Tuesday, May 16, 2017

3 North Vines: A Small Winery with Big Flavors

In the last 5 years, sales of wine made in Michigan has increased by 34%. With 2.4 million gallons of wine being produced a year in the state, taking just one day or only a week to celebrate them just wouldn't seem enough. That's why the state has dedicated all of May as Michigan Wine Month.

The Blue Water Area is home to several wineries and we're stopping in to pay a couple of them a visit and share a bit of their story with you. Our stop this time is 3 North Vines.

A quick half hour drive northwest from Port Huron and less than a 5 minute hop from Lexington, 3 North Vines owners Kristi and Nate Shopbell searched around Michigan for several years for the right spot to start growing grapes and start a winery.

After looking at many properties all over the state, they purchased land on Peck Rd in Sanilac county in the fall of 2007. The area was perfect not only because of it's rolling hills and three ponds on the 35 acres of property but also that it's location in the northern part of the Port Huron Moraine which provides a lake effect climate similar to the ones in Michigan's better known wine regions. This climate is integral to creating the distinctively unique flavors in the grape varieties grown they grow. Also, Kristi is a Marine City native and she mentioned to us that it's nice to have family not too far rather than having to drive across the state to visit them.

In 2008, their first vines went in on the property. In 2011 3 North Vines had their first 3 vintages produced and bottled in a repurposed and reclaimed barn on the property. They were a light bodied with great red fruit notes and an oak charactered Pinot Noir, the zesty and crisp Albarino and a fruit forward Pinotage which is a cross in between Pino Noir and Hermitage varieties.

With several windows letting the May sunlight bathe the tasting room in a warm and friendly tone, we took seats at the bar and Kristi served us up some sips of their vintages.

When I mentioned to people that I would be visiting 3 North Vines for an article several of the told me that I HAD to try their Lucky Shoe. It just so happened to be the first thing we did try. It was a great choice to start things off as it fit with the pleasant spring day in the country. Lucky Shoe is a semi-sweet white that's very light and lively. Open a bottle of it on a perfect Michigan summer day and it will possibly make it even more perfect.

All the wines we tried at 3 North Vines were quite flavorful and all with their own particular nuances but the one that captured and delighted my taste buds in a new way was the Marquette. It wasn't a variety I was familiar with but as it seems not many others either yet. The Marquette is a cold-hardy complex hybrid grape that was pat
ented by the University of Minnesota in 2006. It can handle the frigid temperatures that the northern states winter can dish out. 3 North Vines is one of the small number of wineries in the state to be using the grape so far and its popularity is starting to grow. 

The wine the Marquette grape produces is ruby red and color and very juicy on the noise. It's bold but not overbearing flavor is that of refreshing cherries and berries along with light compliments of oak and vanilla. It's a kind of wine that will go excellently with both backyard barbecue burgers or a spendy steak as it does also on a summer evening or a winter day. 

With the warm weather now upon us, you can also enjoy 3 North Vines offerings right out by the vines as the have a patio right out the door of the tasting room. Enjoying a glass of red or white under the shade on a sunny day while enjoying a nice country breeze coming off Lake Huron? There's not much more one could ask for.

3 North Vines is located at
5940 Peck Rd in Croswell, Michigan and is open for the season. They are looking forward to you making them a stop while you're out on the Thumb's Up Wine Trail or just passing the time.

Be sure to try some of their wines at the Thumbs Up Wine Trail Taste Fest 2017 which is happening on May 21st at the Seaway Terminal in Port Huron.

Find out more about 3 North Vines at their website and follow them on Facebook too.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Green Barn Winery: A Place For White and Red

May is Michigan Wine Month. A time to celebrate the grapes grown in the state and the makers that turn them into wonderful vino. Home to 127 wineries, bottling over 2.4 million gallons of wine a year, it's become quite an industry for the state. In the past 5 years Michigan wine sales, the majority of which is from Michigan-grown grapes, has increased 34% over the last 5 years.

While the national focus on Michigan wine tends to be what is produced on the western side of the state, the eastern side is making some tasty vintage too. The Blue Water area is home to three that are recognized by the Michigan Grape and Wine Industry Council. They are Green Barn Winery in Smith's Creek, 3 North Vines in Croswell and the Blue Water Winery in Lexington.

We took a ride out to Green Barn Winery last week to check things out and learn a little about their place. Come and join us on our visit.

Located a quick fifteen minute drive west from downtown Port Huron, the seeds of Green Barn Winery started when owners Becky & Mike Wrubel were on their honeymoon and were touring wineries. It was discovered that Becky was allergic to sulfites, a preservative that is added to most wines. Being wine lovers, they then set out to make wines that were sulfite free that they could enjoy. What started out as a hobby for them grew and the wines were quite flavorful. They thought maybe others would enjoy them too, so in 2012 they opened the winery to the public.

When first arriving at Green Barn, we were met by Casey. Casey is a 18 year old calico who may like to make people think she is the guard dog but her actual job is more of being a greeter and her modus operandi is to get visitors to pet and scratch her. She's a big fan of getting a massage behind her ears.

We got inside to take a look around. We weren't the only ones checking out the reds, whites, fruit wines, ciders and meads either. Being a member of the Thumb's Up Wine Trail, Green Barn Winery is an often visited stop for vino lovers from all around.

As I mentioned at the start of this article, Green Barn Winery is a recognized by Michigan's Wine and Grape Council. The council has some stringent rules to be part of their organization. To receive recognition, and to be included in their publication Michigan Wine Country, a majority of the grapes used by the respective winery must be grown in Michigan. Chardonnay, Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Concord, Merlot, Cabernet, Amarone and White Zinfandel grapes are grown on their own property surrounding the winery. Not only does Green Barn have this prestige, they use no pesticides on their grapes they grow and are fertilized organically.

With so many different flavors to choose from, you will want to sample want to sample at least a few of what Green Barn produces on their family owned and operated production facility and store housed in the converted barn on their property. Their cozy tasting room welcomes you to do exactly that.

Since the Green Barn Winery is in what was an actual barn, you can even sip a wine while saddling up as they have several saddles located around the building that you can sit on while sampling.

We sampled many a great wine while there, ranging from a light and lively Piesporter and a tasty ciderlike John Dee Apple to a fine robust and oaky Grand Merlot. My wife, who joined me on this excursion, has been on the search for a regional Pinot Grigio that she could declare her new favorite, took one sip of theirs and said "Oh, this is one" and we purchased a bottle to take home to have with dinner soon. That "soon" ended up being this past Saturday evening when it complimented some salmon very nicely.

After sampling the wines you also get to keep the glass as a souvenir.

With so many offering to choose from, it may be hard to decide on which bottle you might want to take home after visiting. Green Barn Winery offers many of their varieties in smaller, old school soda bottle sizes too.

After making our choices, we thanked owner Becky and her Aunt Connie for their hospitality, the tour and their help on guiding us through their different wines as well as some history on the winery itself. They were very excellent and friendly hosts. And yes, we did give Casey are few more pets and rubs behind the ears before we left too.

The Green Barn Winery is located at 775 N Wadhams Rd in Smiths Creek and is open year round. Not only is the winery open to the public, the building can be rented for private tasting parties for groups as small as 10 people along with a party room for groups up to 45 people.

Look for Green Barn Winery's booth at the Vantage Point Farmers Market in Port Huron this summer and don't forget to try some of their wines at the Thumbs Up Wine Trail Taste Fest 2017 which is happening on May 21st at the Seaway Terminal in Port Huron.

You can also visit Green Barn Winery at their website and follow them on Facebook too.