Michigan Uncorked Summer 2023

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Michigan is generally known for its cool-climate wines, but two warm-weather grapes are now making the scene at select vineyards in the state: Malbec and Sangiovese.


Cierra Mooney is a native of the Metro Detroit area, also known as Motown for many music lovers. Her love of wine and music have inspired her to create a concept for vinyl and wine dinners.


Chill Hill Winery in Baroda has become one of southwest Michigan’s favorite venues to relax and enjoy live music.


Jack Costa provides four immutable laws for pairing food and wine, along with Michigan-made food and wine suggestions.


For over 70 years, Michigan State University professors and staff have helped shape the Michigan wine industry.


Sommelier Ellen Landis, CS, CSW shares her latest tasting notes on some of her favorite Michigan wines.

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Cover: Photo by Chill Hill Winery. Shores of Lake Michigan. Dr. Stanley Howell


“Anyone who tries to make you believe that he knows all about wines is obviously a fake.”

Summertime, and the livin’ is easy. Especially with a glass of Michigan wine on your favorite Michigan beach. In this issue of Michigan Uncorked, Jessica Zimmer gets the lion’s share of credit, with three bylines. Her first article dives deep into some Michigan wineries that are growing warm weather grapes — Malbec and Sangiovese. Her second article looks at the contributions that Michigan State University (MSU) has made, and continues to make, to the Michigan wine industry, and her third article features Chill Hill Winery in Baroda, Mich., which has become one of southwest Michigan’s favorite venues to relax, enjoy live music, and enjoy wines ranging from Dry Riesling to Catawba.

Jack Costa provide four immutable laws for pairing food and wine. It sounds complicated, but it’s not. With each food and wine pairing, Jack also suggests a suitable Michigan-made wine and food option. Emily Dockery puts the spotlight on Detroit natives Cierra Mooney and Tamela Todd, whose love of music, wine and literature have inspired creative concepts for new Michigan wine pairings . And, as always, our very own in-house sommelier Ellen Landis, CS, CSW provides her special brand of tasting notes for select Michigan wines. Cheers,

Editor-in-Chief Jim Rink • Associate Editor Kim Schneider • Associate Editor Greg Tasker Executive Secretary Karen Koenig-Rink • Contributing Writers Jack Costa, Emily Dockery, Ellen Landis, CS, CSW, Jessica Zimmer

© 2023 by michiganUncorked, LLC Reproduction or use of the editorial or pictorial content without written permission is prohibited. Editorial Office, Jim Rink P.O. Box 121, Lake Leelanau, MI 49653, editor@michiganuncorked.com Unsolicited manuscripts or other information will not be returned unless accompanied by return postage. Website: www.michiganuncorked.com michiganUncorked
www.michiganuncorked.com Copyright
Vol. 5 No.2 Summer 2023


a warm weather vine is: “Can it survive a Michigan winter?”

Matt Moersch, CEO and owner of Moersch Hospitality Group, said the unique conditions on the shore of Lake Michigan offer temperature regulation that keeps grapes cool in the summer. The company’s viticulturists then use canopy management to allow more sun onto the grapes, creating ideal conditions for a Sangiovese.

Rudy Shafer, winemaker for Dablon Vineyards & Winery in Baroda (about four miles east of Lake Michigan), said Malbec grapes grow so well that he has to thin the canopy.

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“I try to prune until there’s one bunch per shoot. With that strategy, you can get between 3.1 and 5 tons per acre. Here Malbec grapes result in a red fruit, with a tart cherry, currant taste and a little bit of spiciness,” said Shafer.

Winemakers use different strategies to showcase warm weather grapes. Moersch makes his Sangiovese grapes into a straight varietal aged in French Oak for 16 months. The wine has notes of sun dried tomato, cherry, oregano, and tobacco.

Shafer makes a Malbec straight varietal, with aromas of strawberries and a hint of black pepper with flavors of red fruit, plum, and spice. He also uses up to 10 percent Malbec grapes in several of Dablon’s red blends, including the estate red blend.

“Malbec adds that little bit of spice that adds the aromas of plums and pepper. It just wouldn’t be the same without it,” said Shafer.

How Lake Michigan influences berries

Warm weather wine grapes grown along lake shores in a cooler climate tend to differ from those grown under hotter, drier conditions. Wine enthusiasts should expect Michigangrown Malbecs to be a bit less spicy than those from South America, said Kait Lemon, coowner of Lemon Creek Winery in Berrien Springs.

“The berries bounce between having a lush, fruit-forward taste and being on that spicier edge, depending on the growing season. French Oak barrels draw out the flavor,” said Lemon.

She adds Malbec vines are incredibly sensitive. A little more wind at a slightly higher elevation will cool the grapes, giving the wine more depth.

“Generally, Michigan-grown Malbec has aromas of cherry and plum. We have added it to Meritage, our North American Bordeaux-style wine, to provide dimension and depth,” said Lemon.

