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Blustone Vineyard

The Blustone tasting room sets atop a small hill on the Leelanau Peninsula.

“Wow, this Michigan Pinot Noir is great,” said almost no one ever.

I’ve been a booster of Michigan wines since first visiting in 2010. I have been back a couple times since then, the latest in 2015. Michigan, and  particularly upper state near Traverse City is the home of world-class white wines. The Riesling wines and Pinot Blanc can be matched against any found on wine store shelves.

The reds have been a different story. The Leelanau Peninsula and Old Mission Peninsula wineries struggle to grow enough grapes – get them ripe and make good Cabernet Franc and Pinot Noir.

 

Tom Knighton

Blustone owner Tom Knighton

The vines are aging and the wines are improving. I noticed a big leap in the reds from 2010-2015. But those wines are also aging well. During the 2015 trip I purchased two bottles of Blustone Pinot Noir. Blustone has a great vineyard site and beautiful tasting room. Back in 2015 the wines were very light in flavor but varietally correct. I thought that was the first step to making great wine.

 

The drawback to the Michigan reds has been the weather. There have been a couple of years recently when weather killed off the reds with late freezes and growing seasons just too cold to properly ripen the grapes. During a couple of recent growing seasons there was essentially no red grape harvest.

That’s the background to opening a bottle of Blustone Pinot Oct. 21. I drank the first Bluestone within a year of that last visit. It tasted like Pinot. It was very thin and not very satisfying.

The second bottle was opened last night. It had totally changed – for the better. The wine had been properly stored during the last two years. I had polished off a bottle of very well-crafted Oregon Pinot Noir and my friend and I wanted one more glass. I reached for the Blustone thinking it would be super light but good enough for my acquaintance’s inexperienced palate.

I was shocked at first taste that the Pinot characteristics were more pronounced. The wine was more Burgundian than typically thin. The wine in the glass had bright red fruit like cherry and strawberry along with a wonderful hint of spice on the finish.

Maybe the Michigan reds are underestimated. Maybe this was an odd exception. I have a bottle of a red blend from  Old Mission Peninsula I bought on that same trip that I need to dig out and see how it’s aged.  But there’s no question there is a spot in the market for Michigan Pinot Noir similar to what I tasted last night.

The biggest question is whether the weather will ever allow Michigan growers to produce enough Pinot grapes to get the wines beyond the state’s tasting rooms.

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