Dr. Dave Miller Michigan Wine Blog
From the time we prune the vines in March until the last fermenters are racked, the vineyard and winery are busy…. Very busy places. The vines require regular attention during summer as do the new must and wine following harvest. But winter is a time to slow down and recharge. It is a time of rest for all – the vines, the wines and the people involved. During this time in the wine cellar, it may not look like much is happening but it is really a magical time.
The wines cold stabilize with the drop in temperature. This simply means they won’t develop a tartrate sediment in the bottle when you chill them in your fridge but there is also a drop in acidity which softens the wine and takes off some of the sharp acidity of the new wine. Carbon dioxide from the fermentation comes out of solution during storage which further softens the new wine. The wines also clear as particulate matter slowly drops out of the wines during the months of rest. Other things are happening in the wine now that can’t be seen but can be tasted and felt on the palate. There is a chemical change in the wine as new flavors develop from the interaction of various wine components and the alcohol that developed during fermentation. The changes produce aromas and flavors that begin to make the wine more complex and interesting. In red wines there is a change in the pigments and tannins (compounds that contribute to astringency on the palate) that softens the wines and enhances the color. Wines aging in barrels extract flavor from the wood that also interacts chemically with flavors, aromas and pigments in the wines, further contributing to the complexity in aroma and on the palate.
As we taste the wines from tanks and barrels we can begin to gain a better understanding of what is to come and what the wine might be like when it “grows up”. It’s an exciting time because some of the wines are really good! There is not much to be done by the winemaker at this point, just make sure tanks and barrels are topped and that there is no activity by unwanted spoilage bacteria or oxidation due to headspace in a tank. If we did a good job in the vineyard, had a bit of luck with weather during the fall, and paid attention to winemaking fundamentals, then we know the wines will be special when they are bottled and will only improve over the next couple of years or more, depending on the wine. It really does seem magical to observe the changes occurring to the tasted and feel of the wine.
Then there is the natural beauty of our winter wonderland! Come see for yourself. We'll have some wine to share.
Cabin Fever Celebration, March 21, 2013
Join us Thursday, March 21st for our first annual Cabin Fever Celebration and say goodbye to winter! By the time we get to March we all have cabin fever after a long, Michigan winter. We think we have a cure for those winter blues: an evening with good friends, great food and delicious wines! We serve it up in our cozy tasting room in downtown St. Joe on the spring equinox – the first day of spring!
We will be pouring pre-release samples of our newest white wines from the 2012 vintage: Pinot grigio, Dry Riesling, Reserve Riesling and Traminette, some may even be tank samples. Our friend Tara from Delicious Deliveries catering will be pairing small bites with each of the new wines to show them off. All of our wines will be available by the glass to help us celebrate the end of winter and
The cost for admission is $25 in advance and $30 at the door and includes: tasting of all the 2012 wines, small bites paired with wines, 2 glasses of the wine of your choice and a coupon for $5 off bottled wine purchases the night of the event. Additional wine by the glass may be purchased during the event.
Space is limited so call today to be sure we have a spot for you!
Holiday wine suggestions from White Pine Winery
5 December 2013
Dr. Dave Miller
The holidays are such a great time of year. It’s a time of celebration and giving, remembering family and friends, shopping, decorating.…. We all stay happily busy. Amidst the hustle and bustle we also find time to relax, unwind and enjoy a quiet moment; a time to kick back and enjoy a glass of our favorite wine. With the passing seasons we tend to shift gears in what we are drinking along with what we are eating. The heat of summer calls for lighter fare and the bracing, crisp, cold wines that are so perfect in that season. As temperatures drop and snow starts to fly we tend to find ourselves near a fire place or some similar cozy spot with heavier fare from soups and stews to roasts and pasta. The wine selections tend to be heartier too with reds dominating the line up. They are served at “cellar temperature” and tend to be a bit higher in alcohol with greater body to fortify us on those cold, winter days.
Within red wines there are many styles ranging from light, fruity and fresh Nouveau style wines which were just released in late November to mid-weight reds like Pinot noir and Merlot to the heavy weights like Cabernet sauvignon and Temperanillo. At White Pine we really enjoy the Dune Shadow Red as our go-to, everyday red. It’s dry and fruit-forward bursting with black cherry and spice aromas and flavors. It’s medium bodied and satisfies a broad range of tastes. Our Reserve Reds are the perfect thing to bring to a holiday gathering. The Merlot is soft and full with hints of vanilla and chocolate derived from aging in oak barrels. Serendipity is a charmer with the complexity wrought by blending Cabernet sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet franc. It shows blueberry, cherry and cedar notes underlain with hints of cocoa from barrel aging. Syrah is one of our latest efforts. Dark fruit aromas are enhanced with a hint of black pepper, a hallmark of cool climate Syrah. Our wine is reminiscent of wines from the Rhone Valley in France, the ancient home of Syrah. This one is a real crowd pleaser with elegance, charm and finesse one might expect from a wine at twice the price. Red Expression is a perennial favorite with just a hint of sweetness to soften the finish and show off the red raspberry and strawberry flavors. It is wonderful in mulled wine or spiced wine! Stop by the tasting room for a sample. Warming Red Expression with cinnamon stick, allspice, clove and orange zest with a little brown sugar is the perfect treat for your holiday guests or, just for you after a long day playing in the snow. Walk into the house and let the aromas draw you in for your first sip. Mulled wine warms you from the inside and eases your mind after driving in blizzard conditions or shoveling the walk and drive. You’ll be happy you have some waiting for you.
