Southwest Michigan Wines

Dr. Dave Miller Michigan Wine Blog

Another Harvest for the History Books at White Pine Winery

White Pine Winery Puts Another Vintage in the History Book

4 November 2013

By Dr. Dave Miller

As a wine maker, now is when I can breathe a sigh of relief.  The harvest is done and we can say with certainty that it was an excellent vintage!  If we think back to the spring, it was anything but given that this year’s crop would turn out well.  With snow through the end of April and growth that was two weeks behind an “average” year it looked as though we were in for a difficult time ripening late season varieties like Cabernet franc and Cabernet sauvignon. 


The seemingly continuous rain through May and most of June also seemed like a harbinger of bad news: lots of rain means lots of rot in the fruit and fungal diseases on our vine canopies.  All of the rain made the vines grow so fast that we were forced to hedge the canopies and pull leaves to expose the fruit by late June, a month earlier than normal.  Our crew had to do the work in the rain because we couldn’t find a dry day for them to work. 


As usual it’s easy to imagine all kinds of things that might go wrong before the fruit is mature, harvested and in the tanks.  But we also go through something every year (remember the spring frost followed by drought in 2012?) so we are kind of used to this sort of angst.  So when the clouds finally parted and the rains stopped in July it was a welcome sight.  The dry weather continued through August and into September with lots of sunshine and cool nights.


The earliest varieties began to mature in mid-September in contrast to mid-August the extremely warm 2012 vintage.  As the college football season got under way the weather was perfect: warm, dry, sunny days with highs in the low to mid 70’s followed by crisp, cool nights with lows in the upper 40’s to low 50’s.  Those conditions are perfect for making sugar but also for retaining acidity in the fruit – important for balanced wines – and producing color in reds.  Each day that went by without rain and forecasts for above average temperatures increased the odds that it would be better than a good vintage, it would be exceptional. 


Pinot grigio was harvested the third week of September with gorgeous fruit flavors and perfect balance.  Then we waited for Riesling. In the late 90’s and early 2000’s we harvested our estate Riesling by October 12th because the leaves had been frosted. The same is true for our Cabernet franc.  The past 5 years we have kept the leaves in our vineyard well into November.I guess climate change isn’t all bad.  By October 16th the Riesling was beautifully ripened. The sugar was over 21 Brix, and there was still plenty of acid to make our signature Reserve Riesling. The fruit also had a fair amount of Noble Rot – Botrytis – which is associated with some of the worlds best Rieslings.  The story just kept getting better!  Finally, we wanted to let our Cabernet franc hang as long as the weather was nice so we planned harvest for October26th.  Alas, our streak of good luck was coming to an end as the weather turned cold and snow was forecast.  So we picked the Cab franc October 22nd with beautiful chemistry and what is destined to be another great wine.  Of course the Syrah, Merlot, Cabernet sauvignon and Traminette were great too. 


It’s another year for the history books and another great vintage in southwest Michigan. Watch for the 2013 white wines next spring and summer and the 2013 reds to be released in early 2015. In the meantime, come out and enjoy the 2012 whites and the 2011 reds and watch for the 2012 reds early next year.


4 November 2013

By Dr. Dave Miller