Jake Nivison, viticulturist for Domaine Berrien Cellars in Berrien Springs, said Malbec grapes grown in gentler winters have lovely, mild spice characteristics.

“These give the wine a dark purple fruit taste that’s full, rounder, and full of natural tannins. You have to be careful pruning. Malbec tends to make massive clusters. We do a lot of removal of clusters pre-harvest so we can adequately ripen the grapes that remain. We typically use Malbec in our Crown of Cab red blend,” said Nivison.

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Experimenting with both

Mari Vineyards in Traverse City is currently growing both Malbec and Sangiovese grapes in Nella Serra hoop houses, a proprietary indoor growing environment. Sean O’Keefe, winemaker for Mari Vineyards, said he treats the varieties as

Since Mari Vineyards founder Marty Lagina comes from an Italian background, the winery planted more Sangiovese.

“Our Sangiovese has a very intense, grape-y fruit flavor. The “fruitiness” is balanced by ne textured grape tannins that are the hallmark of this grape. We build Bel Tramonto, a red blend, around Sangiovese…with other tannic Italian varieties like Refosco and Teroldego, and sometimes a dash of Nebbiolo. Then we blend (in) some Merlot to round it out,” said O’Keefe.

Demand for warm weather wines is rising

All the sources interviewed said wine club members and new customers have become more curious about wines from hotter climates.

“People don’t expect these vines in Michigan. Also we don’t make a lot of wines containing Malbec and Sangiovese. That and the quality of our red blends containing these wines make them among our top sellers,” said O’Keefe.

Lemon said she plans to use the Malbec, which is one of the original five main Bordeaux wine grape varietals, to create a traditional French Bordeaux-style blend.

“Malbec will contrast the harshness of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. Right now we’re giving our Malbec vines full sunlight and an assist from a trellis system to make sure the big berries survive the rain,” said Lemon.

Nivison said he sees the future for a Michigan-grown Malbec in getting the wine closer to a European Malbec.

“We want Michigan Malbecs to retain more acidity. The grapes should give the aroma of fresh fruit,” said Nivison.

William Schopf, owner and manager of Dablon Vineyards & Winery, agrees.

“Dablon’s Malbec is very similar to a French style-Malbec. It’s reminiscent of wines made in cool climates, with a nice minerality. We age it in French Oak barrels,” said Schopf.

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Nivison said his goal for Domaine Berrien Cellars is to ripen fruit without raisining it. The idea is to ensure that the wine comes out clean and refined.

“Ultimately we want to share the taste of fresh plum, not plum sauce, and notes of black pepper, without any bitterness,” said Nivison.


Jessica Zimmer is a wine writer based in northern California. She is also a California, Florida, and New York-licensed attorney. She enjoys learning about the geology and growing seasons of different appellations.

Jake Nivison, viticulturist for Domaine Berrien Cellars


Wine is something that gets paired with everything under the sun these days. And those pairings are reaching for more accessible standards from the traditional 5 course wine dinners. From Halloween candy to potato chips, from fast food favorites to Girl Scout cookies. Wine is an obvious opportunity for classic fine dining pairings but is now becoming a catalyst for modern and creative pairings appealing to new audiences.

Cierra Mooney, photo by Leah Judson

Expanding the audiences of wine is helping to secure a new foundation for the wine industry as purchasing patterns and demands are changing. Something that stays consistent is how humans use the senses to experience wine and food, typically smell and taste are the key to experiencing these pairings. But what about using wine pairings to create an experience and tap into all of the senses, not just the famous five…but those we might not even be aware of? Some neuroscientists argue that humans consolidate their senses into clusters. These clusters when broken up can account for anywhere between 22 and 33 additional senses. Let’s take a few moments to consider pairing wine with experiences to potentially tap into those dozens of senses…and then let’s take it a step further…and consider pairing wine with community. Two women of color in Detroit are taking those concepts to heart and creating wine experiences to tap into the human senses and then some. Both of these new and exciting projects are centered around increased accessibility to wine through more comfortable entry points for many wine novices, music and books.

Vinyl, Vino, and Vibes

Cierra Mooney is a native of the Metro Detroit area, also known as Motown for many music lovers. The Motown passion for music and sound is enmeshed in her DNA. Mooney has a history of immersing her sense of sound in the record collection inherited from her father. Through this beloved pastime she realized one’s sense of sound can influence the other senses…markedly taste. Mooney prefers to tap into all of her senses to truly experience the world and add to her knowledge of it. She absorbs life using each of her senses and not just those famous five we are all so familiar with.

