Review: Old Mission Peninsula Wines

Another Reason To Stop Being A Wine Snob

Bottom Line:  The whites can be amazing - Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, and Riesling in particular - reds are palatable.  It's only a matter of time before the rest of the world realizes what treasures this region holds.  Don't be the last to know.

The Rest Of The Story: (Disclosure: These wines were provided as press samples by the PR firm representing the wineries of the Old Mission Peninsula...)  All of us, to some degree or another, suffers from wine snobbery.  One new year's resolution worth sticking to is to kick that habit.  And so it is that the Old Mission Peninsula has presented itself (again) in all its undiscovered glory...

Sure, one data point does not make a trend.  But when the peeps at the Old Mission Peninsula PR office sent a sampling of what the area has to offer, well, they don't screw around.  Lying on the 45th parallel (along with many famous winegrowing regions of the world), the peninsula juts out into the deep waters of Grand Traverse Bay.  Oh, did I forget to mention that we're talking about Michigan

Anyway, at 18 miles long and just 4 miles wide, the peninsula looks kind of like an old lady's leg - well, at least from outer space it does.  Whatever it looks like from above, word is that it is a gorgeous destination on the ground.  And this is - bottom line - a region worthy of your attention.

This is the third time we've focused wine from on this area.  Eric Asimov of the New York Times wrote a piece on the OMP, as did Andrew Putz of Food & WineYou still haven't tried these wines?  What are you waiting for?

To help us jump-start a broader investigation of this region, the good people at the Wineries of Old Mission Peninsula sent us one wine from each of the seven wineries there - two reds (brave of them) and five whites.  We'll start with the less-than-great news. The reds weren't that wonderful - but we expected that.  These northern parts with their short growing season really don't have the best red varietal climate.  Drinkable, but not an experience worth going out of your way for.  But the whites, oh, the whites...there's some consistency here that is suggestive of more discoveries to be made.

Yes, as a Buckeye, it's painful top admit - these wines make you want to shout "GO MICHIGAN!"  But, consider that anyone turning their nose up at this area just because it's not Napa, Sonoma, or Willamette Valley is totally missing out.  Wine snobs repent!

2008 2 Lads Cabernet Franc $25
An admirable showing from the OMP.  Fruit forward with a good, balanced backbone and clean flavors.  Its only drawback is its slightly off-dry finish.  Handsome bottle.  Served with grilled foods at an afternoon barbecue it set just the right tone - nothing serious.  But at $25, wow...there are a lot of world class wines out there at that price.

2007 Chateau Chantal Pinot Noir Reserve Pontes Vineyard  $20
So much for expectations.  Initially a convincing wine superior to much of the droll churned out in California's central valleys.  Slightly peach-tinged color and very light opacity.  Fruit-driven aromatics not at all unlike a lot of Sonoma/Carneros fruit.  Smooth texture, good acidic balance, but just as the finish starts to linger, a slight metallic taste emerges.  More air time only intensified this effect.  Bummer.  Otherwise a really good wine, but the steel taste is impossible to get around.

2008 Black Star Farms Arcturos Pinot Gris $13.50
A few shades of platinum blonde darker than mineral water.  Welcoming nose with appreciable fruit.  Lovely balance of dry flavors, tame acid, and surprisingly present body.  Pleasant, refreshing, and a damned fine representation of this region.  Moderate (12%) alcohol and a very clean finish.  This wine can hold its own amongst similarly (and even higher) priced Alsatian wines.  Easily the best wine of this group and at the best price.  These folks must be proud.

2008 Brys Estate Naked Chardonnay $18
Clean Chardonnay.  Effervescent quality, light-bodied, refreshing, and pleasant.  A slight acrid back-of-the-throat bite on the finish marred the experience, but only until we gave it some breathing room.  After that it was fine, so give this one some air time.  Like the 2 Lads, the price point on this puts it in competition with some very heavy hitting company.

2008 Chateau Grand Traverse Dry Riesling $12.50
Having recently reviewed this wine - and having loved it - we decided not to repeat ourselves and selfishly snagged this wine for personal enjoyment at a later date. (Is there any higher compliment?) What a deal.

2007 Peninsula Cellars Pinot Blanc $18
An innocuous white wine color and crisp green apple/grape juice aromas throw a curve ball on the approach.  But the lively texture and real body bring it back to center before the round finish.  Acids are more recognizable on the mid-finish, but so is the lingering - and substantial - flavor.  A lot more heft to this wine than expected.  Such a fun wine to drink.  Great pre-dinner wine - Humboldt Fog or even a Reggiano would do well here.  Keep it cold.

2008 Bowers Harbor Vineyards Estate Riesling $14
The "Medium Sweet" indicator on the back label earned this wine last place in the tasting line up and a great deal of reluctance to try.  But it moves in the glass like a crisp, dry wine with no trace of cloying sugars in its legs.  The nose, too, is crisp and green-apple-tart.  Alive on your tongue.  And while the fruit component is full and ripe, it's kept in check by bright acids.  The label is a bit of a misnomer - and this wine is lovely.