A couple of weeks ago my wife and I had the good fortune of an invitation to spend a wonderful weekend in Michigan with several fun and irreverent couples. In the course of seeking age appropriate entertainment for this wine loving crowd, one of the more enlightened moms” (who, ahem, also happened to be a Hinsdale Wine Academy graduate) set up an appointment to visit a local winery: Wyncroft Wines.
And then…I was blown away.
Soon after arrival (by appointment only…as they are not into bachelorette parties or any sort of other parties that mandate veils and rubber phalluses), upon turning at the small old graveyard that guards the ornate wrought iron gates that open into the botanical garden that introduces visitors to the property, we were met by the co-proprietor and wine maker, James Lester. James immediately engaged us with a charismatic earnest way about him that betrayed the fact that he was once a theology student. His magnetic personality was punctuated by the “this guy is cooler than me” head of wavy grey hair that added further gravitas to his commentary. After genuinely asking about our provenance and wine interests, James proceeded to talk about his property and passion for wine in almost spiritual qualities.
Unbeknownst to many, Michigan shares similar latitudes with some of the great wine growing regions of France. In addition, the temperance provided by Lake Michigan, the pedigreed plant material meticulously grafted to local rootstock, and uncompromising almost cult-like devotion to the vines’ life cycle result in the type of measured grape yields per acre (similar to what you would find in Burgundy) that produce quality fruit that can only be destined to make remarkable wines.
James is a true “garagiste”. For real. His operation takes place in the confines of a garage now converted to a winery. This is where the work of his staff of four (including him and his friendly wife/partner, Daun) begin the vinification process. There you will find his de-stemmer, lab, fermenting vats, barrel room, bottling area, and the most “legit” tasting room I have ever enjoyed.
There’s no denying that, as James floods the room with his enthusiasm and hospitality, his wines are made to taste even better. But let’s be clear. These are serious dry wines which are a far cry from the fruit bazooka plunk that many southwest MI wineries make to please the “Coca Cola Palate” crowd. His wine portfolio is honest. James is not looking to coax his young vines to make wines they cannot. Yet he has lofty plans for these “youngsters”: He has a true-to-form Bordeaux blend, a Burgundy-esque Pinot Noir, a steely Chardonnay, lively Rieslings, and even an ice wine that I recently paired with a Baked Alaska (yeah, baby!)
If you are a wine aficionado and would like to partake in both an educational and hedonistic experience, I encourage taking the just over 2 hours drive from Chicago for a revelation that will feel like a wine-world apart.
And who knows, maybe someday someone in France will say “I can’t believe how these wines taste like Michigan wines”!
Lorenzo, the wine guy
Friends, food, and wine...I'm happy there.