Michigan Uncorked Winter 2020

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michigan Uncorked

VOL. 4 NO. 4 WINTER 2022




Throughout 2022, regional growers’ associations helped Michigan’s wine industry grow stronger, address climate change, and improve wines of all types.


At some point or another we’ve all wondered, “What would it be like to own my own vineyard or winery?” How hard could it be? Find out in this article.


The future tastes sweet for recent wine and viticulture graduates in Southwest Michigan.


Cloning is a topic that brings memories of scientists in lab coats, sheep (Dolly) and Area 51. When it comes to grapes, it may all seem mysterious, but it’s simpler than you think.


It’s a classic combo, one that Sharon Flesher discovered later in life, but c’est la vie. Sharon provides some background and some Michigan pairings that you should enjoy.


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

Cover: A winter sunrise over Ten Hands Vineyards, Traverse City, Mich. Photo by Ten Hands Vineyards 4 12 16




WWinter is a crucial time for grapevines. Rest and renewal contribute to a healthy growth cycle. Winter is also a time for reflection and as I reflect I am reminded that at no time is the Michigan wine industry healthier than when the industry cooperates rather than competes. In this issue, Jessica Zimmer takes a look at some of the regional growers’ associations that have helped Michigan’s wine industry grow stronger, address climate change, and improve wines of all types.

Jack Costa provides an in-depth look at cloning, a process that seems mysterious, but is surprisingly simple and yields diverse and beneficial results. Richard Rocca, on loan from the American Wine Society, tackles the age-old question: “Owning your own winery, how hard can it be?”

Erin Marie Miller’s article titled: “LMC Grad Update,” tracks the progress of several recent graduates of the Lake Michigan College Wine and Viticulture program. Sharon Flesher brings her own brand of wit and wisdom to the classic combo of Chablis and shellfish. Always in style, this food pairing is made extra special with Michigan wine. And, as always, our very own in-house sommelier Ellen Landis, CS, CSW provides her special brand of tasting notes for select Michigan wines.


Copyright © 2022 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 Editor-in-Chief Jim Rink • Associate Editor Kim Schneider • Associate Editor Greg Tasker Executive Secretary Karen Koenig-Rink • Contributing Writers Jack Costa, Sharon Flesher, Ellen Landis, CS, CSW Erin Marie Miller, Richard Rocca, Jessica Zimmer Vol. 4 No.4 Winter 2022
“The connoisseur
does not drink
wine but tastes of its secrets.”
— Salvador Dali


Throughout 2022, regional growers’ associations helped Michigan’s wine industry grow stronger, address climate change, and improve wines of all types.

“The Michigan Wine Collaborative (MWC) has a goal to host more social events. Our resources are very limited. We are encouraging wineries, growers, and affiliates to join the Collaborative so we can acquire the funding and capabilities to be able to hold more networking and educational events. The kinds of get-togethers at the local level can make a huge difference,” said Emily Dockery, executive director of the

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Photo by Ten Hands Vineyards

Michigan Wine Collaborative.

Dockery said it is extremely valuable for growers to be able to come together during the COVID-19 pandemic. This is especially true for growers who lean on one another for equipment, labor, and advice from industry veterans.

The growers’ socials for the Michigan Grape Society which covers southwest Michigan) ...are a phenomenal example of how the industry comes together to collaborate. They provide a significant source of support to the SW Michigan grape and wine industries,” said Dockery.

Dockery added the Collaborative is always interested in hearing from the regional associations about new agricultural research, concerns in the field like pests, and which wines are earning awards and recognition.

“In addition, we ask growers to share information about socials to which buyers and sommeliers are welcome. Invitations are a way to raise awareness and create emotional connections for new winery guests and customers, such as restaurants,” said Dockery.

Growers’ associations take various forms. The Northern Michigan Straits Area Grape Growers Association, which promotes agriculture in the northern lower peninsula of Michigan, aka the Tip of the Mitt, is a 501(c)(5) nonprofit. Contributions from its members and supporters are not tax-deductible. In contrast, Parallel 45 (P45), which sustains the northwest Michigan vineyard and winery industry, is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. Contributions from its members are tax-deductible.

Regional growers' associations are similar in that each seeks to promote vineyards and wineries in its area. An association typically holds one event per month, said Tom Petzold, former chair of the research and education committee for the MWC.

“As an example, P45 has become a forum for everyone from beginners and enthusiasts to individuals who cultivate 20 acres of wine grapes. Its educational and social meetings are called “First Fridays.” They usually take place at a vineyard or winery,” said Petzold.

One of the purposes of P45 is to share growers’ input with the Northwest Michigan Horticulture Research Center. This 100acre Michigan State University center and agricultural station in Traverse City focuses on cherries, apples, and hops.

“P45 is one of the primary clients of the research center, where one staff member is dedicated to our industry. Funds meant for wine grape cultivation could be misappropriated if the center doesn’t constantly get input from growers. The educational, social gatherings are a way for the growers’ association to gather that input frequently and regularly,” said Petzold.