Finally, we think that Ice Wine is the perfect thing for this season. It was produced under freezing conditions and is satisfying at any time of year. Have it with warm bread pudding and caramel sauce. Yum!
We wish you and yours a very Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and a healthy and happy 2014!
The last time I wrote for my blog was in early October. We had just experienced 10 days of cool, rainy weather in late September, the sun was shining and the vines were drying out. We had our collective fingers crossed that conditions would stay dry and there would be no early frost so the crop could mature. 2011 was a late season and as such there was the chance that early, cool weather might shut down ripening in the fruit earlier than we might have desired.
Now it is mid November and the fruit has been harvested and fermentations completed or about to complete. Let me tell you that it was an awesome October for wine grapes! After September rains the days were warm, some even hot – remember the 80 degree weather we had in early October? The nights remained very cool with temperatures often in the 40’s and there was not a hard frost until near the end of October. That allowed the leaves to stay on the vines and continue to ripen fruit long after the typical harvest in many vineyards. Flavors developed wonderfully in the white varieties and are complemented by our Michigan standard, crisp acidity. In our Sophie’s Vineyard the Riesling developed “Noble Rot” or clean botrytis. This only occurs under conditions like we had this fall and it makes amazing wines. In fact some of the world’s most sought-after wines are produced with Noble Rot. Have you heard of Sauterne? The real wine from France depends on clean botrytis to produce its rich and elegant character. In the Mosel and Rhine regions in Germany, Berenauslese wines are produced from similar conditions. So our Riesling this year has some fantastic flavors and acid for balance and will stand tall among Riesling wines.
The Cabernet franc we grow also ripened into the last week of October and produced a wonderful, rich, fruit-driven wine. When late-ripening red grapes are given additional “hang time” the tannins mature in the skins and seeds. This creates the foundation for wines that remind us why we use the term “Great Vintage” to describe a year like 2011. The tannins are soft and elegant which produces wines of length and finesse, not astringency and heat. Nearly every variety did well – both white and red. The rain did create problems in some vineyards where rot became an issue but that was the exception and not the rule.
Of course all the wines are just past their fermentations so they are very young and there is much to be done. The whites must be settled, stabilized and clarified before blending, finishing and bottling. The Reserve reds are in what’s called “elevage” or a stage where the wine is “elevated” to new heights through barrel aging and handling in the cellar. Then will come blending and finishing for bottling in 12 to 18 months. More on those operations this winter.
As I always say when asked about the vintage early in the season, “We’ll know what the vintage is like when the grapes are all harvested”. The 2011 vintage was another great one in Michigan and this year there was a lot of fruit so there will be lots of fine wines. Watch for the whites in spring of 2012 and the reds late 2012 to early 2013.
15 November 2011
Fall is my favorite time of the year. Summer heat gives way to crisp autumn mornings with fog in the lowlands and bright, warm afternoons that were just made for football. Fall leaves, apples, pumpkins and of course grape harvest are all part of this wonderful time. Another part of fall is rain that sometimes lasts for days. The weather pattern that parked over the southern end of Lake Michigan for the last week of September this year is an example of just how cloudy, gray and wet it can be when the weather pattern changes from summer to fall.
I am often asked how the rain affects grapes and wine quality. A good question since we associate warm, sunny days with grape ripening. Is it possible to produce good wines from a rainy fall? The short answer is “yes”! We have produced some outstanding wines in challenging years. Witness the 2009 White Pine Reserve Riesling. It is a classic Riesling that was produced in one of the wettest, coolest years on record in Michigan – 2009. How is that possible? We know that leaves make sugar when the sun shines on them so what happens when it’s cloudy? In fact, leaves cannot handle all of the energy that they absorb in full sun. The chloroplasts in the leaves get rid of the excess energy through fluorescence at certain wavelengths, a phenomenon that can be measured with the right equipment. That being the case the energy absorbed by leaves on a cloudy day produces a fair amount of sugar. So grapes and other fruits can continue to ripen under cloudy conditions. Rain presents a different challenge. It promotes bunch rots and, vines take up water after a rain and it dilutes sugar and flavor in the grape berries. If there is any damage on the grape skin from any time during the growing season it can now become the point where the skin breaks as berries swell with water uptake. The work we do all summer long managing canopies to expose fruit pays off now. The exposed fruit dries quickly when the rain stops. Sunshine on berries actually kills fungal hyphae or the fibrous strands fungi use to penetrate fruit tissues and begin the infection process. When done properly the summer work pays off now by keeping the berries from splitting and preventing or slowing the onset of bunch rot. As long as the fruit is clean and there are leaves, the grapes can be left in the vineyard to continue ripening. The forecast is for sunny and warmer weather. That will allow the water to evaporate from the soil and from the berries. Now the processes of sugar accumulation and flavor development will continue. The cool conditions we have had so far help the fruit retain its natural acidity which leads to the distinctive crispness we all associate with Michigan wines.
So don’t despair that rain is in the air. While it’s not as desirable as a dry vintage, the conditions encountered thus far in the 2011 vintage are manageable with good vineyard practices. Give us some warmth and a little sunshine to dry things out and we will give you some great wines!
White Pine Winery will introduce the 2011 white wines in April 2012 so stay tuned.
Dave Miller PhD
October 2, 2011