This practice of being fully present inspired her to create a concept for vinyl and wine dinners where she provides an immersive wine experience while prioritizing communities not historically invited into the wine space. Cierra began by curating a wine tasting and food pairing menu based around one of her many vinyl records and initiated an event at The Kitchen by Cooking with Que in Detroit. And thus, Vinyl, Vino, and Vibes was born. Vinyl, Vino, and Vibes invites guests to feel the music through the glass and taste the glass through the music in addition to reveling in community, discussion, and of course expertly prepared cuisine. Mooney works to create this experience by blending the senses together, as a winemaker blends wines inspired by the current vintage. Mooney curates the theme of these dinners and tastings inspired by the current vibe. Like wine, Vinyl, Vino, and Vibe events are all about structure, balance, and finish. They are organized by a theme, a menu, and a schedule. They are serious but fun, and they leave you wanting more.


Why is it important for you to connect wine to the senses through the experience of music and food?

I believe in using universal pleasures like food and music to help better understand the complexity of wine. I found that folks are interested in understanding wine but they're intimidated because it's just so much information. I used to work wine tasting events while living in DC. I would watch how the attendees took to the information…but more notable how they didn’t. In most cases, they’d get a glazed look as they try to grasp and understand what the hell the sommelier was saying. When I started Vinyl Vino and Vibes (VVV) I wanted to start from the basic fundamental level. And I wanted it to be fun! Using food and music as a conduit into wine just made sense to me. With sense came the senses. Applying music and food to help better understand the concept of wine just came naturally. If this particular wine was a song here’s what it would sound like. If we pair it with this particular food this is what it would taste like and so on. I love the moment when I see an attendee’s eyes get slightly big like a neural pathway was just created in their brain. When I see that I know I just planted a dope seed.

How have wine and experiences with wine shaped you personally?

Wine has allowed me to get a sneak peek into other cultures. I was introduced to old-world wines when I spent a few months in Europe. While there I got to hang with the locals and learn about their wines. At the time, I was pretty set on drinking my Barefoot

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Moscato and Sutter Home White Zinfandel. But my longtime friend who lived there insisted I open my mind. So I tried some of the wines. Once I got back to the states I picked up a job working at a wine bar. My wine knowledge was still very minimal but luckily they were willing to work with me. Over four years my wine knowledge expanded greatly. I learned why wine was created, how to properly hold a glass, and the difference between the old world versus the new world.

Which audience(s) are you most passionate about reaching through Vinyl, Vino, and Vibes?

VVV is for everyone but I'm adamant about reaching the African American community. I feel Black people should have more access to experiences such as this as a way to increase their knowledge of wine. We are intentionally working our way out of hundreds of years of mental conditioning and generational trauma, and with that we sometimes struggle with subconsciously feeling like we don’t belong in particular spaces. I still struggle with that at times myself. I would like people to embrace all types of wines and not dismiss it because it’s not sweet enough. I believe by understanding the story and the proper approach to a glass of wine, everyone would have a more complete experience.

What do you see for Vinyl, Vino, and Vibes going forward?

Oh, I see so much! Currently, I am building a social media presence via an online community which anyone can follow along with on Instagram at @vinylvinoandvibes. I want VVV to be something that one can escape to and vibe to outside of our actual events, even if it's just for 30 seconds while scrolling. I would love it to be an outlet where people can find ways to create their vibe by mentioning restaurants, various wines, and different artists. Also, I plan to continue creating and hosting VVV events around the city as much as possible at various venues to spread wine knowledge and the vibe.

How will you be incorporating Michigan wines into Vinyl, Vino, and Vibes?

I’d love to partner with some Michigan-based wine companies. What better way to teach Michiganders about wine than using a Michigan Wine brand to do it? That will help people find a common ground. The Michigan Wine Collaborative is helping to do just that by facilitating communication between Michigan wineries and myself as I plan the upcoming VVV events. We are working towards sourcing Michigan wine producers as partners and creating an event calendar with a Michigan wine theme to present to our metro Detroit area guests. Once I have the venues, producers, and menus set we will announce our upcoming events for the summer.

What’s your favorite way to pair wine and food?

Food is my love language! I love sticking to the classics. A beautiful cheese and charcuterie board is EVERYTHING to me. Paired with a nice full-bodied, jammy red with chewy tannins, like a Michigan Marquette or an Italian Primitivo or even a light and fruity white wine like the newly released collaboration wine from Chateau Chantal and Drew Ryan Wines, The DREAM! The creamy cheese and salty meats bring out the amazing fruit notes of both styles of wine.

What’s your favorite or one of your favorite vinyl and wine pairing?

One of my favorite pairings is Sade’s Diamond Life with a bottle of Rosé. The album is nostalgic for me. I remember hearing Smooth Operator during summer backyard barbecues when the sun was setting. Rosé pairs perfectly with that feel. Wonderful light, crispy fruit-forward expression on the palate. Notes of ripe strawberries, tart raspberries, with a slight sweet or tart finish.