Andy Fles, current president of P45, is proud this organization is one of the larger regional growers’ associations in the state.

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Emily Dockery

Andy Fles, current president of P45, is proud this organization is one of the larger regional growers’ associations in the state.

“We were founded in the late 1990s and are funded through membership dues. We currently have two social networking meetings a year, the Orchard and Vineyard Show in January, which started as an apple and cherry-focused event, and the Spring Kickoff meeting in April. We also hold monthly membership meetings May through August,” said Fles.

Fles said the monthly meetings typically draw between 60 and 90 dues-paying members.

“We started meeting in person again in May 2021. The opportunity to talk allows our members to learn from one another. Topics include new research on viticulture and enology practices, fruit leases, pooling resources for an equipment purchase, and job openings,” said Fles.

Fles said a highlight of P45’s parties is the presence of at least 60 bottles of wine to try.

“That’s what happens when you’re grower and producer-supported,” said Fles.

Amy Birk, president of the Michigan Grape Society, said this growers’ association also includes juice grape growers.

“Our big event, which usually attracts between 150 and 200 people, is the Viticulture Field Day in July. That’s when we invite various speakers from Michigan State University and other universities to talk about the latest innovations in agriculture and vineyard work,” said Birk.

Viticulture Field Day is hosted by Michigan State University’s Southwest Michigan Research and Extension Center in Berrien County. The association’s Southwest Michigan Horticulture Days, a two-day event in February, are also popular.

“We have speakers from all over the country. They address everything from wine grapes and blueberries to tree fruits and vegetables,” said Birk.

A Michigan Grape Society’s monthly growers’ social typically involves dinner and a speaker who gives a 45-minute talk.

“We encourage social distancing at all our events and require masks at our indoor events. About 30 growers usually come to our monthly socials. The regular events are for sharing wine, dinner, and learning from one another,” said Birk.

Birk added she always invites representatives from the Collaborative to any event the Michigan Grape Society hosts. “It’s so important to get people together safely, especially after having to take a pause for most of 2020. From that experience, we learned outdoor events are the best. Growers respond very well to in-field education. It’s more familiar than

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Birk added the Michigan Grape Society is recording more events. It is offering the option to attend over Zoom for members and guests who may not be able to come in person.

Brian Lillie, vice president of the MWC, said one topic the Collaborative has encouraged attendees at regional association meetings to discuss is how to brand Michigan wines.

“People have an idea, an expectation, and a trust associated with wines from the Finger Lakes American Viticulture Area in New York and the various AVAs in the Napa Valley. The MWC is looking for feedback from growers across the state on what qualities the term “Michigan wine” should convey,” said Lillie.

With help from growers and enthusiasts, the MWC seeks to increase awareness in a manner similar to “Pure Michigan,” the state’s tourism campaign.

“We’re looking for information about the wines that trigger emotions and memories of trips to wineries and vineyards. Anyone who’s attending regional growers’ association meetings and wants to share about how to do that in Michigan, please reach out to us. The way you’ve educated enthusiasts and other growers at monthly meetings and big events so far has been a great start,” said Lillie.


Jessica Zimmer is a news reporter, attorney, and educator based in northern California. She has worked in journalism for over 20 years. She covers a wide variety of industries, including alcoholic beverage production, transportation, law, and the arts.

Photo by Kyle Brownley


We’ve all been there, sitting on the patio of your favorite winery, sipping a delicious glass of wine, and thinking, I could see myself living the ‘winemaker’s life.’

How hard could it be? All you have to do is stomp on some grapes, ferment the juice, put it in a bottle, then show up in Paris to accept your awards—right?

Not quite.

The romanticized image of a winemaker is far removed from reality. Don’t forget that a vintner is a farmer who grows grapes instead of more common crops like wheat, corn, or potatoes. Making a living by farming has always been difficult and is getting harder with each passing year due to climate change.

So, what does it take to turn the winemaking dream into a reality? To find out, I sought the advice of Dan Matthies, owner of Chateau Fontaíne Lake Leelanau, Michigan, Jim Baker, the owner and winemaker of Chateau Niagara Winery Newfane New York, and retired winemaker Jean Manspeaker, former co-owner with her husband Todd, of Briar Valley Vineyards and Winery Bedford, Pennsylvania.

Photo by Steph Barnes
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These winemakers agree that traits all successful winemakers have in common include an unwavering commitment to their dream and the tenacity to maintain it through adversity. Without this iron-willed mindset, failure is inevitable. Read on for their top tips for making a career out of wine when it comes to locking down a business plan, developing professional relationships, and more.

finances before you start allocating your funds. A good CPA can keep your project on track and prevent you from making serious financial errors that could jeopardize your business both near and long term.

