Winning Michigan Wines

Michigan Wine Competition
Photography courtesy of Michigan Grape and Wine Industry Council

Ice wine, red wine, sparkling wine and rosé — ’tis the season to pop the cork and toast to good cheer.

Don’t know what to buy? The winners of the 2018 Michigan Wine Competition make it easy to complete your holiday shopping list. With a wide variety of winners, the Gold Medal and Best of Class picks make great gifts for friends, family and party hosts. Wine connoisseurs will want to grab a bottle for their own collection to serve at festive holiday parties during dinner or as dessert.

“As people are thinking about holiday shopping or like to give a very uniquely Michigan gift, any of these would be a good choice,” said Karel Bush, executive director of Michigan Grape and Wine Industry Council, which organizes the competition.

Fifty-five of the state’s 145 wineries entered 413 wines into the 41st annual competition, open only to wine produced from Michigan grapes and other fruit. Organizers also debuted an ice wine trophy — the first and only award for ice wine in the United States.

Wine Glasses
Photography courtesy of Thinkstock

A very sweet wine served cold, ice wine is labor intensive, expensive and only produced in a few states. Temperature and timing factor into the harvest. Grapes are left on the vine until it is cold enough to freeze the grapes almost solid, then they must be picked and crushed while frozen.

“You can’t allow them to thaw,” Bush said. “It’s really a very special wine. It’s dessert all by itself.”

A diverse panel of wine experts gave the Best of Class awards to nine wines from a group of 95 gold medal winners, including 27 double gold, ranging from bone-dry reds to sweet and luscious dessert wines. Many of the wineries enter — and win — competitions around the country and world, but they like the state’s competition because they are going head to head with their peers.

“They are competing with wines of a similar style and grapes that are grown in similar conditions,” Bush said. “In some ways, it’s more meaningful to them. If they can earn a medal in our competition that means they are doing really well in comparison to other wineries in the state.”

Left Foot Charley 2017 Blaufränkisch Rosé, made from the blaufränkisch grape, stands out because no other winery in the state is making a wine from that grape. St. Julian Winery had a repeat winner with its Solera Cream Sherry in the dessert category, a testament to the consistency of that sherry, Bush said. The reds also made a comeback after the devastating winters of 2014 and 2015.

“We had some fantastic reds that were entered from the 2016-17 vintages,” she said.

While some specialty wine shops can order the winning wines, many can only be purchased through the winery. But don’t delay. Most of the wines are a limited supply and usually sell out by spring.

The 2018 Best of Class Award Winners

Ice Wine: Chateau Grand Traverse 2016 Riesling Ice Wine

Dessert: St. Julian Winery Solera Cream Sherry

Sparkling: MAWBY Sandpainting

Dry White: Verterra Winery 2017 Dry Riesling

Dry Red: Mari Vineyards 2016 Bel Tramonto

Semi-dry White: Aurora Cellars 2017 Medium Sweet Riesling

Semi-dry Red: Lawton Ridge Winery 2017 AZO Red

Fruit: St. Julian Winery Sweet Nancie Peach

Rosé: Left Foot Charley 2017 Blaufränkisch Rosé

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