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Tasting Leelanau: Gill’s Pier Vineyard and Winery

Continued from the article Tasting Leelanau

Kris Sterkenburg - click to enlarge

Kris Sterkenburg - click to enlarge

The first thing I noticed when we pulled into the parking lot at Gill’s Pier Vineyard and Winery is that the tasting room looks suspiciously like a pole barn, and a second glance quickly confirmed that.  Co-owner Kris Sterkenburg likes to point out just what can be done with a pole barn when you enter the room, and indeed, it’s an elegant, well appointed setting in which to taste the wines that she, husband Ryan and winemaker Bryan Ulbrich produce.  We arrived late in the afternoon on Tuesday for our final appointment of the day, and we were especially pleased to find stools at the tasting bar, which we immediately settled ourselves upon in order to rest our weary feet and limbs.

The Sterkenburgs founded Gill’s Pier in 2002, after relocating to Northport from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. They planted their 4-acre vineyard in the spring of 2002 with Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc, and plan to add another two acres of Riesling, Regent & Dornfelder in 2010.  The tasting room was opened to the public in 2003.  Kris operates the tasting room and the day-to-day business, Ryan is the vineyard manager, and the whole family works the vineyard, including their children, Samantha and Jacob.


click to enlarge

Kris tasted us through a range of their wines, starting with three whites.  We found it of particular interest that all Gill’s Pier wines employ screw caps rather than corks. We love screw caps!!

2007 Gill’s Pier Leelanau Royce, $19.95: Pale color, with pleasant off-dry flavors and aromas of grapefruit, pear and subtle shades of French oak.  Medium bodied, with good acids and length.  A blend of Auxerrois, barrel aged Chardonnay and a touch of Sauvignon Blanc.

2008 Gill’s Pier Leelanau Riesling, $19.95: Pale color, with pretty flavors and aromas of ripe red and green apples, underscored with some subtle mineral; medium bodied, with good acids and a nice lingering finish.  Harmonious and enjoyable.

NV Gill’s Pier Leelanau Whitewater, $16.95: A pale colored, semi-sweet blend of Vignoles, Riesling and Auxerrois, this weighs in at around 5% residual sugar and delivers nice, rich flavors and aromas of apple, pear, tropical fruit and a hint of honey.  Clean, fresh, nicely balanced and easy to drink.

clcik to enlarge

click to enlarge

NV Gill’s Pier Leelanau Just Unleashed, $18.95: Clean, dark color, with a  roasty, toasty nose that gains a rich core of dark fruit in the mouth, with good depth and presence; quite dry and tasty.  Saw some American and French oak, an approximately equal blend of Regent, Dornfelder and Frontenac.

2007 Gill’s Pier Leelanau Cabernet Franc/Merlot, $34.95: Deep, dark color, with a pretty kiss of oak over dark fruit on the nose; full bodied, sleek and elegant in the mouth, with a serious core of black currant, dark chocolate and coffee flavors and very good depth and structure to take it at least 3-5 years down the road in the cellar.  Deep, dark and almost mysterious.

NV Gill’s Pier Leelanau Paragon, $23.95: Looks like a glass of purple ink, middleweight in body but only medium intensity in flavor, this comes off pretty much as Kris described it to us, their Just Unleashed red fortified with 180 proof barrel aged Chardonnay spirits.  Served at the tasting bar with Ghiradelli Dark Chocolate, which unfortunately overwhelmed the Paragon, at least for me.  Your mileage may vary.

My last entry in my notes reads “Great atmosphere, hospitality and lots of chairs to sit in!”  Gill’s Pier is also available for meetings, private parties and weddings, and provides a delightful setting for such affairs.  Our visit with Kris was a refreshing ending to a long day of tasting, and we bid grateful adieus before driving off into the sunset.

Gill’s Pier wines have limited availability on the Internet but may be purchased directly from their web site .

Continued from the article Tasting Leelanau

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