Patience and in-depth research were key factors leading to Jim Baker buying a 31-acre working cabbage farm on the Niagara Plain, near Lake Ontario. The purchase of this property provided him with a solid foundation on which to build his award-winning Chateau Niagara Winery. Wellthought-out decisions made in the beginning can put your business on a positive path that will greatly increase your chances of achieving your dreams.

1. Your Vision and Business Plan

Before you begin your journey, you must first know where you’re going and have a sound plan on how you’re going to get there.

The vision for your winery is a big picture view of everything you want it to be and your business plan provides a framework on which to build a profitable operation. To help us better understand this process let’s see how Jean Manspeaker addressed her mission statement. Jean kept her goals simple and easily understood while setting a high standard for all aspects of her operation. She wanted to grow and produce the highest quality vinifera grapes and wine in South Central Pennsylvania. Provide her customers a pleasurable experience and her employees an excellent standard of living. She set forth and achieved these lofty goals in a concise strategy that was the cornerstone of Briar Valley’s business philosophy. If you ever feel you are losing your way on your wine journey you can follow Jean’s example and look to your mission statement as your guiding light to point you in the right direction.

2. Capitalization and Financing

It is very important to have a complete understanding of your

While finding a capable CPA is vital it won’t be the only specialized help you will need. Jean regarded her hiring and the development of a working relationship with her wine consultant as crucial as her choice of a CPA. The CPA can help make your financial statements look good while the wine consultant can help make your wine taste good.

Dan Matthies started growing grapes on the Leelanau Pennisula in 1985 and produced his first chardonnay in 1995. Dan’s background in finance gave him a practical view of how to approach the economics of building and expanding a winemaking operation. He will be the first to tell you that this is a capital-intensive business and that how you deploy your assets is pivotal to your success or failure.

3. Education & Professional Relationships

You also need to critically examine your winemaking abilities and formulate a plan to address how to improve them. You might consider doing an internship at a winery or attending classes at a local college or online. Never stop learning about wine, subscribe to trade journals and newsletters. You should also read reports from colleges and trade groups to keep current. Attend seminars and trade shows to network and build relationships with others in the wine community. Dan got the best advice of his wine life when Dr. Stanley Howell from Michigan State University visited his property and after taking soil samples and assessing the land told Dan that it would be perfect for growing Chardonnay grapes.

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4. Land & Grapes

How much land you will need for your winery will depend on the concept set forth in your business plan. There are several options you can pursue when it comes to supplying your winery with grapes. Jim makes this recommendation for securing grapes “If you chose, you can source your grapes locally. This makes good sense because you can usually buy grapes for less than it costs to grow them.” Jean offers this guidance for those considering planting a vineyard. “The advantage to having your own vineyard is that you are able to ensure the quality of your fruit and grow it to your own specifications.'' It also means you will need to secure alternate sources of grapes if you are in a region prone to frost. An untimely frost or other disasters can severely limit or completely wipe out your harvest. Planting and maintaining a vineyard is a costly venture. A recent Cornell University report put the cost of bringing a new Vitis vinifera vineyard into production at $43,443 per acre. Remember, it will take four years to get your new vineyard into production.

5. Winery Buildings & Equipment

This is the area of your business plan that has to be specific, carefully thought out, and well-financed. You need to decide whether to locate your winemaking operations on-site with a tasting room along with a machinery storage building or if you will have an off-site tasting room and utilize a custom crush facility. A functional size for a working shop is around 1500 sq. ft. and at an estimated $55 per sq. with basic amenities is about $83,000. If you plan on attaching your tasting room to your winery operations the cost can easily exceed $100 sq. ft. or more for an elaborately appointed addition. Your tasting room should be a reflection of how you want your brand to be perceived by potential customers. It should be a place where your customers feel comfortable and want to visit often to purchase your wine.

When equipping a 500-5,000 case per year winery, Jim Baker recommends investing in better equipment because it will prove to be cost-efficient and allow you to make better wine. Winery equipment is best divided into three categories. The first are your receiving tools which are used in handling the grapes being brought into the winery for processing. This

This would include your crusher-destemmer, must pump, and must hose. Next, wine processing equipment is essential in producing high-quality wine. These are your tanks, oak barrels, and wine hoses. Finally, the bottling equipment moves your finished wine into bottles and prepares it for sale. In this phase of production a bottler, corker and labeler are indispensable. A rough estimate for new production equipment comes in at $67,425.

If you are unable or unwilling to purchase this costly equipment you might be able to utilize a strategy Dan Matthies used during the early days of Chateau Fontaíne. Dan accepted a generous offer from a winemaker to use his facilities to get experience using its equipment and to judge whether investing in it would be beneficial to the next phase of his operation.

6. Marketing your wine

Before the first drop of wine goes into the bottle you need to know who your target customer will be and how you are going to secure their business. Do your market research to find exactly what is in your favor and what barriers you need to address. Beneficial situations could be that your winery is near a wine trail that you could join or being situated near an affluent metropolitan area or vacation destination.

