January 2019 Issue of Wines & Vines

Wine East: Michigan Winery Wins Best Riesling in the World

by Linda Jones McKee

Sutton’s Bay, Mich.—The wine industry is learning that the cool climate regions of the northwestern part of Michi¬gan, and specifically the Leelanau Peninsula and Old Mission Penin-sula AVAs, are superior wine producing areas.

On Oct. 19, the team at Winery at Black Star Farms in Sutton’s Bay, Mich., found out their 2017 Arcturos Dry Riesling had won the best Riesling in the World Award at the Canberra International Riesling Challenge in Australia. The wine was also recognized as the Best Dry Riesling and the Best American Riesling. In addition, the other five Rieslings entered in the competition by the winery won medals, including an elite gold for the 2016 Arcturos Winter Harvest Riesling.

Ken Helm, owner of Helm Wines in New South Wales, Aus¬tralia, started the Canberra Inter-national Riesling Challenge (CIRC) 19 years ago. CIRC is now the largest Riesling competition in the Southern Hemisphere: 567 Rieslings were entered I n this year’s competition. Entries came from 240 wineries in Australia, and from Germany, France, New Zealand, the Czech Republic and the United States.

Making Riesling at Black Star Farms
Kerm and Sallie Campbell founded the Winery at Black Star Farms 20
years ago as a grower-owned win¬ery on the site of the Sport Valley Farm equestrian facility on the Leelanau Peninsula north of Tra¬verse City. The estate now is home to Black Star’s red wine produc¬tion facility, tasting room, distill¬ery, café, inn, meeting and event spaces, and extensive hillside vineyards. Black Star Farms added a white wine production winery and a tasting room on Old Mission Peninsula northeast of Traverse City in 2007. The combined vine¬yards in the two locations total 185 acres and the winery pro¬duces approximately 35,000 cases annually, according to Wines Vines Analytics.

Lee Lutes, general manager and head winemaker, reported that the grapes for the award-winning wine came from the win¬ery’s vineyards on both the Leelanau and Old Mission Penin-sulas. Lutes noted that “the 2017 season was on the cooler side, and then, on Sept. 1, summer started. From September into Oc¬tober, we had a beautiful dry rip¬ening season. We could pick grapes, clean fruit, when the grapes were optimally ripe, not because we had to. The winemak¬ing was easy.”

The grapes were picked by hand on Oct. 17 and 18 at 21.7° Brix, 7.5 g/l total acidity and a pH of 3.26. After being gently pressed the day they were picked, the grapes were cold settled and then racked into tanks. “We add maybe one-third to one-half of what’s recommended for yeast additions and keep the fermentation cool, at 55° F or less,” Lutes said. “The dry Riesling fermentation can take five weeks or more.”

One unique aspect of the fer¬mentation is that neutral oak chips are added to the ferment¬ing wine. Lutes said he adds a couple of pounds of Pronektar Fresh by Tonnellerie Radoux to 1,000 gallons of wine to increase the phenolic presence. “You do taste wood tannins in the fer-mentation,” Lutes said. “That fades but [the chips] add to the mouthfeel. Then, as soon as the fermentation starts to struggle, we do macro-oxygenation.”

When the Riesling is dry, sulfur is added. The wine is racked off the gross lees, chilled down, and then rests on the light lees until February or March. About 120 days before bottling the wine, the winemaking team begins bench trials to try blends of Rieslings from different vineyards and eval¬uate aromatics, fruit profile and the body and texture in the mouthfeel. Vladimir Banov, Black Star’s production winemaker at the Old Mission Peninsula winery, manages the operations of that white wine facility and brandy distillery. He reported that the 2017 dry Riesling at bottling had a residual sugar of 0.55%, an al¬cohol of 12.04%, a pH of 3.13, total acidity at 7.09 g/l, free SO2 of 29.9 ppm, total SO2 of 82 ppm, and malic acid at 0.260 g/l. A total of 1,500 cases of the dry Riesling were produced.

Trezise wins Riesling award
Wolf Blass, owner of Wolf Blass Wine in Nuriootpa, Australia, presented the Wolf Blass Inter-national Award at CIRC to Jim Trezise, founder of the Interna¬tional Riesling Foundation (IRF). The award is given bi-annually to a person or organization that has made a major contribution to Riesling development and promotion. Trezise received the award in large part because of his role in founding the IRF in 2008 and in serving as the Foun¬dation’s president until recently. Trezise has supported CIRC as a judge for four years and as a pro¬ponent of American wineries entering that competition.

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