Friday, August 2, 2019

Youngblood Vineyard Brings Innovative Michigan Wine to Detroit Metro Area

Jessica YoungbloodPremium wine comes to Motor City – and the selection of grapes will surprise you.

By Dave Nershi, CSW

Vino-Sphere Publisher

Motown, Mo’ Wine

Michigan’s reputation for producing outstanding wine is on the upswing. Perhaps the state’s best known wine country is up north in Traverse City and wine lovers shouldn’t overlook wineries in the southwestern corner of the state on the shores of Lake Michigan.

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Despite more than 140 state wineries, there have been few cries to jump in the car and visit the wineries in Detroit. A new winery in the Detroit metro area is changing that.

Youngblood Vineyard, located in Ray, Michigan, is a sustainably-farmed vineyard that’s uncorking excitement and award-winning wines. It may be time to gas up the car and head to Motor City.

Bringing Wine Country To TheIMG_20190730_172423_942 People

Dave and Jessica Youngblood have lived in the Pacific Northwest and Virginia, some of the most beautiful wine country in the nation. In 2015 they returned to the 46-acre family farm in Michigan and decided to try their hand at winegrowing.

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We fell in love with wine country when we lived in Virginia,” said Jess Youngblood, the winemaker who with her husband are the forces behind the winery. “It’s a long four-hour drive to get to wine country from Detroit. It just makes sense to make some wine where the people are.”

Standing Up To The Chill

Not being in the main Michigan winegrowing areas, where the winter temperatures are moderated by large bodies of water, presents challenges. Winters are harsher and unpredictable. The summers are hotter.

To help ensure success, the Younbloods took an unconventional route. They planted cold-hardy grape varieties developed by the University of Minnesota that produce flavorful wines, but can stand up to the harsh Michigan winters. Grape varieties include Marquette, Frontenac, Frontenac Blanc, Prairie Star, Petite Pearl and Itasca.

These varieties can withstand temperatures of 30 below and still produce a full crop. The last polar vortex created some problems and the deluge of recent precipitation caused the loss of a couple hundred vines in low-lying areas. All in all, Youngblood terms the cold-hardy grapes “fantastic.” In fact, Youngblood Vineyard is the largest exclusively cold-hardy vineyard in the state. At 25 acres under vine, the size of the vineyard is in the top 20% of all Michigan vineyards.

Youngblood Vineyard grapesFarmers First

The support of the first winery in the Detroit metro area has been tremendous, with plenty of publicity including features on the local television network affiliates. A winery in a major metro area seems a natural fit, so why hadn’t anyone done it sooner? “It’s hard and it’s expensive,” says Youngblood.

Wines from Michigan are more fruit forward with greater acidity and lower alcohol than their California counterparts, she says. The southeast Michigan locale also varies from other parts of the state. Riesling, which thrives in other Michigan wine regions, doesn’t do well in southeast Michigan.

The key to success lies in the vineyard, according to Youngblood: “We are farmers first, growing great fruit.” Paying close attention to the chemistry and harvesting at just the right time is crucial. Youngblood Vineyards only produces wines made with their own estate grapes. Their debut vintage is 2018.

The results speak for themselves. The 2018 Youngblood Vineyard Marquette was just named Best of Class Dry Red in the 2019 Michigan Wine Competition. The accomplishment is an impressive one for any winery’s first vintage.

Tale Of The Tasting

We recently had the opportunity to taste the 2018 Marquette and the 2018 Frontenac Blanc. The Frontenac Blanc was paired with a dinner of ham, corn on the cob and Hassleback potatoes. In the glass the color is lemon with green highlights. On the palate there are notes of peach, apricot and honeysuckle. The finish is semi-dry, adding to its refreshment. The low alcohol (11.8% ABV) keeps it balanced and light.

Youngblood Vineyard MarquetteWe sipped the Marquette before the results of the Michigan Wine Competition were known. After finishing the bottle, we agree with the judges. It’s an outstanding wine.

We paired ours with Black Angus skewers with black pepper teriyaki sauce, couscous with sun-dried heirloom tomatoes and green beans with fresh tri-color peppers. The wine is deep purple in color and has a medium plus body. The first sip brings a rush of flowing raspberry, then it settles into a groove with luscious cherry notes. Some Michigan reds fail to develop big, bold flavors – not the case with the Youngblood Marquette. The depth of flavor is rich and rewarding. This is a smooth and stylish wine.

YOungblood Vineyard pavilionYoungblood Vineyard is a teaching and learning opportunity for area colleges and 4-H groups. It’s also a chance for wine lovers to expand their knowledge. Instead of monikers like “Midnight Symphony,” Youngblood Vineyards names its wines after the grape variety.

“We make beautiful wines,” said Youngblood. “We encourage you to try what you haven’t had before.” She adds that most people don’t even know what qualifies as a vinifera grape.

The winery is currently open on weekends and features a beautiful outdoor tasting pavilion in the vineyard. Visitors can taste the wine while viewing where the grapes came from. “Everything we serve and sell came from the vineyard. You’ll also have the grape-grower and winemaker pouring the wine.”

Detroit Wine Country is open for business. Stop in for a sip of inspiring Michigan wine.

You may also enjoy:

Ramulose Ridge Vineyards: A Virginia Winery Visit

Michigan Riesling Capturing International Attention

Hawk Haven Celebrates A Decade Of Award-Winning New Jersey Wine

Full Disclosure: The wine was received as a marketing sample.

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