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The distribution method you choose for your wine will figure heavily into the success or failure of your winery. Most, if not all, small boutique wineries choose to sell directly to the public through their tasting rooms, festivals, farmer markets, community events, or online. Direct sales afford the best margins because the standard discounts for wholesale direct are 33% and usually 50% for using a distributor. Jim Baker shares a few secrets about the winning strategies he employs at Chateau Niagara.

“For small niche wineries such as ours, selling direct to the customer is the main focus. Hand selling to each customer, providing education, information, and a personal touch builds relationships that make lifelong customers. As you get larger the use of wholesale accounts is needed to move larger quantities of wine”.

a sommelier who executes their self-distribution to restaurants and wine shops. They also use ldistributors to gain access to lvendors and internet sales. These outlets spark interest in the tasting room in Lake Leelanau.

As you can see, starting a vineyard and winery is a complex venture that not only requires monetary investment but an investment of years of your life. Living a “Winemaker’s Life” can be very fulfilling but it also involves hard work and sacrifice. Here’s some priceless wisdom from Jean Manspeaker. “As I visualize the starry eyes of passionate prospective winery owners, my inclination is to yell “DO YOUR HOMEWORK!” "Think long and hard about this venture then ask for help.”

I hope one day to be sitting on the patio of YOUR winery sipping your award-winning wine while watching the sun dip out of sight over your lush vineyards.


Rich Rocca is a Western Pennsylvania-based writer with a special interest in unusual wine grape varieties, who also writes and publishes the wine blog wpawinepirate.com. His degree in Nature Conservation provides him with a unique insight into the growing movement toward organic and biodynamic viticulture. Rich can be reached at wpawinepirate@gmail.com.



When Susan Chilton and her husband stumbled across a breathtaking 20-acre parcel of land for sale in Berrien County in early 2020, she felt an immediate connection to the property. “We went to look at it and I said, ‘Even if we never do anything with it, we have to be stewards of this land,’” Chilton recalls.

Despite that declaration, Chilton, then a student in the Wine and Viticulture Technology program at nearby Lake Michigan College, was impressed by the land’s soil and topography. She knew the terroir would be ideal for growing wine grapes and, as a recent empty nester, envisioned cleaning up the property and fulfilling her long-held dream of owning a vineyard.

That April, amid a global pandemic and shutdowns that

brought the state’s business activity to an abrupt halt a month earlier, Chilton signed the closing documents for the land on the roof of a pickup truck to maintain social distancing during uncertain times. In the months that followed, Chilton found herself making plans for the next chapter of life – this time, as a new entrepreneur and grape producer in Southwest Michigan’s bourgeoning wine scene.

A proper education … and a little resilience

Committed to transforming the long-neglected property into a productive vineyard, Chilton spent the next year dividing her time between the couple’s home near Chicago in La Grange, Illinois, and a second home near the vineyard in Southwest Michigan, continuing to work while commuting three days a week to LMC while finishing her viticulture degree.

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The future tastes sweet for recent wine and viticulture grads in SW Michigan Caleb Vochaska by Erin Marie Miller

“If you’re going to chase a dream, whatever that dream is –whether you’re opening a restaurant or opening a new shop or pursuing starting a vineyard – you’ve got to have some fortitude. Nothing comes easily, no matter how well prepared you are,” Chilton says, noting that the lessons she learned from a career in the corporate world, along with a formal education in viticulture, provided the necessary mindset and skills for navigating the challenges of starting a business amid supply chain delays and inflation – a process that was “more labor intensive” than anticipated.

Dubbed Shiny Quarter Vineyard (the name doubles as a hopeful nod to a shiny new quarter of life as a vineyard owner while honoring memories of rewarding Chilton’s three children with quarters for memorizing the names of songs while growing up), the property’s first five acres of vines were planted over the course of a week in May 2021.

use it as a sort of “laboratory” for enhancing their wine education.

“We’ve had the students from the viticulture program come out to see [Shiny Quarter], because it’s really a unique opportunity see a vineyard grow from dirt to vineyard,” Chilton says.

Growing the industry in Southwest Michigan

In Michigan, business ventures like Shiny Quarter Vineyard are part of a blossoming wine industry that has had an increasingly positive impact on the state in recent years.

According to a nationwide report commissioned by WineAmerica, an industry group based in Washington, D.C., Michigan’s wine industry is expected to generate an economic impact of over $6 billion in 2022 – up from $5.4 billion cited in a 2017 study from the Michigan Craft Beverage Council – highlighting the industry’s potential.

For Michael Moyer, who heads the Wine and Viticulture program at LMC, watching students like Chilton pursue new business ventures after graduation while contributing to Southwest Michigan’s wine industry has been fulfilling.

“Wine truly is made in the vineyard. It is both exciting and rewarding to see a Wine and Viticulture graduate start with a quality vineyard site. I cannot wait to taste some wine from Shiny Quarter,” Moyer says.

