Thursday, February 4, 2010

Michigan Winery Visit: Lone Oak Vineyard Estate

Cabin fever can hit a person hard in Northwest Ohio in the dreary month of January. Gray skies, gray snow, stray snowflakes floating in a dreary sky. But it's always sunny inside the tasting room, and so my wife and I fired up the car and hit the road for a zip trip to sample some Michigan wine.
I had been interested for some time to check out the Jackson area wineries. They're close enough to Toledo (about an hour and a half) to leave in the morning, do some wine tasting, have some lunch and be back in the Toledo area before night. Chateau Aeronautique is a new winery we were hoping to visit, but unfortunately it is only open on weekend and we were visiting on a Monday (Martin Luther King Day). There were two others I wanted to hit, Lone Oak Vineyard Estate and Sandhill Crane Vineyards.

These two wineries are part of Michigan's Pioneer Wine Trail, a trail that admittedly isn't as well known as the trails that encompass the Traverse City area and Michigan's west coast. The Pioneer Wine Trail features seven wineries (although one is the St.Julian tasting room, which is more like a retail store).

Lone Oak is very accessible from the highway, and we were rolling up to the winery building in short order. It's obvious a lot of off-season work is taking place at Lone Oak as evidenced by construction inside and out. Inside we met Dennise Barber, who owns the winery along with husband Kip. Dennise explained that they had just constructed a deck and were expanding the tasting room. They were working hard to get things ready for their Valentine's Eve event. We then met Ozzy the winery dog who appeared with a roll of bottle labels in his mouth.

2010_0129michiganwine0026 We usually start with the white wines, but at Dennise's suggestion we started with the dry reds and saved the semi-sweet whites for later. Our first sample was the 2005 Merlot. As we sampled the Merlot, Dennise explained that the vision for Lone Oak is to produce great wine with grapes grown on the 25-acre estate and also to bring great red wine into the Michigan wine picture. The Merlot is oaky, with flavor notes of coffee and black cherry.

The 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon is a tasty bottle. It has layers of cherry and leather and a smooth rewarding finish. This sells for $24.95 and would get even better if laid down for a year or two.

A special treat was the 2005 Vin Du Roi. This estate grown beauty is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Petite Verdot. It has an aromatic, floral nose, a full body and smooth finish. This wine is blended with the best grapes from the south facing hillside and features some nice "legs."

The 2008 Riesling is a sweet wine which could be a nice everyday, easy-drinking wine. It is a bit sweet for us as we prefer dry Riesling.

The 2008 Gewurztraminer was an eye-opener. This was a sweet Gerwurz that was akin to a late harvest or dessert wine. It comes in a 375 ML half bottle and was delightful to sip. It emitted spicy and floral notes and will be a great match with spicy food or as an after dinner drink. At only $9.95, this is a great QPR (quality price ratio) for a special wine.

Sweetness isn't our thing wine-wise, but at Dennise's suggestion, we sampled the Red Raspberry wine. The wine is made with 100% Michigan raspberries and is one of Lone Oak's most popular wines. This was one of the best wines we sampled and we ended up buying a bottle (along with the Vin du Roi). We tried it along with a dark chocolate candy and the combination is sublime. No wonder this wine won a gold medal at the 2009 Great Lakes Wine Competition.
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