By JENELLE FRANKLIN
Our weather, like our wine, is both bitter and sweet here in Michigan.
A glimmer of frost can be spotted budding across branches lining the harvested fields along US-23. The interstate, with light traffic on a weekend afternoon, makes for a pleasant 24-mile drive south of Washtenaw Community College’s campus to St. Julian Winery in Dundee. The four locations in Michigan have friendly environments with bright staff and over 65 tasting options awaiting you.
Above the current 56 wine selections on the tasting menu, there are also several other St. Julian beverages to try: hard ciders, sherry, brandies, vodka, cooking wines, and non-alcoholic sparkling juices. The cost is $5 for five tastings, and includes a complimentary wine glass to take home.
Tasting locations across the state, located in Dundee, Frankenmuth, Paw Paw, and Union Pier, offer families or friends the opportunity to have a great experience in an inviting atmosphere.
“I call myself a Wine Consultant,” said Harry Granito, one of the Dundee St. Julian employees who greets you as you walk into the tasting room. He will answer any questions with enthusiasm and to the best of his knowledge.“Wine Consultant” captures the spirit and insight that comes from behind the chest-high, octagon-shaped wine bar.
“Reasonable distance, and reasonable price at $5,” says Jack Carpenter, 34, of Belleville; a WCC IT student and St. Julian’s patron who chose the winery for his and his girlfriend’s one-year anniversary celebration.
If local, delicious wines and drinks, or friendly and knowledgeable staff are not big enough attractions to get the family to the tasting room; the Dundee location is near to local family-friendly businesses to visit as well.
Sharing a connected parking lot with Russell Stover’s candies shop, and located across the street from Cabela’s Sporting Goods, visitors can browse and indulge in delicious sweets or new outdoor gear.
The Paw Paw location is west on I-94 and making a farther trip from WCC’s campus allows for vineyard tours during the warmer months. A visit to tour the grounds gives a chance to see the land that founder, Mariano Meconi, recognized as grape perfection 95 years ago.
According to a February 2015 Wood TV article, as part of Michigan’s vulnerable agricultural state, the vineyards did not escape the harsh winters the great lakes region has experienced recently, and they are all hoping for some relief this year. Hoping to skip not only a harsh winter season in late 2015, but also the more devastating late frost seen in the spring. When nature seems to be working against the grapes, the winemakers rely on their Ice Wine harvest, a grape that is left long enough on the vine to freeze before picking it.
Dean Bender, winemaker and owner of a Michigan winery, stated in an MLive interview, “Vines took anywhere from an 80 percent to 100 percent loss,” depending on the variety of vine grown.
If the trip was a complete success, joining the wine club will make the next visit even better. A membership includes 2-6 bottles of wine quarterly throughout the year. Two bottle average subtotals is between $30-$60, four bottles $60-$90, and six bottle subtotals average $90-$120.
There are three categories of options to choose from: Vineyard Select (dry, reserve wine collection), Sweeter Harvest (blends, dessert wine collection), or Perfectly Paired for one of each from Vineyard Select, and Sweeter Harvest. This selection allows anyone from a novice to an expert the chance to experience new varieties that match or mystify their pallet.
Members can ship their orders to 36 states, which is an advantage when needing to entertain out of town guests or send gifts. Wine can be shipped for a fee or picked up at their location for no cost. A trip to pick up wine gives the perfect opportunity to enjoy the complimentary wine tasting and discounts members receive. According to one of the wine consultants, St. Julian will soon be carrying gin and whiskey selections along with their vodka.
If able to make a visit before the end of 2015, take time on the drive and just look out onto the snow-covered cornfields along the way to Dundee on a sunny winter afternoon.
Have no fear; St. Julian winery will soon have new warm sips to taste.