“We had a bunch of our college friends and some neighbors come and help us,” Chilton recalls, noting that the first harvest is expected in 2023, with all the grapes already informally spoken for.

Since graduating from the viticulture program last spring, Chilton has used her position as a startup grape producer to establish new opportunities for alumni of LMC’s viticulture program in the region. Recently she hired David Pliml, a fellow LMC graduate, as vineyard manager. Chilton has also invited professors and students from the college to visit the land and

Launched in the fall of 2015 under Moyer’s direction, the wine and viticulture program at LMC has seen around 45 students graduate and nearly 95 students enrolled full-time since its inception, including this year’s cohort. O ffering courses ranging from chemistry to vineyard maintenance, winemaking, winery operations and more, in addition to hands-on learning opportunities at Lake Michigan Vintners, the first and only teaching winery and tasting room in the Midwest, students are offered a uniquely well-rounded education. Graduates have gone on to work in the wine industry in Michigan and other winemaking regions across the country.

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Susan and Larry Chilton

From ships to cellars … and labs

Although planting new vineyards and launching wine businesses are popular options for LMC graduates, entrepreneurship isn’t the only career path available to wine and viticulture students. In Southwest Michigan, local wineries also provide opportunities for graduates to utilize their skills and education. For Caleb Vochaska, who recently accepted a role as assistant winemaker at Modales Wines in Fennville after graduating earlier this year, earning a degree in viticulture offered a chance to expand on earlier knowledge and skills gained while working intermittently in the wine world for over half a decade.

“Caleb is a very strong student. As assistant winemaker, he has an excellent opportunity to further develop his winemaking skills and help Modales continue to produce the world class wines they are becoming famous for,” Moyer says.

Despite having wine industry experience and a talent for winemaking, Vochaska, who also holds a Bachelor of Science in maritime technology and previously worked in commercial shipping and freights, made the decision to enroll in the viticulture program almost on a whim.

“It was kind of a COVID thing where I was like, ‘Well, there’s nothing better to do, so I might as well just go to school and get a degree in wine,” Vochaska recalls, adding that working for Modales became a goal after attending a wine tasting event there as a viticulture student.

In addition to having the chance to work closely with the head winemakers at Modales, Vochaska has also gotten hands-on experience making wine from Michigan-grown organic grapes during his time as assistant winemaker.

“It was our first year of farming organically, and so it’s really great to see the quality of the fruit that comes in without the conventional sprays – because for so many years, they’ve said you can’t farm grapes organically in Michigan because there’s too much disease,” Vochaska says.

For Vochaska, adjusting to the responsibilities of being assistant winemaker at a popular winery has been rewarding. Although the long hours of Vochaska’s first harvest season at Modales have been demanding, he says his formal education in wine left him up to the task.

“Now I have the lab skills where I'm bouncing back and forth between the cellar and the lab. Just being able to be in the lab and understand the science aspect of wine [is useful], because such a big portion of modern winemaking is quality control,” Vochaska says. When asked about his plans now that he’s armed with a viticulture degree, Vochaska says he intends to stay exactly where he is and shows no concern about the challenges that might pop up along the way.


Erin Marie Miller is a freelance journalist based in Metro Detroit. A lover of all things independent, she has written about small businesses, restaurants, nonprofits, the arts and more for publications in Michigan and California Since 2014.


Clones: Winemaker’s Guide to the Galaxy

What do winemakers, Vincent Van Gogh, and Star Wars have in common? A lot.

The topic of clones, in regards to grapevines, is perhaps the most misunderstood topic in the world of wine…and for good reason. It is my hope this article will serve as an aid in demystifying the topic and clarifying the more complicated aspects of what clones are and how they can be used in the winemaking process.

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“Your clones are impressive. You must be very proud.” -Obi-Wan-Kenobi

But first, what is cloning?

If you’ve had a high school biology class or, for that matter, seen Star Wars, you’ll probably have a general understanding of what a clone is. For the sake of clarity, clones are an exact genetic copy of something else or, as Merriam-Websters says, “genetically identical cells or organisms.” In terms of winemaking, we’re not referring to an army of identical soldiers clad in polished white armor defending the galaxy from evil… we're talking about grapevines. While the process of cloning a grapevine does sound revolutionary, in fact, it is far more ancient than people realize. And wine grapes aren't the only plants capable of being cloned. Olives, dates, and figs can all be cloned and have been for thousands of years. But why and how do you clone a grapevine? Well, I’m glad you asked.

