Michigan Winemakers Tout Harvest as Among the Best

Most of Michigan's wine grapes are now tucked safely inside for processing into a hearty, high-quality 2012 vintage


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Most of Michigan’s wine grapes are now tucked safely inside for processing into a hearty, high-quality 2012 vintage. Throughout the state, winemakers are excited about this year’s bounty. The season started early when unseasonably warm March days sparked the awakening of Michigan’s fruit orchards and vineyards and, over the course of a hot, dry summer, wine grapes thrived.

"From a growing standpoint, this is the best season I’ve ever been involved in," says Winemaker Matt Moersch of Round Barn Winery and Free Run Cellars in southwest Michigan. "This could be the best vintage for Michigan. We should get a chance to shine as a region for red wine."

The early ripening of grapes prompted harvest to begin in September for Moersch and his crew.  Working nonstop, 14-hour days since then, the team finished harvesting the last two grape varietals, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot, in mid-October. Collectively, they harvested 130 tons from three 10-acre block vineyards and processed more from regional growers. They’re exhausted, yet extremely excited about the quality and quantity of grapes.

Now the grapes are ripening and flavoring. Already, one clear shining star to Moersch is Muscat Canelli, to be released at Free Run Cellars. "Normally, we get a few hundred pounds. This year, we harvested 7,000 pounds. It’s a grape that likes a warmer climate. We’re going to make an amazing dry-style Muscat." He adds that the wine will be highly aromatic.

Under the Round Barn Winery label, Moersch is most excited about Pinot Noir and Merlot and crafting them in a Burgundy-Bordeaux style, thanks to the long growing season.

In addition to his winemaking duties, Moersch is distiller and brewer for the family’s spirit and brew operations. Black Walnut Crème, crafted with regional walnuts, is a new release Moersh describes as an "amazing, Baileys-style spirit." The first 300 cases sold out within weeks, and production is under way to make more of the crème.

You won’t have to wait long for the first release of the 2012 vintage. At Round Barn’s annual family-friendly holiday open house on Dec. 1, toast Santa with the 2012 Chambourcin.  Moersch describes it as "fruity, easy drinking, very approachable, without any oak."  Spring releases will highlight white varietals, including Moersch’s specialty, a 2012 oaked Chardonnay. Many more reds will be released late next summer.

In other areas of the state, Left Foot Charley of Traverse City reports harvesting more than 200 tons of grapes. Hickory Creek of Buchanan reports doubling production due to the bounty of grapes, including Pinot Gris, Grüner Veltliner, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Cabernet Franc. Domaine Berrien Cellars of Berrien Springs reports a successful harvest, which was 70 percent complete before the end of September. The winery’s grape varietals include St. Vincent, DeChaunac, Traminette, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, and Cabernet Franc. (On a side note, year-round, Domaine Berrien Cellars donates $1 to breast cancer research from every Cabernet Franc bottle sold in honor of Vintner Wally Maurer’s mother.) Blue Water Winery in Carsonville reports that harvest was "way beyond estimates.” Brys Estate Vineyard and Winery on Old Mission Peninsula in Traverse City reports “amazing fruit with incredible intensity and complexity."

Lucky for us, the 2012 vintage is being touted as among the best of Michigan’s vintages. Now that’s something to toast to!

Sharon Kegerreis is co-author of the award-winning From the Vine: Exploring Michigan Wineries and The History of Michigan Wines. Learn more and get autographed books at deliciousmichigan.com.
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