Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Michigan's Sandhill Crane Vineyards: Great Reason To Support Your Local Winery

Returning home to the Toledo area from the Electric Forest Music Festival in Rothbury, Michigan, we began working up a thirst for some refreshing wine. We decided to "freestyle" on the way and our route took us down some back roads in the Jackson area.

My brother Tom and his wife Helen joined Green Dragon and me for the trip. I decided we'd swing by Sandhill Crane Vineyards, a standout small winery that
has a wide array of wines, a comfortable tasting room, and knowledgeable staff.

This family-owned winery has 32 wines to choose from on its tasting menu and all the samples are free. The wines include some uncommon grape varieties that are uncommonly good, including Vignoles, Traminette, Chardonel, Vidal Blanc, Lemberger, and Chancellor.

During our last visit, we really savored the white wines. This time the Serenade, a semi-sweet Vignole, stood out and the 2009 Traminette and 2010 Riesling were certainly good. But the reds really were the stars on this visit.

Moulin Rouge is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Chancellor. It's hard to go wrong with a blend of those grapes and this was a favorite of Green Dragon. It had flavor notes similar to an Italian Red. The Proprietor's Reserve Chancellor continues to be one of our favorites and one of the great wines in our region. We sampled the 2006 vintage, which is estate grown, and enjoyed the luscious cranberry flavors and velvety body.

The 2006 Merlot was light in body but very flavorful, dripping with red berry flavors.  Abrazo is a jammy blend of Chancellor and DeChaunac that was a favorite of our quartet of tasters.

Sandhill isn't afraid to experiment and neither are we. We tried a pair of unusual wines. The first was Vignoles Pyment. Pyment is a blend of wine and mead (wine made from honey). We're just acquiring the taste for ice wine (in small quantities) but haven't made the leap to meads. This blend of mead and Vignoles first hits you with the honey and then the Vignoles. Unique and interesting, but not our favorite.
The most unusual wine we tried was Sugar Snow. Tom and Helen live in the heart of maple syrup country in upstate New York and so we had to give this a try. This unfiltered fortified wine is made with maple sap from a local farm and lightly sweetened with pure maple syrup. This is a super limited wine with only 50 cases made. the wine comes in half bottles and sells for $19.50. I love maple syrup and so enjoyed this wine. This would need to be sippled slowly with a sweet dessert or perhaps drizzled on some freshly fallen snow.

Sandhill Crane Vineyards is a compelling reason you should drink local. Be sure to check them out on your next swing through Michigan.

Photos by Tom Nershi

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