Say, for instance, you discover a vine that consistently produces 100-point-rated wine. You’d probably want to plant more of the same vine, right? Obviously, this is a fanciful example, but who doesn’t want more 100-point-rated wine? To clone the vine, you’ll want to follow three simple steps:

1. Acquire cuttings from the plant you want to clone

2. Stick the cuttings in the ground

3. Water and watch it grow

Voila. You’ve cloned a vine. By cultivating vines from cuttings rather than seeds, you preserve the genetic material and produce a plant identical to the mother vine from which it came. Planting by seed, however, will result in a new version of the grape or a completely new variety altogether. And planting by seed is how we grow and develop more clones to work with. However, new versions of a grape arise from mutations in the vineyard. Pinot Grigio, for example, is technically a mutation of Pinot Noir that lost its ability to accumulate color in its skin. The Muscat grape has thousands of variations. Why? Because Muscat is one of the oldest grape varieties in the world, allowing the grape more time to develop new clonal variations via genetic mutations.

There can be thousands of different clones of any given variety. Pinot Noir has over 1000+ variations. On the UC Davis Plant Foundation Service, you can browse through hundreds of clonal selections of any given grape. Some universities, like Michigan State, have breeding programs that develop new clonal selections. Some will even trademark and request royalties from nurseries that sell these clones to winemakers and vineyard owners. Crazy right? So what's the big deal? If universities are requesting royalties from clones, there's obviously something incredibly valuable about them.

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Why should you clone?

Because there are literally hundreds of variations of any particular grape, each clone will possess its own unique qualities and characteristics. Some are more astringent, marked by increased intensity of fruit and aromatics, earlier ripening, producing smaller berries, or possibly even resistance to specific diseases. By themselves, single clones can produce good quality grapes, but sometimes the wine made from those grapes might be “missing something.” Winemakers can fix this by blending several grape varieties together (Bordeaux blends are the perfect example) to help attain more complexity. While winemakers can blend many grape varieties to create a fantastically complex product, blending clones of a single variety will retain the best qualities of that particular grape and, therefore, produce a wine with the desired “varietal characteristics.”

It doesn’t take much to see the inherent value of using multiple clones for the winemaking process. Discovering new variants of a particular grape, and cloning them via cuttings, will ultimately help boost your quality and create consistency in your varietal wines. Great winemakers are very careful in selecting which clones best fit their winemaking program, ensuring the blend has the capacity to highlight the best qualities of each clone. This might be comparable to Vincent Van Gough, who was known for applying several different dynamic qualities to his paintings. In his Starry Night, the Dutchman not only uses a variety of colors that blend well together but also particular brush strokes to enhance the perceived texture of the surface of the canvas. These qualities, both color, and texture function separately through a complementary relationship to add a completely new dimension to the painting, an apt comparison when describing the blending of clones.

As we continue to progress and develop new clones for winemaking, the relative quality is sure to improve. This is great news. This means winemakers can craft premium wines that consistently highlight the best qualities of a single grape variety. Just like Van Gogh and his painting, winemakers can approach their art in a similar manner by knitting together the best qualities of each clone to create more consistent, exciting, complex, and harmoniously balanced wines.


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



Iregret that 40 years elapsed from the day I reached legal drinking age until the evening I first experienced the glory of Chablis with shellfish. But better late than never, if you’ll pardon the cliché.

A tasting event at Lake District Wine Co. in Traverse City featured that classic pairing, prompting me to vow never again to consume one without the other. Oh, the promises we make whilst in the throes of passion.

It’s not as if I had never before sought the experience. I’ve been on an occasional quest to follow novelist-turned-winewriter Jay McInerney’s advice, “If you’ve never had oysters with Chablis, you should rectify this failure immediately.”

The difficulty is that I spend most of my time in the Upper Midwest, where oysters on the half shell are rarely on menus for less than $5. Per oyster. For a North Carolina native reared on happy hours at the beach with freshly shucked oysters for 10 cents each (1980s prices, but still), that’s a bite too salty to swallow.

So when my neighborhood wine shop had a tasting event pairing three different glasses of Chablis with shellfish prepared by one of the area’s finest restaurants, Trattoria Stella, I was all in, and it was grand. Now, after getting a hint of the potential, I’ve resolved to resume my quest for the oyster pairing when I’m back in North Carolina during an “r” month.

Wine is made to enjoy with food. Well, not all wine, just good wine. I don’t want to criticize anyone’s life choices, so I’ll let New York Times wine writer Eric Asimov do it for me:

“All you have to do is remember three words: Wine is food. This may sound absurd to people whose idea of wine appreciation is swilling a little red in a bar while their friends are downing cocktails or beer. It will make no sense to those for whom a glass of wine is merely the reward for arriving home after a hard day’s work, as others may enjoy a Scotch on the rocks or a martini. But wine in the classic sense is not a cocktail replacement. It is an integral part of a meal, served at the table, with food.”

— The New York Times, March 6, 2017

When the food and the wine are well-matched, each is elevated, tasting better together than on their own, similar to the way a happy couple might describe their marriage. Sometimes the pairing is so magnificent that it’s a food-andwine power couple. Such is the case of Chablis and oysters, or a Napa cabernet with a perfectly cooked steak, but the experience can be found at a lower price.