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T&T Sip n Read Bookbar

As we consider the senses, let's switch gears from stacking the sense of sound and taste to stacking the senses of sight and taste with Tamela Todd who is in the final stages of constructing a wine bar and bookshop in Detroit. An incredible champion and advocate of mental health, an author, a non profit leader, Spirit of Detroit award winner, and now the owner of the city’s newest self proclaimed ‘wine-brary’ or wine library, Todd is working to create a cozy and inclusive space to enjoy some of the most classic luxuries of life, books, wine, coffee, and of course fellowship. The ‘wine-brary’ is made possible through the coveted Motor City Match Grant program which provides funding for new and expanding businesses within Detroit’s commercial corridors. Plans for T&T Sip n Read include a wine list exclusively featuring Michigan wines, cozy spots to curl up with a book, community event offerings including wine tastings and author events, book clubs, and more.


How did you come up with the idea for T&T Sip n Read Bookbar?

The idea for Sip n Read came from my love of books, coffee and wine. As a published author I thought we needed a concept using the love of books and wine to encourage fellowship and networking in a comfortable, relaxing atmosphere. This will be Detroit's 1st ‘Wine-brary’. Sip n Read will differentiate itself by putting a twist on an old classic, using the love of books and wine. Our vision is to be a one-stop shop that creates the perfect blend of books, fellowship, and fun. I have always enjoyed reading and there is nothing better than pairing a book with a glass of wine. With this in mind, I'm creating a unique wine and book monthly or quarterly membership package for our customers.

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Tamela Todd

Why is the location of the bookbar in Detroit important?

I was born and raised in the city of Detroit, and there is no better place to open, or start my business. I want my community to have access to books within walking distance along with a cozy place to enjoy their favorite adult beverages.

How have your life experiences brought you to being passionate about wine?

When I think of wine I think of an elegant, classy, and relaxing adult beverage. Wine can be consumed at a dinner party, an evening event, dinner at home, or just to relax after a long day of work. Recommending a revered read to your coworkers or a new wine like one of my go-tos, Michcato sweet white by St. Julian, is a great way to make an impression on your colleagues or unfamiliar acquaintances.

What kinds of events or experiences are you most excited to offer at T&T Sip n Read Bookbar?

We will offer community events, adult book clubs, wine clubs, books & brunch, credit & coffee, tea & journal along with indie and celebrity book launches.

How will Michigan wines be incorporated into the space?

We plan to only carry Michigan wine at this time.

What is a book and wine pairing that our readers should experience?

I would recommend your favorite romance novel paired with your favorite sweet wine. One of my favorite romance books is Before We Were Strangers: A Love Story – by Renée Carlino which pairs beautifully with Detroit White by St. Julian Winery.

Cierra Mooney and Tamela Todd are working to pioneer new ways for the community to enjoy and connect with wine in the city of Detroit. Using music and literature as ways to connect the senses to wine will serve to attract new consumers to wine through innovative events, outreach, and fellowship. The goal of making wine more accessible and approachable has been a focus in wine for some time. Black, Women founded projects such as Vinyl, Vino, and Vibes and T&T Sip n Read are two exciting examples of how the industry is closing the gap between the exclusive aura that wine has cultivated in the past and the idea that wine is for everyone. Michigan is a leader in the wave of wine accessibility and Detroit could be the next frontier of bringing Michigan wine to a whole new audience.

Make sure to follow Vinyl, Vino, and Vibes and T&T Sip n Read on social media for news on events and exciting content on how you can pair your favorite Michigan wines with tunes and books to fit your vibe.

@vinylvinoandvibes @sipnreadbookbar

Emily Dockery is the Executive Director for the Michigan Wine Collaborative, http://michiganwinecollaborative.com/. She has extensive experience in the retail wine sales industry and is a graduate of the Lake Michigan College enology and viticulture program.


Chill Hill

made from Michigan apples, and seasonal slushies,” said Ashley. Chill Hill makes ice wine and fruit wines as well. These include

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“We’re always thinking of new ideas to offer guests amazing experiences without traveling far. So far, these have included comedy shows, a wine and facials event, and a cookie decorating class,” said Nitz.

This year, Chill Hill Winery started a wine club. Guests can ask a staff member for details during their next visit.

The most important thing Nitz has learned from opening Chill Hill is good wine comes down to the grower.

“It starts with the soil. If you take care of that and you take pride in the fruit, your crops will turn out right,” said Nitz.

She adds that running a successful winery requires being a people person.

“That’s why I love working behind the bar. I like being able to meet new guests and bond with the staff. When everyone’s in a good mood, you feel you’re among friends,” said Nitz.

Nitz hopes to bring those pleasant feelings to the new location on Hollywood Road.

“To all of our guests, here’s your invitation. Bring your friends and family to come see us this summer,” said Nitz.


Jessica Zimmer is a wine writer based in northern California. She is also a California, Florida, and New York-licensed attorney. She enjoys learning about the geology and growing seasons of different appellations.



My first meeting with Professor Robert Harrington began when I entered his office and found him with a bowl of cheese and a smoke gun. Turns out, this was a characteristic scenario; I soon discovered Robert was a food and wine guru that loved to experiment with a variety of elaborate and creative pairings.

