Friday, September 7, 2012

Report from … Tasting Brengman Brothers Wines at Brengman’s Restaurant - September 1, 2012

Now here’s a novel idea:  own a restaurant outside of Detroit and have your vineyard a few hours north (not on your winery property).  On the first day of September I find myself at Brengman’s Inn Land Restaurant in Richmond, Michigan, having a burger and brew for $4.50 (yes there’s a decimal point between the four and the five), their regular Saturday special, with my in-laws, when my father-in-law announces that Brengman’s owns a winery up near Traverse City and proceeds to tell the waitress who I am.  Soon after a few tasters appear on the table … as I taste through the wines my brother-in-law says with a smirk, “can we hurry this along, I have to get to work.”  I return the facial express and say, “I am at work.”  Touché.

The Brengman Brothers winery is located on Lake Leelanau, part of the Leelanau Peninsula of Michigan wine country neat Traverse City … it is the left arm of the U that encompasses the Old Mission Peninsula – both areas I visited a few years ago.  The winery “just” opened so I must have just missed it on our journey through the two peninsulas.  Brengman Brothers is a 45-acre vineyard growing vitis vinifera grapes, mostly of the white variety (something I garnered from the ‘literature’ on the table).

As for the wines, five were offered to me for tasting, 3 whites, a fruit wine and a red (Syrah) … three of these wines I thought rather good – the others were passable, but not my cup of vino (so to speak) – three others around the table also agreed.

The Wines …

2010 Block 65, white blend is a Pinot Gris, Viognier, Sauvignon Blanc mix.  Nice to see the Viognier grape is getting around and getting more respect in the process, I see a superstar variety in this grape, as long as winemakers don’t over-saturate the market with it (a la Pinot Grigio).  The Block 65 has a sweet nose with apples and pears, which I thought would lead to a sweet palate, but instead the wine ‘dried out’ on the finish as the Sauvignon Blanc took over, leaving the sensation of grassy and citrus notes and a lovely lemony-grassy linger on the tongue.  The mid-palate was very fruity but the finish is what you’ll most remember here. (****+)

2010 Runaway Hen, Late Harvest Riesling – the “runaway hen” wines (dedicated to the guinea hens that roam the vineyard) encompass a red and a white; this is the white version, a semi-sweet Riesling that shows lovely mineral notes amongst the pear and peach fruit sweetness; well balanced for a 2010 vintage wine, which would have seen lots of heat that summer, and Riesling is not a fan of heat so I expected more fatness to this wine … this one is lean and lanky but in a good way, with a nice balance to the sweetness and acidity keeping it from being cloying in the mouth. (****)

The third and final wine I’ll mention is the 2010 Runaway Hen Red, which is 100% Syrah.  When I was last up in Northern Michigan wine country a Leelanau producer told me his worst mistake was trying to grow Cabernet Sauvignon, and if anyone asks him he always tells them to avoid the same mistake he made, so I suspect Syrah is an even tougher endeavor in their clime (as it is here in Ontario).  But 2010 was a different beast of a vintage and Syrah would have done quite well.  The wine was laced with smoky, licorice, raspberry and blackberry notes from nose to palate … in the mouth there was also quite a bit of pepper and spice nipping at the tongue … the finish was all smoky-licorice and quite dry.  I suspect the wine had been open between 24-48 hours because there was a hint of oxidation on it, but if you pushed passed this you could see this is quite a lovely wine indeed. (*** ½+)

Next time I tour Michigan wine country I’ll have to check out Brengman Brothers to see what else they’ve got at the tasting bar.

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