One of my favorite food memories is from a village restaurant in southwestern France, Le Cadet de Gascogne in Saint Justin. My plat principal, or main course, was minced local lamb in a white sauce with a risotto cake and grilled veggies, paired with a glass of Madiran from the nearby Chateau d’Aydie. This wine is made from the Tannat grape, which as its name implies, is very high in tannins. On its own, perhaps at a tasting bar, I would’ve considered it good but not remarkable. The lamb would have been delicious but nothing to remember for the rest of my days. Together, they were explosive. Those tannins and the fatty lamb were meant for each other, and it was as if the lamb had been raised in that vineyard, nibbling on the grapes as it fertilized the vines. All for about 25 Euros ($25 at the current exchange),

18 | MICHIGAN UNCORKED Continued on next page

A confident cook could attempt to duplicate that meal in Michigan. Tannat is not a common grape, but Dablon Vineyards & Winery in southwest Michigan grows it and offers a bottle of its 2017 vintage for $40.

Sometimes, a wine that one doesn’t even like can be elevated by its exposure to the right food. Once I was preparing chicken with cream and mushrooms and consulted the internet for ideas on a wine to pair. The suggestion of an oaked chardonnay stood out because I had one on hand. I retrieved it from the basement, poured a glass and immediately regretted my decision. But the bottle was open, so I served it with the meal and that is the only time I have enjoyed an inexpensive, overly oaked California chardonnay.

Returning to the Chablis, one speculation for its harmony with shellfish is that it is grown on the soil of fossilized oysters. That region of Burgundy was an ancient seabed. Maybe there’s some magic in this association, or maybe it’s all in our heads. I like to imagine that when those vines root in their Jurassic dirt, they absorb ancient memories that we can savor when we taste the wines with food from the floor of the sea.

Michigan may not have the identical terroir of Burgundy, but as anyone who has combed the lakeshore for Petoskey stones knows, we also have sea fossils in our dirt. Many Michigan wineries grow chardonnay, among the most versatile of European varietals as well as being the grape of Chablis. To come nearest the Chablis taste with a Michigan wine, look for one that has not been in contact with oak, perhaps the 2020 Unwooded Chardonnay from 45 North Vineyard & Winery ($28) or the 2021 Unoaked Chardonnay from Verterra Winery ($23). Pair it with steamed mussels, which unlike oysters, are widely available at Michigan markets.

So there you have it, a classic pairing à la Michigan!


Previously a journalist for United Press International (UPI), the News and Observer (Raleigh, N.C.) and Congressional Quarterly, Sharon Flesher now writes independently from Traverse City, Mich. She is an enthusiastic student of wine and she reads too much. Find her on the web at http://twofemmes.com/


Between the Vines

Le# Foot Charley | 2020 Riesling Terminal Moraine, Old Mission Peninsula

Fragrant peach aromas rise from the glass. Here’s a beauAfully complex Riesling bursAng with layers of peach, nectarine, wet stone, apricot-lemongrass Asane, and hazelnuts, wrapped around a brisk core of acidity. The lingering finish is energeAc with a preIy stream of underlying lime. SRP: $38 | Food pairing: Lobster roll www.lePfootcharley.com

Black Star Farms | 2019 Arcturos Pinot Noir, Leelanau Peninsula

The essence of forest floor greets the nose with this expressive, finely structured cool climate Pinot Noir. Blossoming on the palate are delectable layers of red cherries, fresh raspberries, earth, oak nuances, wild mushrooms, and crushed herbs supported by complementary balancing acidity. Elegant and refined with a silky texture, and the finish hangs on and on. SRP: $25 | Food pairing: Puff pastry mushroom tart | www.blackstarfarms.com

Black Star Farms | 2020 Arcturos Pinot Blanc, Old Mission Peninsula

The tantalizing aroma wakes up the senses as this gem approaches the nose. On the palate, freestone peaches, toasted marshmallows, spiced pears, blanched almonds, and a splash of lemon interweave seamlessly. Well balanced and remarkably textured with a persistent finish. SRP: $19.50 | Food pairing: Pan seared halibut www.blackstarfarms.com

Black Star Farms | 2020 Arcturos Gamay Noir, Leelanau Peninsula

A beguiling aroma of forest berries and spice waPs from the glass. Citrus blossom, juicy red raspberries, spiced mulberry pie, hints of fresh-turned earth, and a gentle touch of chopped herbs join balancing acidity decoraAng the palate. Pure and finely balanced through the vivacious finale. SRP: $23 | Food pairing: Oven roasted pork loin www.blackstarfarms.com

Brengman Brothers | 2012 Riesling, Leelanau Peninsula

The brilliant yellow-gold hue sparkles, and the wet stone nose is engaging with this well-balanced, nicely aged Crain Hill Vineyard Riesling. Flavors of honey-drizzled figs, dried apricots, and peach jam join brisk acidity and a thread of minerality. Hints of lime curd peek through as the flavors extend beyond the final sip. SRP: $30 | Food pairing: Braised chicken with preserved lemon | www.brengmanbrothers.com

