Thursday, April 1, 2010

St. Julian Braganini Reserve Pinot Noir 2007

Bummer Alert! I may as well state this up front. Although I am a booster of local and regional wines, the St. Julian Braganini Reserve Pinot Noir was a major disappointment.

Returning recently from a visit to a couple of Michigan wineries, we stopped at the St. Julian's tasting room in Dundee. The first problem was that the tasting room switched locations more than a year ago, but the sign is visible from the highway towering above its old location. The storefront where the tasting room used to be offered no indication of its new spot. After making a phone call we finally zipped into the proper location.

The tasting room offers up to six complimentary samples of its standard wines and charges $5 for the reserve tastings. We opted for the reserves and tasted a Pinot Gris, Traminette, Blanc de Blanc sparkler, the Pinot Noir, Merlot and Meritage.

Since we really enjoy Meritage, I was ready to pluck a bottle, but I was swayed by a sale on the Pinot Noir and grabbed a bottle (along with a Sauvignon Blanc).

The Braganini Reserve is touted as having "Italian roots and Michigan soil." Somewhere between the roots and soil the quality got lost.

When we opened this bottle, it was with high hopes. Usually just the lower end of the St. Julian wines make it to the shelves in the Toledo area. Their Riesling and Simply White wines are good casual sippers, although they tend toward the sweet side. You aren't going to stride into a local wine shop or supermarket and find a Braganini Reserve Traminette. So, we were pulling for this to demonstrate more flair and sophistication than the mass production wines for which St. Julian is known.

The color was a surprise, lighter than the lightest rose'. The wine is packaged in a golden-hued bottle, so the first real clue to its color intensity was when it was poured. We love Pinot Noir and the subtle flavors that great winemakers can tease from this grape. However, this version left us flat.

The inital impression is lackluster. There is no body or finish to speak of. Upon several sippings, a timid cherry flavor comes forth and then flatlines.

We're not ruling out other wines from the Braganini Reserve line, but this one is on our "do not fly" list. The bottle costs $20. For less than that you can get a great Sterling Vintner's Collection Pinot Noir or an Au Bon Climat Pinot. For less than $10 you can get a Beaulieu Vineyard (BV) Coastal Estates Pinot Noir that is vastly superior to the St. Julian bottle.

Michigan, we love ya, but this wine struck out.
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