In fact, his professional reputation resided mostly on the topic of food and wine pairing; he had even written a book on the subject. At the time, I was indifferent to the concept of combining wine and food (yes, gasp). In my defense, pairing the college budget staple of Top Ramen with a $100 bottle of Stags Leap might be sacrilegious.

During those college years, however, Robert (or Bob as we called him occasionally) began to slowly transform my perspective, showing me pairing food with wine was as important as drinking wine itself. Not only that - Bob also taught me how easy it really was. Unfortunately, many folks view pairing as tremendously difficult, intimidating even, believing it requires a certain degree of skill and expertise. I wish to dispel this myth and provide my four immutable laws of food and wine pairing (with four Michigan themed food pairings).

Pair wine and food of the same culture.

It may be no surprise that a rich German sausage will make a harmonious combination with a Mosel Riesling. The acidity of the Riesling in contrast with the sausage will provide an energizing finish by cleansing your palate of the grease. Another example

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might be Tempranillo with Spanish paella, pasta and Italian Sangiovese, or even Greek Samos with baklava. This is perhaps the first and easiest rule to follow when looking to pair particular wines with a food. Generally speaking, foods and wines of the same cultures evolved within the same historical and cultural context and as such, are naturally compatible with one another.

Pairing Suggestion – Bonobo Blanc de Blancs with Better Made Potato Chips

Pair like with like

Integrating the flavors of both wine and food is about maintaining equilibrium. A sweet wine will pair very well with a sweet food. Likewise, an acidic wine will accompany nicely to the acidic ingredients of a dish. The key to successfully pairing “like with like” however, requires the taste of a wine to be equal or more pronounced in ‘weightiness’ than the food. The dish ingredients should never be sweeter or more acidic than what you’re drinking, since such an imbalance can produce a series of bitter, mouthpuckering flavors that will reflect poorly on the wine. You could pair an acid driven Sauvignon blanc with a salad drizzled with a light vinegar-based dressing. You could also pair a creamy Chardonnay with buttery popcorn or chocolate cake with Port. In a nutshell, the flavor in wine and its ‘weight’ should be equal to, or more intense, than the ‘weight’ and intensity of the dish.

Pairing Suggestion - St. Julian Port with Mackinac Island Fudge

Pair Tannic Wines with Protein Rich Food

Any wine with sufficient tannin concentration will make an ideal marriage with a protein rich steak swelling with oils, juice, and fat. Why? I’m glad you asked. Due to the polarizing properties of both tannins and protein, mixing them will elicit a reaction causing them to bind. This can further be

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Pairing Suggestion – French Valley Cabernet Franc with Cornish Pasties

Pair Acidic Wines with Sweet, Salty and Savory Food

Deep Fried Chicken and Tempranillo probably won’t mesh because tannins and salt occasionally conflict by yielding bitter tastes. However, an acid driven Gruner Veltliner will knit fantastically with the grease and salt. A bacon wrapped date with a crisp, cool climate Syrah is another example. The savory and fatty bacon, with a touch of sweetness from the date, is balanced with the thread of acidity that drives the wine’s refreshing taste.

Pairing Suggestion – Black Star Farms Arcturos Dry Riesling with Detroit Pizza

Perhaps all this talk of cornish pasties, steak, and popcorn has you anxious to put down this magazine and start browsing your pantry for some delectable assortment of ingredients for your next meal. The importance of pairing is learning how to achieve synergy of wine and food, making them better together than apart. This always requires experimentation, not just reading. So, what are you waiting for? Pop a cork and get tasting!


Jack is a writer, producer and content creator. At the age of 17, the Oregon native began studying winemaking under Stephen Reustle. Jack’s work has been featured in several publications, including Wine Folly and the American Wine Society Journal. Find him on the Wine Heretics podcast and at wineheretics.com



For more than 70 years, Michigan State University professors and staff have helped to shape the Michigan wine industry. The the numerous MSU alumni working as winemakers and viticulture specialists in AVAs throughout the state is a testament to the continued collaboration.

“MSU heads up the most established of viticulture training programs for the state. The Northwest Michigan Horticulture Research Center in Traverse City and the Southwest Michigan Research and Extension Center serve a vital purpose to growers, connecting them with the latest research and data to improve their vine understanding, health, and quality. In addition, these centers hold events that connect growers with one another, professors, and wine enthusiasts,” said Emily Dockery, executive director of the Michigan Wine Collaborative.

MSU’s role was set primarily by its designation as a landgrant university, an institution of higher learning that focuses on practical fields like agriculture and engineering. MSU became and remains the land-grant university for Michigan.

In 1914, the Smith-Lever Act started extension programs in every county across the country. Today, MSU’s extension agriculture programs for fruits and nuts cover juice and wine grapes. The effort to assist wine grape growers owes a debt to the late Dr. Stanley Howell, professor emeritus of horticulture at MSU. Howell established the university’s viticulture and enology program in the 1970s. His passion was determining which varieties grow best in Michigan’s climate and honing cultivation practices to help them thrive.

