While we were up north in Michigan, I had to get some free time to visit a few wineries, after all Michigan is in the top ten for production of wine in the country. We decided to visit some new wineries, instead of revisiting some past locations. I think of new wineries as dreams that have come to fruition for individuals. I am not talking about Rock stars, or movie stars that can just buy into an existing winery or to let them expand. I am talking about people that want to make wine and have to start somehow. The average person might be able to pay for a tasting in Napa Valley, but the average person could not buy a vineyard or a winery there. In Michigan, it is doable and affordable, especially if you can keep your day job, until the dream starts coming into shape.
Spare Key Winery in Charlevoix, the next resort town over from Petoskey and part of the Petoskey Wine Region is where we visited first. The family is a Seventh generation of Michigan farmers. The winery views family and friends as the Key to the winery. In 2011, they planted four-hundred vines with their family and friends, who also helped with additional planting, trimming and harvesting. Each successive year they have planted more and expanded. We started with the Spare Key Winery Elvira 2017 which spent nine months in Stainless Steel. Elvira is an American hybrid known for its high yield and can be grown as a table grape or for commercial wineries. It is one of the “Cold-Hardy” grapes and is believed to be developed in the Nineteenth Century Missouri. The wine offered some notes of ripe fruit and foxiness, with an agreeable crisp and balanced acidic wine with a finish that was on the oily side to me.
We then tried some red wines. I will also mention that all the Spare Key Winery wines have the new Tip of the Mitt AVA (because the lower peninsula of Michigan looks like a hand or a mitten) and they are one of the few wineries that can claim Estate Grown and Estate Bottled. As they are still very young and starting out, all of the red wines were aged in plastic vats, which I have observed over the years in our travels. We started with the Spare Key Winery Frontenac 2017 which spent seven days on the lees and one year aging. Frontenac is a hybrid French-American Cold-Hardy variety developed in 1978 at the University of Minnesota and released in 1996. The wine offered some dark fruit and pepper and it was on the tart side. We then had the Marquette 2017 which was also aged for one year in plastic. Marquette was created in 1989 and released in 2006 also by the University of Minnesota and is another French-American Cold-Hardy hybrid. The wine offered dark fruits and pepper and easy drinking. We then tried the Frontenac/Marquette 2017 and this was the most enjoyable of the four wines that we tried. It was much fuller than the two as separate wines with nice tannins and very mellow and a nice medium finish. Afterwards our server, reached under the counter and poured us a taste of the Marquette 2018 and it offered nice dark fruit, well balanced and a nice finish. What a difference a year makes, and I think we got to taste it, because of my taking notes and photos, but it was delightful.