This was a first for me, a winery that can be visited by car or boat, as the tasting room is located on the waterway connecting North Lake Leelanau with South Lake Leelanau. Michigan is the pleasure boat capital of the country with all of its coastal areas and marinas. Boathouse Vineyards has capitalized on this and it was a new winery for us to visit. If you haven’t discovered it by now, I guess I am rather gregarious and when I am at a winery I like to take notes and my Bride and I were handed over to none other than Dave Albert, an ex-auto guy (go figure in Michigan) who decided to be in the wine business. What a pleasure it was to talk with him, his passion for what he is attempting is marvelous. He has developed twenty-one acres (ninety-nine percent vinifera) and of that acreage half is devoted to Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc and Merlot. Not only was there a crowd of people tasting, there was a small concert going on outside between the tasting room and the docks, it was like one big party.
Boathouse Vineyards is not a large winery, but they are dedicated to making the most of what they have. They were offering seventeen different wines and two ciders the day that we were there. Even with the crowd Dave was answering all of my questions and offering more wines for us to taste. He is a great business man and is using French Road Cellars for the winemaking. While French Road Cellars sounds like a competing winery, they are in fact the first custom-crusher in Michigan and they are aimed to assist the new wineries that are developing each year in the area, and they are planning to eventually to be a twenty-thousand case facility, and this is a rather common business in other parts of the country.
Did I tell you that we were having fun, I can tell you that my Bride was getting quite animated, and that is a sure sign that she is enjoying the moment. We started off with some white wines, first the Pinot Grigio 2016 which had a nice soft color, but a little light on the nose. Then I requested to try the Dry Dock Riesling 2016 and my Bride gave me a funny look, because she is not partial to the Riesling wines that she has tried from Michigan, and she was even impressed by this Estate Grown wine that was dry in a more Continental style with a delightfully long aftertaste. I had to try the Seas the Day 2015, because the name alone tickled my sensibilities and it was a blend of Muscat, Chardonnay, Auxerrois and Pinot Gris and it was sweeter than I prefer, but not overtly sweet and well balanced to my taste. The last white wine, we had was suggested by Dave and it was the Boathouse Bubbly 2016 and it was an off-dry Riesling that had been aerated, it was interesting, but not my glass of wine. Dave then switched us over to the red wines and we started off with Sunset 2014 which was non-oaked and each vintage will be different as it is a blend of all the left over red wines, and this one was Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Regent. We tried the Pinot Noir 2013 made from Dijon Clones and aged for nine months in French Oak and I found that this persnickety growing grape made a lighter wine, but as the vines mature, I think that they may bring more nuance to the wine. The Cabernet Franc 2012 was the wine that my Bride was chomping at the bit to try and this wine was aged for nineteen months in French Oak and it was delightful and well balanced. The winner of the day and it may be the dearest bottle of Michigan wine that I have ever bought and it was well worth the bottles that we took home with us, was the Merlot 2012. Can you say awesome and surprising, it was a perfect bottle of Merlot and almost made me forget where I was, after nineteen months in French Oak this wine won me over, and after looking over the tasting sheets, I guess it won others over as well, as it received the Gold Medal from the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition. We may not cruise back there by boat, but I guarantee that we will be driving back there for a return visit and more space in the trunk of the car.