First Kiss

Let Me Have My First Kiss, photo by Julia Thomas

View this gorgeous July sunrise bigger and see more in Julia’s slideshow.

The Nets Are Off: Michigan’s 2016 Grape Harvest a Success!

nets-are-off-at-bel-lago

The Nets Are Off, photo by Mark Smith

The Detroit News reports that 2016 is shaping up to be a great year for Michigan wine grapes:

Frigid winters contributed to dismal harvests the past two falls. In 2014, Michigan winemakers lost a majority of their crops to the extreme cold. And last year, up to 75 percent of the wine crop was decimated because of winter, a late spring and, in northern Michigan, a late-summer hail storm. Many wineries were forced to supplement their vintages with grapes and juice bought from out-of-state growers.

“Winemakers are very excited about the harvest this year,” said Karel Bush, executive director of the Michigan Grape and Wine Industry Council. “After that second brutal winter, some vineyards had to buy from elsewhere and that made it very difficult for them, especially if their business model is to be an estate winery. You have to be open, you have bills to pay, staff to pay, so you had to buy grapes and juice from elsewhere. This year, they’re delighted to have their own crop to work with.”

…It’s good news for an industry that continues to grow and is winning accolades for both white and red varietals, most notably chardonnay, riesling, cabernet franc and pinot noir. Home to more than 120 wineries, Michigan ranks 10th in the nation in production, producing more than 2.5 million gallons a year — a number expected to be reached again this year. And wineries, with their ever-expanding tasting rooms and activities, have become a big business across the state, attracting more than 2 million visitors a year.

Mark took this photo at Bel Lago Winery on Michigan’s Leelanau Peninsula. The nets he refers to are those snow-looking piles that are white nets that hang over the vines to keep birds away during the final weeks of ripening. View his photo background bigilicious and see more late-fall goodness in his slideshow.

#TBT Ice Wine Season

Ice Wine Season

Ice Wine Season, photo by Andrew McFarlane

This morning as I was working on a Facebook post announcing the release of Black Star Farms’ 2013 A Capella Ice Wine, I stumbled upon a cool synchronicity that brought together several of my personal and professional pursuits into such a neat package that I had to share it!

It turns out that exactly one year ago today, I spent a very cold day on the Old Mission Peninsula shooting a photo feature for eatdrinkTC of the ice wine harvest & pressing at Black Star Farms. Ice wine, eiswein in the original German, is a rare dessert wine that requires care and skill to produce and…

While December 11, 2013 was by no means the coldest December 11th on record (that would be 1977 at -11), it was a bone-chilling day with temps hovering around 11 degrees with a wind chill that never got above zero after 9:30 AM.

In short, as Black Star Farms winemaker Vladimir Banov explained, the perfect day for the ice wine harvest.

Ice wine is not made every year, and not by every winery. U.S. law for ice wines specifies that the grapes must be naturally frozen to be sold as ice wine.

To begin, a winery will leave a portion of the harvest to hang. Even under the bird netting, it’s a gamble against mercurial weather and clever creatures. Many years, it will leave the winery with nothing.

In some years however, such as this one, patience is rewarded.

Click through for a photographic look at the ice wine process along with some videos. If you’re interested, here’s information about A Capella Ice Wine.

You can view my photo background big and see more in my Ice Wine at Black Star Farms slideshow.

More wine and more winter wallpaper on Michigan in Pictures!

The City of Riesling is being built in Michigan

Old Mission Peninsula

Old Mission Peninsula, photo by Trent Strohm

“You have fantastic Michigan wines, but Riesling is hitting the target every year.”
~ wine writer Stuart Pigott

With the TC Film Fest yesterday and today’s post, it appears that it’s “me time” on Michigan in Pictures. City of Riesling is a brand new wine event I am working on. It takes place July 26-28 in Traverse City and is focusing the attention of the international wine community on Michigan Rieslings.

The guest of honor for a weekend of celebration of “Planet Riesling” is none other than Stuart Pigott, likely the world’s leading authority on Riesling wine and one of the most entertaining people in the wine biz. He’s a British born wine writer who has lived in the heart of Riesling culture in Germany and dedicated years to changing people’s opinion about Riesling. When I interviewed Stuart he told me, “Riesling’s range goes from bone dry to honey sweet, from feather light to tongue heavy and every single gradation and combination of those things. No other grape variety can do that.”