The current projects of Dr. Paolo Sabbatini, professor of horticulture at MSU, focus on the function of grapevines.

be done to encourage them to produce quality fruit. One of the ways to do this is by examining impacts of abiotic stress, defined as how non-living factors like soil quality affect the ways that grape vines grow.

Sabbatini’s recent projects include one funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture-National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). NIFA is a federal agency within the USDA. For the past three years, Sabbatini has conducted the project in collaboration with Dr. Ilce Medina, assistant professor of biosystems and agricultural engineering at MSU.

The two professors are engaging in research at experimental vineyards owned by Brys Estate Vineyard and Winery in Traverse City. The data are revealing how grape vines distribute the products of photosynthesis to different organs and tissues in the plants.


Sabbatini has found that climate change has led to more extreme weather events in Michigan, negatively affecting plants’ productivity.

“Erratic weather events trigger abiotic stress responses. In response, the plant modifies how it grows. Its changes negatively impact fruit quality at harvest. This reduces the quality of the wine,” said Sabbatini.

Sabbatini said his ultimate goal is to solve problems that affect the entire plant. Then he can make suggestions to optimize vine productivity and quality.

Another side project that Sabbatini started several years ago

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“We’re also working on how to manipulate vines during the very short growing season from May through October. We want to make pruning techniques more efficient and specific for our climate, considering the labor costs,” said Sabbatini.

Since Michigan’s weather patterns shift due to climate change, MSU is testing a wide variety of wine grapes.

“Every variety has different clones that respond differently to climate change and viticultural practices. We’re trying to understand which variety and rootstock combinations thrive better in Michigan’s unique soils,” said Sabbatini.

Dr. Nicole Shriner, a teaching specialist in MSU’s Department of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science, mentors students on the winemaking side. Shriner teaches MSU’s core classes for the minor in beverage science and technology. She also directs the fermented beverage analysis lab at MSU.

introduced the minor in 2013. The minor program carries on the tradition of Dr. Kris Berglund, professor emeritus of chemical engineering and food science at MSU. He’s considered the godfather of Michigan’s distilling industry,” said Shriner.

When Shriner came to teach at MSU, she further developed the minor, which had initially been established by Dr. Berglund and Dr. Dave Miller. Miller, an MSU graduate who earned a M.S. in viticulture under Dr. Howell, studied the influence of rootstock on grapevine cold hardiness. Miller is now the owner of White Pine Winery in St. Joseph, Michigan.

“Miller is a former president of the Michigan Wine Collaborative and is aware of what the students need to learn. That’s part of the reason students get such hands-on experience at MSU. They even take home a bottle of wine that they made,” said Shriner.

Between 30 and 50 students earn a minor in beverage science and technology every year.

“The students have to be at least 21 to take classes in this

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Thomas Orginski, MSU graduate

program. Between 25 and 35 percent want to go into the alcoholic beverage business. The rest go on to become informed wine enthusiasts. We need a lot more of those to increase the popularity of Michigan wines,” said Shriner.

Shriner is currently talking with Michigan wineries about how to structure internships.

“The time that students could really learn from hands-on experience is late summer and fall, during crush and harvest. That’s just when they’re headed back to school. We’re looking to set up a co-op type of experience. This would involve training at the winery full-time in fall. The students would not take any other classes,” said Shriner.

Thomas Orginski, a 2017 MSU graduate and the assistant winemaker at Leelanau Cellars in Omena, said he would like to start an internship program between Leelanau Wine Cellars and MSU that would combine time in the cellar, lab work, and a harvest.

“I think it would be great for MSU students to learn more about the hands on work it takes to make wine. That way they could have a well-rounded understanding of the winemaking process. I’d like to see MSU interns start in June and get to know the cellar well. That would leave them free to help with the harvest in October, becoming a full-on member of the team,” said Orginski.

Esmaeil Nasrollahiazar is the Michigan State University Extension viticulture educator for Northwest Michigan. He said extension centers reach many growers and winemakers who did not attend MSU.

“The extension centers are a bridge to transfer the knowledge that we gain quickly and easily, through trusted partnerships and well-known events like the 2023 Northwest Michigan Orchard and Vineyard Show, which we held in mid-January. We need two research centers (The Northwest Michigan Horticulture Research Center in Traverse City and the Southwest Michigan Research and Extension Center in

Benton Harbor) because northwest and southwest Michigan erent growing environments with unique challenges,” said Nasrollahiazar.

About $20,000 from the Michigan Craft Beverage Council and $40,000 from Project GREEEN is targeted specifically for MSU Extension’s research on cold hardy varieties. Project GREEEN is Michigan’s plant agriculture initiative that is a joint e ff ort between plant-based commodity groups and businesses and MSU AgBioResearch, MSU Extension, and the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.

“I joined MSU Extension in July 2020. I’m currently learning how to improve outreach programs and strengthen partnerships with grape growers who are members of collaboratives like P45,” said Nasrollahiazar.

