We are a wine shop that explores the best of both worlds with retail shopping and a walk-in tasting room open Tuesday through Sunday. Our tasting room selections change monthly and always focus on a different "Old World" and "New World" region. The ever-changing menu allows our guests to constantly explore and discover something new. This month we are exploring Friuli-Venezia Giulia and the State of Michigan. Order a flight of all four wines or simply stop by, shop, and enjoy a glass. It's up to you!
Friuli-Venezia Giulia is a small region tucked in the northeastern corner of Italy up near the Slovenian border. While Italian reds garner great global attention, Friuli is a standout region known for producing some of Italy’s most prestigious white wines. These are white wines of incredible character, depth, and intrigue, as both unique microclimates and winemaking styles shine through in the wines. In some cases, you will find traditions like more skin-contact in white winemaking that brings a darker orange or copper tone to the wines, adding greater depth, structure, and age ability. Home to the signature Friulano grape, the region cultivates an interesting array of varietals, such as Ribolla Gialla, Pinot Grigio, Glera, Refosco, Schioppettino, and Pignolo right alongside more common French grapes like Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, or Merlot.
The history of the region is one built on a great melting pot of cultures over the centuries, which may also explain the melting pot of grapes. With its proximity to Austria and Slovenia, Friuli was often a strategic trading province with access to the Adriatic Sea to the south. The Alps form the border to the north, meaning almost all vineyards are planted in the southern portion of the region. The best sites lay on the sloping foothills of the mountains on the very eastern edge near Slovenia. These small appellations are called Colli Orientali del Friuli and Collio and are known for their terraced vineyards and well-draining sandstone and marine fossil-laden soils.
In Colli-Orientali del Friuli, where winemaking dates back before the Romans, international and indigenous varieties grow side by side. Colli means “hills/slopes” in Friulian dialect, and as you might guess, “Orientali” refers to the eastern direction of these hills. The vines are protected by the mountains but still get Adriatic Sea breezes from the south. The calcium-rich soils here provide a perfect spot for exceptional white wine production. One of our flight wines, the Borgo Savaian di Bastiani Stefano 'Aransat' (Orange) is a blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio that sees 90 days of skin contact, thus producing an orange wine as the very clever name suggests.
Regarding skin-contact wines, these tend to be a stylistic practice for various producers, as there is a marked individuality to the winemaking. Some see more, some see less. “Ramato” is a term that means copper and is traditionally used on the label to note skin-contact Pinot Grigio.
Moving west, Friuli Grave is the largest sub-region (DOC) in Friuli and accounts for more than half of the wine production in the greater region. As with Graves in France, the name for the appellation comes directly from its well-draining stony soils. The stones heat up during the day and continue to radiate warmth over night as temperatures cool off. Again, while mainly known for white wines, we are stepping a bit outside the box to show you a sparkling Pinot Nero (Pinot Noir) as the first wine in your flight this month. The Le Monde Pinot Nero Rosé is a pleasant and balanced sparkler with a fresh, fruit-forward approach making it the perfect before dinner or fun celebratory bottle to share with friends.
Speaking of sparkling, chances are you may have heard of a fun fizzy wine called Prosecco by now. Known as a great value-driven bubbly choice, Prosecco is an appellation shared between Friuli and the Veneto region to the southwest. Made a bit differently than Champagne, wines are produced in the Charmat or “tank” method. To be officially called Prosecco, the wine itself must be made up of 85% Glera. There are certainly many cheap and cheerful examples of Prosecco, but many high quality, expressive and site-specific wines have now made their way into the market.
Our third and fourth wines for the flight come from the greater Venezia Giulia IGT. As with much of the region, wines can be made from a wide variety of grapes. Incredibly flavorful Pinot Grigios, racy Sauvignon Blancs, lean refreshing Cabernet Francs, zesty Refosco and so much more. We jumped at the chance to grab the Chardonnay from Kante. Coming from the Carso district, hidden in the hills of Trieste, the Kante wines are known for intense minerality and focus that place them alongside wines like Chablis in terms of weight and energy. Food-friendly but just as enjoyable on it's own, this wine showcases the versatility of Chardonnay and the distinct terroir of this district with smells of honeysuckle, mandarin orange, and beeswax. Finally, the Zamò Rosso rounds out the flight with a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Refosco dal Peduncolo Rosso. You’ve probably heard of the first two grapes, but Refosco dal Peduncolo Rosso is an easy-drinking popular inky red grape. The palate of this wine shows bright red berry fruit, minerality and earthy tones. It’s a perfect wine for heartier dishes as the weather begins to cool, with a flexibility that could just as easily accompany grilled fish and mild cheeses.
This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Friuli-Venezia Giulia, and we haven’t even mentioned the San Daniele Prosciutto yet! The serious diversity of food and wine culture coming from this little corner in Italy only assures that we will be exploring this region again and again with you. For now, sit back, and enjoy these four energetic selections that make up this month’s flight.
When you think of the state of Michigan, wine is probably not the first thing that comes to mind. Ford Motors, Eminem, Big Ten football, microbrews, hard cider, fresh peaches, and a slew of other thoughts may strike you long before you think fine wine industry. While most of the 50 states in the U.S. do produce wine in some shape or form, there are few that collectively excel in the fine wine industry. Now the seventh largest grape-growing state in the U.S., Michigan has been slowly on the rise over the last few decades.
