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2016 Season Notes

2016 as a vintage is the best to date! All essential elements came together to create historic Cuvées. Ideal weather leveraged our perfect dirt and microclimate to produce exceptional grapes.

This historic year is Noble!

2016 as a vintage is the best to date! All essential elements came together to create historic Cuvées. Ideal weather leveraged our perfect dirt and microclimate to produce exceptional grapes. We took extraordinary care at each step to make the most of blessings nature provided.

Rarest of all, some of our Gewürztraminer was blessed with Noble Rot, a gift that the most intrepid, quality focused winemakers wish for. This phenomenon concentrates the sugars and flavors as only nature can, producing a wine that rivals the finest ice wines.

An ancient vintners’ truth states the ultimate challenge in a great year is creating historic wines — not just good wines. From pruning to harvest to pressing and fermenting — at every stage — we nurtured these astounding grapes of 2016. We recognized in May that this could be THE year. Leelanau Grand Cru.

Being blessed with Noble Rot allowed us to experience the rarity of making Gewürztraminer Selection de Grains Noble, along with a true Riesling Beerenauslase.

Our Burgundy blocks took advantage of the long dry fall producing Chardonnay's and Pinot with unequaled intensity while maintaining their typical elegance and balance.

Our Riesling also enjoyed the long hang time producing at its least ripe a Spatlase and for the first time for us a rich Auslase.

On the south end the performance of our Viognier brought us a very aromatic creamy Block 65, and lack of rains allowed multiple picks on our Gewürztraminer, bringing layers of complexity we have not previously seen.

As winter was coming to an end we were excited to realize we had just experienced a very mild one. As with any season we were prepared with burn piles, nervous about the potential for spring frosts that could take out the crop. Blasts of cold were fresh in our memory as a few weeks before buds were starting to swell, we had a week of cold that was perfect for allowing us to cold stabilize and finish our 2014 and 2015 wines still in barrel and tank. Pruning season was especially grueling as we tied down all new canes for the entire vineyards after the two previous harsh winters. We began to get really excited about the season after the last frost scare missed us, and we realized we didn't even need to light up our burn piles, which after pruning and tying ended, got moved to the back to convert to bio-char to feed the vineyard.

As the summer progressed with warm sunny weather with a rainstorm every 4 or 5 days like clockwork the mood turned cautiously optimistic that with a good fall we now have the potential for a truly great season. Our vineyard crew being all fired up decided to go the extra mile — or should we say 26 miles of vineyard — implementing selective hand pulling of leaves during bloom in some blocks, and a new impressive but very labor intensive canopy management program to push quality to a new level.

We had decided to implement a multiple pick program on our Gewürztraminer, carefully timing the picks to capture the best flavors Gewürtz could offer in varying stages of ripeness.

With the beautiful weather holding, we held out on picking most blocks until late October to build full ripeness. As we began to pick Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, it quickly became evident that our avant-garde leaf pulling technique had reduced the size of our crop but paid of beautifully in intensity and concentration of flavor in both. By the time we finished our Bordeaux varietals we realized we were at a beautiful stage of ripeness in much the rest of our vineyard. It became a race to pick Blocks 6 and 5, and another round of Gewürtz.

By this time Halloween was over, and we realized that specific clusters of our Riesling had been blessed with noble rot, so our stalwart vineyard crew set out on the laborious task of hand selecting and picking all of the noble rot clusters, allowing us to have a true Beerenauslase. Then thankful to be done with hand selecting bunches, the crew shifted gears the next day to start picking our remaining Gewürztraminer, only to discover that a good portion of that had been blessed with Noble Rot as well. Late in the morning of November 2nd Nathaniel remembers trying to explain the rarity of good Noble Rot on Gewürtz, which allows for the possibility of a Selection de Grains Noble wine, to an exhausted crew apparently unhappy about the prospect of more selective picking. Nathaniel ended up using the analogy of SGN Gewürtz being “As rare as the Cubs winning the World Series.” Later that night while pressing we all became aware of how humorous and appropriate his naivety in sports was.

Here’s the history of this historic vintage:  

  • It began with a return to normal: cool temperatures — fortunately not frigid — during the pruning season. A single week-long super freeze at the beginning of March actually became our source for the blessing of cold stabilization for the 2015 barrel and tank wines (see Advantage Michigan story on our website). Then winter started to peter out, and pruning began in very comfortable conditions for workers and vines.
  • Crews completed pruning the first week of May, and bud break started the second week. Matt and crew collected cuttings to strategically pile around the vineyards to burn in case of freeze during tender bud break. One freeze danger warning May 17 sent me to the vineyards at 4:30 a.m. to burn if temperatures dropped below 34°.  Our topographies and locations paid off. At Crain Hill Vineyard it never dropped below 40; Cedar Lake 41 and Timberlee 36. Noted fruit growing areas just north of us recorded a low of 28°. Indeed, we are in a Grand Cru site!
  • Spring, Summer and Fall were about as good as it gets for ripening. The best degree-day recording for this new century was in 2005, and 2016 ended 5% warmer according to the weather data depot. The crew practiced a new leaf removal technique in early cluster development in all the red grape blocks based on research done by Paolo Sabbatini and Annemiek Schilder (see link)

  • Our perfect soils, hand care, attention to detail, boutique processes and combining the best of Old World traditional viticulture with proven modern techniques is why we get great wines in good years and truly historic wines in great years. 2016 Goût de Terroir promises to be historic!