Fall is a wonderful time to visit the Lake Michigan coast of Michigan. The southwest area of the state hosts two American Viticultural Areas (AVA) that produce amazing varieties of grapes, some of which grow better there than other Midwest regions. These include the Fennville and Lake Michigan Shore AVAs. Because of the climate and soil, they can grow many varieties that you expect to find more in Europe or the west coast of the United States. As a result, most wineries do not need to source fruit outside the area.
I always enjoy visiting wineries on my own, but doing so with my wife and six of our dearest friends made my recent experiences there even more fun. Our first stop was at Fenn Valley Vineyards, which is family owned and operated since 1973 (currently celebrating 50 years).
Fenn Valley hosts a variety of events throughout the year. This includes a few festivals, summer cookouts, live entertainment, winemaker’s dinners, new release wine and food pairings, and many others. The spacious entry houses the shop and a tasting bar. Also attached is a spacious room with multiple tables and entertainment space.
When it comes to tastings, they have a few options from which to choose. Since we had a group, we decided on a Private Wine Tasting Party that included 7 selections each and a very nice (and large) meat and cheese board to share. We were served by Deb in the offset stage area, where we could see the display of awards and view part of the production area from windows.
Although the party style tasting has less of the personal interaction as you find with individual tastings, Deb was wonderful and if we had questions, she was able to answer them or find the answers. In addition, as a group of friends we were all able to share our thoughts on our selections. One of my own personal advantages is that my wife does not really drink wine, so I of course can suggest her selections for my own enjoyment.
My selections included the following. *my purchases.
- Classic Chardonnay* – Traditional, fully fermented in French medium toast oak barrels.
- True Chardonnay* – Stainless steel aged.100 %, no oak.
- Sauvignon Blanc – New Zealand style from the Lake Michigan Shore.
- Sonata – A blend of Cayuga, Seyval and Riesling.
- Vino Blanco – Their version of the Portuguese Vino Blanco, made from the Seyval grape.
- Dry Reisling – Dry, fully fermented in stainless steel.
- Cabaret Rose – 68.5% Cabernet Franc, 31.5% Cabernet Sauvignon.
- Meritage* – A Bordeaux style blend with 44% Merlot, 31% Cabernet Franc, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon
- Cabernet Sauvignon
- Cabernet Franc
- Traminette – A hybrid of Gewurztraminer.
We each had our favorite wines, and I must say they were all very nice. I did not try anything that I did not like, which is not always the case. We thank Deb for her hospitality. This was the first stop for us on this day. Fortunately, I know we will be making future visits together.