Thursday, August 21, 2014

Fenn Valley Winery: Southwest Michigan Winery Visit

Winery report by TWAV Tasting Team Member Dr. J
Another favorite winery stop of my wife and I is Fenn Valley.  This is truly our favorite winery; the one that really got us into wine back in 2008.  We learned of a tour through the vineyard where you get to stop alongside various grape varieties and taste the wine that comes from those grapes.  These tours are very popular and sell out most of the time.  This was the case on our very first visit so we learned to book ahead of time.  We had no idea this would become a tradition to look forward to every year.
A group of 21 of us gather onto a canopied wagon with bench seating as we are pulled through the vineyard by a tractor.  We were led by Brian for a very in-depth look into the winemaking process and the grapes as they make their way from the vine into wine. 
The first stop of the tour is next to the Pinot Grigio.  This wine is super clean and crisp with stone fruit notes.  Looking to the other side of the path, one sees the Sauvignon Blanc.  This is a newer varietal to Fenn Valley and not a common find in Michigan.  The cooler region Sauvignon Blancs tend to have more of a grapefruit character over the warmer weather “grassy” examples and this one follows suit.  I liked this one even more so than last year’s so they are really starting to dial it in.  The third wine of the stop is the Edelzwicker or “Noble blend” consisting of Riesling and Traminette.  An annual favorite of ours and anyone we share the wine with, Edelzwicker is wonderfully fruity and floral and will pair well with spicy foods or simply on its own.
The next stop involved getting out of the wagon to experience two different Rieslings between the vineyard rows.  First is the dry Riesling with peach, apricot, and a nice clean finish.  Dry versions of this wine are becoming more and more popular in Michigan.  The dry Riesling was followed up by a semi-sweet offering.  While I tend to find myself preferring the dry versions, this one was my favorite of the two.  With a residual sugar of 2.01%, the alcohol is slightly less due to stopping the fermentation process in order to capture this hint of sweetness.  The perfectly balanced acidity keeps the sugar in line for a wonderful summer sipper.
The third stop got us into the reds.  Cabaret Rosé was the first pour and is a 50/50 blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc.  Crisp and fruity strawberry notes make for a refreshing patio wine on a hot day.  Now it was time to get into bolder, dry red wines; the Merlot and Meritage.  The Merlot is a reserve version meaning “of high quality”.  The oak is apparent with smokiness and cherry.  The Meritage is another favorite of mine and contains a blend of Cabernets Sauvignon and Franc and Merlot.  These three varieties meld together for notes of fruit, spice, and earthiness all in one.
The last and final stop was the hybrid section of the vineyard.  Yet another favorite, the Capriccio was passed around.  This non-vintage wine is a blend dominated by Chambourcin with small portions of Cab Franc and Merlot.  Whether you prefer dry or slightly off dry reds, this is a perfect middle of the road wine that both sides can agree on.  And for those that like the sweet wines, we finished with two excellent examples that most anyone can enjoy. 
The Late Harvest Vignoles happened due to perfect weather conditions favorable to Botrytis “Noble rot” in 2012.  There is pronounced apricot flavor as expected with a Botrytis wine and notes of pineapple and butterscotch.  At about 5.5% residual sugar, the sweetness is once again kept in check with nicely balanced acidity.  The grand finale was the Vidal 42 Ice Wine, which recently won a double gold medal.  A rich, almost syrupy character leads to fruit cocktail in a glass and a nice long finish.  You don’t have to like sweet wines to truly appreciate this gem.
For $8, you get all of this, a logo glass, and a $5 off coupon towards the purchase of four bottles of fine Michigan wine.  There isn’t anywhere else you can get the up-close and personal experience for the price, which is close to the tasting fee that many wineries charge in the tasting room alone.  Tours can be booked online.  Fenn Valley is where it all started for me, and there isn’t anyone in the state who does it better!

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