition, the 2009 Chardonnay is aged in French oak which lends a bit of toast to the grapefruit and melon flavors. This scored well with our tasters.

Crossing over to the reds, we hit the DeChaunac, another unusual variety. This is light in body with a slightly fruity approach. The wine is aged in oak.

Cabernet Franc is always a favorite and the 2008 is one of CAW’s Chateau Aeronautique 011most successful wines. This has a a medium body with a dusty cherry flavor and a mild peppery pop on the finish. At only $22 for a bottle, this is a great value and a nice food wine.

The best scoring wine of the day was the 2009 Aviatrix Crimson, a Bordeaux blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cab Franc. This struck the right balance for me. It powers up with a smooth Merlot-powered take-off, enters into some barrel-rolls provided by the Cabernet Franc and comes in for a long, smooth landing provided by the Cabernet Sauvignon. Flavors of plum and teas leaf abound.

We then took a stroll around to get a closer look at the planes on the ground and watch the take-offs and landings. Blue skies and puffy clouds made the conditions almost ideal.

Upon our return we tasted some of the CAW sweet wines although our palates are geared more to the dry. We sampled the 2010 vintages of Pinot Gris, Vignoles and Gewurztraminer. These were certainly popular with the crowd, but in my mind would have been very interesting wines with a tad less sugar. We closed with the 2008 Late Harvest Riesling. Kelly dubbed this one heavenly – certainly sweet, but with a a subtle tapestry of flavors.

Chateau Aeronautique is a member of the SE Michigan Pioneer Wine Trail. It offers a fun and unique experience with well-made wines.

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