An Up North New Year’s

By Sherrie Clutts

Saturday, December 29, 2012

This New Year's Eve, celebrate at home with a local sparkling wine, or join the crowd in downtown Traverse City.

The Perfect Sparkling Wine

When you think of New Year's Eve, you can't help but think of champagne. But only sparkling white wine from the Champagne region of France can be called champagne. Everything else is sparkling wine. And for that, you needn't look any further than the Leelanau Peninsula.

L. Mawby Wet L. Mawby, just south of Suttons Bay, produces only sparkling wines, under two labels, each using a different method. The L. Mawby label features wines made in the traditional methode champenoise, with the second fermentation done in the bottle. Prices range from $20 to $33. The M. Lawrence label, with prices ranging from $11 to $17 per bottle, features wines made using the cuve close method, with the second fermentation done in closed tanks.

My favorite, under the M.Lawrence label, is called Wet. It is made from Pinot Gris and Riesling grapes. The juice from these two grapes is fermented in stainless steel tanks, which gives it a crisp, clean texture. This bottle sells for $17.

Downtown Revelry

If you're looking for a fun place to celebrate New Year's Eve, I have a great suggestion for you. Downtown Traverse City will be packed for the 4th annual CherryT (Charity) Ball Drop.

Right before midnight a large illuminated cherry will be lowered, while thousands of people yell out, "TEN, NINE, EIGHT, SEVEN . . . " The evening starts at 9 p.m. with live entertainment and a DJ.

My husband, Jeff, and I attended this lively and merry celebration last year. Since the ball drop is outside, I would highly recommend that you dress warmly. Even though it does get very crowded, the mood is electrifying and you can't help but dance the night away. I guess that is how you stay warm!

While the ball drop is free, event organizers collect money and non-perishable food donations to support local food pantries, Goodwill Industries and the Traverse Bay Children's Advocacy Center. You also have the option of purchasing a $25 VIP/Backstage Pass. New this year are two dance parties; one for families from 5:30-8 p.m. and one for ages 21+ from 10 p.m. - 2 a.m. with a full bar featuring Michigan craft beer, wine, spirits and cider. Both will be held at ECCO at 121 E. Front St.

See the event website for more information and to purchase VIP or dance party tickets:

Wine ideas for your Christmas Dinner

By Sherrie Clutts

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Christmas season is upon us. You've no doubt already dug out your best holiday recipes, decorated the house, and you're on your 100th viewing of A Christmas Story. It's time to plan Christmas dinner.

The picturesque Chateau Chantal vineyard, found on Old Mission Peninsula, has a wonderful Pinot Noir that will satisfy even the most finicky of palates. The Pinot 2011 Vintage is a known Mario Batali favorite. Immediately upon opening, your senses will detect a warm blackberry and plum with a definite oak texture. The characteristics of Pinot Noir include a velvety richness that is medium to full bodied. This dry wine will not overpower your meal, as so many heavy reds have a tendency to do. As with most red wines, Pinot Noir is ideally served at slightly cooler than room temperature. If you store your Pinot Noir at room temperature, you can cool it to the appropriate temperature with two hours in the refrigerator or about 15 minutes in the freezer. This bottle sells for $15.

If turkey is your Christmas dinner of choice this year, I would recommend an off dry white wine. Ciccone Vineyard & Winery lies on the beautiful slopes of Suttons Bay, on the Leelanau Peninsula. This winery has produced an excellent 2011 Gewurztraminer. This white wine has the aromas of citrus, almond with a delicate hint of orange. Your palate will immediately detect a warm nutty finish. This wine is best served slightly chilled, which will enhance that citrus aroma even more. This bottle of wine sells for $16.95.

Mother’s Day Fun at Harbor Springs Vineyards & Winery at Pond Hill Farm

By Pond Hill Farm

Monday, May 7, 2012

Changing Tastes of Chardonnay

By Chef David

Monday, March 19, 2012

At the Walloon Lake Inn we have had the opportunity to watch the changing taste of the wine drinking public. From this perspective we have watched taste in white wine go from Piesporter to Rose, to White Zinfandel, to Chardonnay and on. Northern Michigan has followed the U.S. with these trends.

The Unoaked chardonnay phenomenon has been gathering momentum lately. Essentially this is a group of wine enthusiast that is favoring a chardonnay that is not as heavily oaked as past new world Chardonnays have been. Oak barrels have long been used as the most desirable storage containers due not only for the chemical influence from tannin in the oak but also for the flavor it imparts... oak flavor is strongest in wines that are placed in new barrels and as the number of times the barrels are used the amount of influence the oak has on the wine diminishes. Flavors imparted by oak barrels include butter and vanilla.

The Chardonnay producers of California took oak to new levels and it wasn't until the Pinot Gris popularity surge hit that Chardonnay producers realized that there was a market for Unoaked white wines. This is about the same time that Sauvignon Blancs from New Zealand become popular.

The Burgundy region is the home of Chardonnay. In this region some of the oldest and most expensive Chardonnays are made. The use of oak varies in different parts of this region. Chablis is the most northern area in Burgundy and generally has the least oak influence. The absence of oak in Chablis allows for the more tart crisp and mineral flavors to be revealed. Many wine drinkers feel that this style of chardonnay is the most natural expression of the Chardonnay grape's flavor.

To try this wonderfully crisp and tart wine you should look for a Petit Chablis. Sometimes the term "petit" will not be on the label but generally they are in the $15.00 dollar range in retail markets. Local producers that make these wine are Blackstar, Brys, 45 North, Chateau de Leelanau, and Bowers Harbor.

P.S. Only a day after I wrote this article I was informed by a friend that a recent trip to France had revealed to her that some Chablis producers in an effort to get a more world friendly flavor [] are now using some oak in their vinification of Chardonnay.

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