In his first two months after MSU changed its travel policies during the COVID-19 pandemic, Nasrollahiazar drove over 4,000 miles on trips throughout the state. He visited many growers and winemakers in person.

“I saw their varieties and how their grapes were doing. I

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Esmaeil Nasrollahiazar

learned how to organize hybrid meetings and thereby doubled the attendance for Extension center programs. I invite growers and winemakers to email me. It’s hard to visit every winery, especially in fall and winter,” he said.

In September 2022, Nasrollahiazar sent out a survey to approximately 92 growers and winemakers. One thing he learned from it was that approximately 41 percent of growers and winemakers earned degrees or have work experience in fields other than enology and viticulture.

“For example, we have winemakers who retired from the auto industry. That showed me more than half of professionals in wine rely on MSU Extension for information and training,” said Nasrollahiazar.

Brian Hosmer, who completed graduate work in enology and viticulture at MSU in 2006, is the winemaker for Chateau Chantal Winery and Inn in Traverse City. Hosmer is grateful that the Northwest Michigan Horticulture Research Center provides “us with a place to bring in speakers, from around the country and around the world, to meet and learn together.”

“The challenges of inflation, the COVID-19 pandemic, and supply chain disruptions reduce the time and opportunities for growers to communicate. MSU extensions help bring those opportunities back, with events, in-person educational series, and online Zoom meetings,” said Hosmer.

Dockery said MSU’s administration of the Michigan 4-H program for youth will become critical in the next decade. She said the Michigan Wine Collaborative is working with MSU to develop a steady source of labor for the grape and wine industries.

“In addition, MSU’s outreach through 4-H chapters introduces Michigan youths to MSU itself. High school students then see college, particularly viticulture programs at MSU, as an option,” said Dockery.

Extension is currently developing a viticulture curriculum for 4-H clubs.

“MSU Extension staff, the Michigan Wine Collaborative, and wine industry professionals are writing the curriculum together. We hope 4-H clubs can partner with vineyards so teens can practice growing and pruning on-site,” said Sandborn.

In 2019, MSU Extension received a $20,000 grant from Project GREEEN for the curriculum.

“We got the money three years ago, but could not start up the clubs because of the COVID-19 pandemic. We were granted an extension. In spring 2023, we may start some of the first chapters. One is likely to be with Pingree Farms in Detroit,” said Sandborn.

Sandborn said the year-round curriculum will cover grape growing, grape chemistry, canopy management, pest control, and soil quality.

“Every lesson has a career focus. There are lessons for each season. Youth will spend time in the vineyard throughout the year to see what is happening during all the seasons. There are activities specific to the time of year, during the growing season and during dormancy in the vines,” said Sandborn.

Sandborn added the 4-H clubs will also visit wineries throughout their region. This will familiarize students with wine industry norms. It will also help them see professionals in action.

“We’re proud to be part of creating a talent pipeline. We want young people to see they have chances to contribute, in the vineyard, in the cellar, in the marketing department, and in the executive office,” said Sandborn.

Dixie Sandborn, the 4-H horticulture specialist at MSU
— Jessica Zimmer

Between the Vines

This dynamic dry sparkling wine is gloriously vibrant and finely balanced. Flowing seamlessly through the palate are notes of crisp Granny Smith apples, nectarines, hints of grapefruit, Asian pears, and lemon-lime citrus accents dancing around a spine of Fngling acidity. Vivacious from bright start to lingering finish. SRP: $21 | Food pairing: Thai chicken leLuce wraps | www.blackstarfarms.com

Black Star Farms 2019 Arcturos Cabernet Franc | Michigan

The scent of a walk through a field of black and red berries comes to mind at first sniff. Flavors of red raspberries, blackberries, sweet pipe tobacco, Montmorency cherries, and graphite interlace, supported by approachable tannins. Smoothly textured and the finish dazzles with a dusFng of biLersweet chocolate. SRP: $28 | Food pairing: SpagheT and meatballs | www.blackstarfarms.com

Black Star Farms | 2021 Arcturos Dry Riesling | Michigan

Scents of wet stones in a babbling brook clearly speak Riesling. MulFlayered and well-structured with a brilliant display of white peaches, nectarines, and McIntosh apples interplaying with a pinch of lemon herbs and a thread of minerality. Lime zest kicks in mid palate through the memorable finish. Approachable now, while promising plenty of years ahead. SRP: $19 | Food pairing: Steamed mussels in a white wine/buLer broth | www.blackstarfarms.com

Blustone Vineyards | 2020 “LaFtude” | Leelanau Peninsula

Here is a zesty white blend cra\ed of Pinot Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, and Grüner Veltliner. The expressive stone fruit aroma leads to peach pie, passion fruit and star fruit notes interlacing with lively lemon lime accents as it traverses the palate. A pleasing squeeze of orange peeks through on the stylish finish. SRP: $24 | Food pairing: Pan seared scallops www.blustonevineyard.com