According to the USDA, the number of vineyards in Michigan has almost tripled in the last ten years. Currently, 3,375 acres of Michigan are covered with wine grapes. By 2024, the goal for the Michigan wine industry is 10,000 acres of wine grape cultivation. Yes, Michigan, that short fairy ride across Lake Michigan from our backyard! The wine industry in Michigan is valued at more than $5.4 billion and it is getting bigger by the day.
Michigan's wine industry has been traced back to the 1780s, in the small-town of Monroe located in the Southeast corner of the state, 40 miles south of Detroit. The Raisin River flows for almost 139 miles in that area, and there were so many grapes growing naturally along its banks that when French settlers arrived in the 1780s they named it after the sun-dried fruit. By the mid-1800s, a viable wine industry had been established in Monroe County. The traditional wines of Michigan were sweet wines often made from grape varieties native to North America, such as the Concord and Niagara grape, or from hybrid grapes partly developed by crossing native species with vinifera grapes. North American grapes have always had the advantage of being well adapted to local growing conditions, with consequent high fruit yield. In addition, growers can switch back and forth between the production of sweet wine and grape juice. Which makes total sense when you think that the largest plantings in Michigan are that of the Concord grape, mostly for that infamous grape juice company Welch’s Grape Juice.
Michigan historically specialized in sweet and fruit wine well into the 1970s. As interest in domestic fine wine production grew in the U.S. in the latter half of the 20th century, several existing Michigan producers began experimenting with upgrading their production, and new vintners began to purchase land for vine cultivation. Tabor Hill Winery, in southwest Michigan, opened in 1971 as the first Michigan winery specializing in vinifera wines. Just a few years later in 1974, Chateau Grand Traverse opened in the Traverse Bay region in Northern Michigan. A slow growth in the number of wineries and continued trials of different vinifera varieties progressed well into the 2000’s. This experimentation continues today and is showing massive results each new vintage.
As you might guess, Michigan is considered a cooler growing region which is a great environment for hearty and aromatic varietals such as Riesling, Pinot Gris and Gewurztraminer. Other cool climate white varietals such as Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay are also grown. On the red side of the spectrum, you guessed it, Pinot Noir is the workhorse, but Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Syrah, and Gamay are starting to show amazing results. And although still wines are getting more and more recognition, the main style that shows the biggest muscle is Sparkling.
Michigan contains five AVA regions. Fennville and Lake Michigan Shore are located in the southeast corner of the state. Leelanau Peninsula, Old Mission Peninsula, and Tip of the Mitt are located on the Northeast portion of the state. Each of these appellations showcase wines with similar characteristics but are also incredibly different. All five appellations sit in close proximity to Lake Michigan and almost all of Michigan's wine grapes are grown within 25 miles of the lake. The lake effect provides a favorable microclimate that allows cool days to be warmed and warm days to be cooled allowing ripeness and acidity to stay in check. The northern wine regions have a 145-day growing season while the southern ones have a 160-day season. The Greater Traverse City area, which includes the Leelanau Penninsula and Old Mission Peninsula, is one of the primary wine regions of Michigan. The soil is sandy, with good drainage, and a lake-dominated climate allows a longer growing season than in most of the Midwest. Fifty-one percent of Michigan's wine grapes, including much of the state's vinifera grapes, are grown in this area. The same advantages exist, to a slightly lesser degree, on the eastern shore of Lake Michigan, south of Grand Rapids in the Fennville and Lake Michigan Shore regions. Forty-five percent of Michigan's wine grapes are grown in this area.
As we continue to talk about climate, it is important to note that the average temperature in Michigan, has increased by more then 2 degrees over the last 100 years. Spring peeking its head out earlier allowing for an earlier bud break and adding almost an entire month to the overall growing season. Yes, currently white aromatic grapes steal the show, but as temperatures continue to increase, and the growing season extends, we could see more and more reds. Could we see Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, or Grenache? Time will tell.
As we began putting the flight together, we faced our own challenges, as the availability of Michigan wines on the distribution front is still incredibly soft. We were forced to take a different approach than normal and have settled on showcasing the wines of one producer that we have been supporting for some time now. Our intension this month is to open your eyes, your mind and your palate to this growing region thru the wines of Mawby and its little brother, bigLITTLE winery located in the Leenlanau Peninsula. Mawby produces sparkling wines exclusively, and big LITTLE produces the still wines. This is an incredibly fun and flirtatious flight showing the diversity of this appellation. The first bottle of bubbles is built on Chardonnay and Riesling. Their Sauvignon Blanc shows an aromatic profile reminiscent of New Zealand with the texture and minerality of Sancerre. The white Pinot Noir is an absolute delight and the Gamay Noir to finish is just in time for your Thanksgiving wine planning. We look forward to showing you this delicious flight from this up-and-coming region with you!
Looking to Customize?
We now host curated tastings for groups of two to ten people. Our tastings are a great way to explore wines that are new to you or indulge in some of your favorite regions. Whether you are looking to learn or to simply relax, our team has you covered.