Brengman Brothers | 2020 Chardonnay Barrel, Leelanau Peninsula

A tantalizing aroma of tree fruits and buIerscotch floods the senses. Full bodied and richly textured, this barrel aged Chardonnay speaks clearly of its variety. Creamy pears, Honeycrisp apples, well-managed oak and hints of vanilla custard meld with lively acidity, and the finish is lip-smacking. SRP: $40 | Food pairing: Fresh corn chowder www.brengmanbrothers.com

20 | MICHIGAN UNCORKED Continued on next page
Ellen Landis, CS, CSW

Brengman Brothers | 2021 Riesling KabineI, Leelanau Peninsula

The wet stone aroma lures you into the glass where a juicy mouthful of sun ripened white peaches, oyster shell, minerality, crisp apples, underlying salinity, and fresh lime zest interweave. A racy backbone of acidity keeps the wine in fine balance as it sails smoothly to a long and zesty finish. SRP: $25 | Food pairing: Crab friIers with remoulade sauce www.brengmanbrothers.com

St. Julian | 2020 Winemaker’s Series Double Barrel Merlot, Lake Michigan Shore

InviAng mixed berries and a touch of earth kick off this velvety smooth, well-structured Merlot. Elegant and nicely balanced as it glides across the palate with notes of blueberry compote, red plum, savor spice, and earthiness. Aging 14 months in new French oak gives added depth. This wine promises to drink well for years. SRP: $25.99 Food pairing: FlorenAne steak www.stjulian.com

St. Julian | Braganini Reserve 2021 Estate Sauvignon Blanc, Lake Michigan Shore

The perfumed nose of citrus blossom is delighdul. The palate is bursAng with flavors of crisp green apples, kiwi, grapefruit and fresh crushed herbs. Ideally balanced with sharp edged acidity, and the finish is bright and invigoraAng. SRP: $21.99 Food pairing: Oysters on the half shell with mignoneIe sauce | www.stjulian.com

St. Julian | 2021 Braganini Reserve Mountain Road Riesling, Lake Michigan Shore

A sweet fragrance of white fruits and pleasing flinty notes on the nose are awakening. Enlivening layers of passion fruit, a hint of lemongrass, succulent white peaches, and fresh squeezed lime intertwine with crisp acidity. Lovely vibrancy prevails as the wine makes its way to a juicy, refreshing finish. SRP: $21.99 | Food pairing: Red snapper fish tacos.

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

The mouthwatering aromaAc of tree fruits, fresh cut citrus, and delicate florals leaps from the glass. Smoothly textured and sumptuous as notes of baked pears, McIntosh apple buIer, lemon sorbet, Casaba melon and subtle herb accents traverse the palate. An ideal level of acidity keeps it well balanced, and the finish is graceful and long lasAng. SRP: $26 Food pairing: Quiche Lorraine | www.brysestate.com

Brys Estate Vineyard & Winery | 2020 Reserve Pinot Noir, Old Mission Peninsula

The provocaAve forest floor aroma clearly shouts out Pinot Noir. CapAvaAng flavors of Lapin cherries, star anise, a grind of pink peppercorns, earthiness, and red raspberries entwine harmoniously on the palate. Savory accents and well managed oak add depth and complexity through the irresisAble lengthy finish. SRP: $38 | Food pairing: Smoked salmon avocado tartare | www.brysestate.com

Aurora Cellars | 2017 Cabernet Franc, Leelanau Peninsula

Expressive floral, earthy scents put you in a garden wonderland frame of mind. Deep dark fruits lead the way on the palate, as blackberries, black raspberries, and purple plums join subtle herbs, graphite, and dark chocolate melding in harmony. Lively acidity and refined tannins complete the package; age-worthy. SRP: $50 | Food pairing: Filet mignon with blue cheese sauce | www.auroracellars.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


Merlot-Infused Tea

Merlot-infused organic black tea--with touches of bergamot and vanilla — makes a fine post-dinner beverage. Available at https://tinyurl.com/43cceb5w | MSRP: $22

Coravin Timeless Three

Pour your favorite wines without pulling the cork with the Coravin Timeless Three Wine Preservation System. The Three System is the perfect introduction to our Timeless Wine Preservation Systems, allowing you to preserve still wines for weeks, months, or even years.

Available at https://tinyurl.com/vwk3byez | MSRP: $179

Wine Bible

Comprehensive, entertaining, authoritative, and endlessly interesting, The Wine Bible is a lively course from an expert teacher, grounding the reader deeply in the fundamentals—vineyards and varietals, climate and terroir, the nine attributes of a wine’s greatness—while layering on tips, informative asides, anecdotes, definitions, photographs, maps, labels, and recommended bottles. Available at https://tinyurl.com/2bd2n22t | MSRP: $18.79






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