Blustone Vineyards 2021 “Blu Secco” | Leelanau Peninsula

Scents of aromaFc honeysuckle start you off with this crisp sparkling wine cra\ed of Glera (primary grape for Prosecco in the Veneto region of Italy) and Pinot Grigio. Tickling the palate are flavors of yellow apples, summer nectarines, subtle spice, and Asian pears. Nicely balanced with ideal acidity and the effervescent finish is perfectly refreshing. SRP: $28 | Food pairing: Pad Thai | www.blustonevineyard.com

St. Julian 2021 Braganini Reserve Mountain Road White Blend | Lake Michigan Shore

This energizing blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling and Pinot Gris delivers a bright citrus and stone fruit aroma that whisks you right into the glass. Enlivening in the mouth with juicy layers of grapefruit, kiwi, stone fruit, Shamrock apples and citrussy accents, and the finish is a pure delight. SRP: $22 Food pairing: Shredded chicken salad www.stjulian.com

St. Julian NV Ciao Bolle! | Lake Michigan Shore

Here is a refreshing and buoyant bubbly cra\ed of Cabernet Sauvignon and MarqueLe. Fresh red fruit aromas start the party going. This dry sparkling wine unveils fresh strawberries, a splash of blood orange, raspberry coulis, pink grapefruit juice, and a touch of spice frolicking on the palate. Well balanced with a radiant finish. SRP: $16 | Food pairing: Nicoise salad | www.stjulian.com

23 | MICHIGAN UNCORKED Continued on
Ellen Landis, CS, CSW

St. Julian 2020 Braganini Reserve Syrah | Lake Michigan Shore

This delighiully aromaFc wine conveys intense dark berry fruits and spicy notes on the nose. Sumptuous and pleasurable from entry through the palate, which showcases blackberries, black plums, spiciness, fresh tobacco, and oak nuances, with hints of black licorice drops chiming in on the flavorsome close. SRP: $35 | Food pairing: Grilled baby back ribs | www.stjulian.com

Bel Lago Vineyard & Winery 2018 Chardonnay | Leelanau Peninsula

Here’s an engaging Chardonnay with citrus blossom scents wa\ing from the glass. Honeycrisp apples, Meyer lemon, roasted almonds, and Comice pears waltz onto the palate in smooth form. Well-integrated barrel spice and a touch of minerality add dimension, and crisp acidity keeps the wine in fine balance through the lingering finale. SRP: $24 | Food pairing: Creamy shrimp bucaFni pasta | www.bellagowine.com

French Valley Vineyard 2017 Merlot | Leelanau Peninsula

This beauFfully cra\ed Merlot opens with aromas of blueberries on the nose. Broadening on the palate are layers of black plum, blueberry pie, fresh tobacco, subtle oak, and brown spices. Well-structured and deeply flavored with velvety tannins. Hints of mocha top off the classy package on the extended close. SRP: $48 | Food pairing: Sirloin Fp roast | www.fvvineyard.com

Brys Vineyard & Winery 2021 Estate Reserve Off-Dry Riesling | Old Mission Peninsula

The expressive aroma of fresh cut peaches and tropical notes is capFvaFng. Juicy peaches remain consistent on the spirited palate, joining passion fruit, a thread of minerality, orange blossom, sun-ripened apricots, and bright lemon-lime accents. Exquisitely balanced and vibrant through the persistent finish. SRP: $22 | Food pairing: Crab carbonara | www.brysestate.com

Brys Vineyard & Winery 2021 Estate Reserve Pinot Gris | Old Mission Peninsula

This elegant wine offers purity of varietal expression. Scents of honeycomb and fresh squeezed citrus lead to layers of nectarines, creamy pears, lemon meringue pie, and a suggesFon of ginger supported by crisp acidity. The texture is saFn smooth as the wine sails to a long-lasFng final sip. SRP: $24 | Food pairing: Salmon with lemon dill sauce | www.brysestate.com


Ellen Landis, CS, CSW, is a published wine writer, certified sommelier, wine educator and professional wine judge. She spent four years as a sommelier at the Ritz Carlton and sixteen years as Wine Director/Sommelier at the award winning boutique hotel she and her husband built and operated in Half Moon Bay, CA. They recently sold the hotel to devote more time to the world of wine. Contact Ellen at ellen@ellenonwine.com


Wine Barrel Watch

A timely gift made from French and Austrian oak barrels which are transformed into a wearable work of art for wine lovers. Available at https://tinyurl.com/ mtdhbppf MSRP: $299

Birthstone wine stopper

The perfect gift for any Michigan wine. This colorful wine bottle stopper will preserve your wine in style. Available at https://tinyurl.com/45ve6sak | MSRP: $28

Insulated Wine & Cheese Bag

Insulated to keep your wine cold and refreshing, this tote will get your drinks (and snacks if you choose) to any function stylishly and at the perfect temperature. Available at https://tinyurl.com/mwmf72bb MSRP: $59.95

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