One of the great things about Riesling is that it does very well in Michigan, which is considered one of the rising new Riesling regions. We have more Riesling in the ground than any other varietal, and plantings are on the rise. In today’s TC Record-Eagle, my friend Bryan Ulbrich of Left Foot Charley called out one factor that I believe is making Michigan Rieslings stand out, what wine aficionados call terroir, the climate & character of the place a wine is grown. “It’s really a transparent grape. It reflects where it was grown more than any other grape variety. You can’t hide the vineyard in this one.”

It’s really the same thing that makes our fruit some of the best in the world – Michigan is a beautiful place to grow things.

Anyway, if you’re interested in attending, there’s a giveaway you can enter until 5 PM today that gives you 2 tickets to the Riesling Oyster Riot on Sunday afternoon, 2 tix for the Night of 100 Rieslings on Sunday and 2 tickets to any one of three sessions at the Salon Riesling symposium on Monday. Details right here!

Trent writes: “We spent the day driving the Old Mission Peninsula … sandy beaches, historical lighthouse and fresh fruit stands … the ‘spine’ of the peninsula is dotted with vineyards that thrive in the temperate climate created by the surrounding lakes … reminded us of the Rhine Valley … beautiful”

View his photo background bigtacular and see more in his Michigan USA slideshow.

Michigan Wine Photo Contest

vineyard path

vineyard path, photo by aimeeern

The Michigan Grape & Wine Industry Council says that Michigan has 2,650 acres devoted to wine grapes, making Michigan the fifth state in wine grape production in the nation. Our vineyard area has doubled in the past decade, and Michigan’s 101 commercial wineries produce over 1.3 million gallons of wine annually, good for 13th in wine production. Wine touring & wineries are attracting over 2 million visitors annually, and the chief way our state tells the story of our wines & wineries is through Michigan Wine Country Magazine.

The folks at the Wine Council are seeking your help in telling that story through the Michigan Wine Country Photo Contest. Entry runs through November 26th and you can enter 1-10 photos of Michigan vineyards, wine, wineries or tasting rooms for a shot at the 2014 cover of Michigan Wine Country and one of two grand prize wine touring packages! Click that link for all the details.

Check Amy’s photo out background bigtacular and see more in her great vineyard slideshow.

Much more Michigan wine on Michigan in Pictures!

Michigan wine is growing on the vine!

Good wine

Good wine, photo by {Anita}

April is Michigan Wine Month and as we bid farewell to a chilly April with signs of a much more springlike May on the way, I’d like to shout out the  Michigan Grape & Wine Industry Council.

Michigan reached the 100 winery mark in 2013, and the Wine Council is the state entity tasked with sharing all the good news about this booming industry. This month they launched an all-new website packed with information about our state’s wineries & wine industry including Michigan wine events, the history of Michigan’s wine industry and some facts about Michigan wine. Some highlights:

  • Michigan has 15,000 acres of vineyards making Michigan the fourth largest grape-growing state. Although most of the acreage is devoted to juice grapes such as Concord and Niagara for juice, about 2,650 acres are devoted to wine grapes, making Michigan the fifth state in wine grape production in the nation.
  • Michigan’s vineyard area has doubled over the last 10 years.
  • Our state’s wineries produce more than 1.3 million gallons of wine annually, making Michigan 13th in wine production, with the vast majority of production from Michigan-grown grapes.
  • Three types of grapes are used for wine in Michigan: Vinifera (classic European), Hybrid (botanical crosses of vinifera and native North American grapes), and true native varieties (often used to juice production).
  • Vinifera planted in Michigan include Riesling, Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio/Gris, Pinot Blanc, Gewürztraminer, Auxerrois,
  • Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Hybrids include Vidal, Chambourcin, Marechal Foch and Vignoles.
  • Each year, Michigan’s wine, grapes and grape juice products and related industries produce nearly $790 million of total economic value to the State of Michigan and account for more than 5,000 jobs across the state.

Check this photo out on black and also see more from Anita on Michigan in Pictures.

Michigan in Pictures also has more about Michigan wine!