Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Flying Otter Vineyard & Winery: Michigan Winery Visit

Sometimes the pot of gold isn’t at the end of a rainbow, but a bumpy dirt road. We found that to be the case during a recent trip to Ann Arbor. On the way home we decided to make a detour and visit Flying Otter Vineyard & Winery, 3402 Chase Road, Adrian, MI, the newest stop on the Pioneer Wine Trail.

The winery, which opened in 2011, is a family operation. Father Bob Utter is the founder and winemaker and when we visited, we were greeted by Jeff Utter, the winemaker in training.

In 2005 the first vines were planted and now the vineyards boast 13 different varieties. They have a great spectrum of wines. While it isn’t unusual to have hybrid grapes in Michigan and Ohio, I don’t recall visiting one that offers single varietal Frontenac and Marquette or blends with St. Croix, Sabrevois, La Crosse, St. Pepin and Brianna.

We opened with the Noiret, a dry peppery red and the only wine on their list that isn’t wholly made from Michigan grapes. This is a light bodied wine that is their most popular seller.

A hybrid grape that really seems to thrive in Michigan is Chancellor. The 2010 Flying Otter Chancellor is deep red in color and is fruit forward with plum and berry flavors.

Marquette is a hybrid grape developed at the University of Minnesota and it thrives in cold weather. It is a distant relative of Pinot Noir. The 2011 Estate Marquette is tasty with dark berry and spice flavors.

My favorite red was the 106 estate wine. This is a field blend from Row 106 of the vineyard. All of the grapes in the row are harvested together including Frontenac, St. Croix and Sabrevois. This is dry with a pleasing tartness.

Perhaps their most robust red is the 2011 Estate Frontenac. This would be a good choice for your grilled steak entrée.

On the white side, Flying Otter offers four different wines. Our favorite was the 2011 Sunshine, an estate blend of Frontenac Gris, La Crosse, La Crescent, St. Pepin and Brianna. This is an off-dry white (residual sugar about 0.5%). This is a crisp summer white perfect for sipping on a hot day.

Also worthy of note is Northern Lights, a blend of Chardonel and Traminette grapes. This is semi-dry and another good sipper.

The surprise of the day? The Cherry Pie is a blend of grapes plus Montmorency cherries. The tartness of the cherries provides a real zing and it is indeed like cherry pie in a bottle.

Jeff also shared a work in progress, from an unlabeled beaker he poured us a glass of white wine and challenged us to guess. Green Dragon was the winner. She guessed “apple pie,” and so it was. This is a blend of Vidal grapes and cinnamon and nutmeg flavors to deliver yet another pleasing “piece of pie in a glass.”

Our visit to Flying Otter was on a frosty winter day, but in spring or summer, you can enjoy your wine in the gazebo in the midst of the vineyard while enjoying live music. And in case you are curious, the name Flying Otter combines Bob Utter’s love of flying and the family name (Utter is Swedish for Otter).

The wines of Flying Otter are unique and worth the scenic drive to their tasting room. Make it part of your next flight plan.

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