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Tasting Leelanau: Circa Estate Winery

Continued from the article Tasting Leelanau

Margaret and David Bell - click to enlarge

Margaret and David Bell


We started our final day of Tasting Leelanau with a visit to a relatively new producer, Circa Estate Winery, owned and operated by Margaret and David Bell.  We were immediately struck by the fact that everything about this operation is first class and with a very distinct style.

In the accompanying video, the Bells tell of how they got into the grape growing and wine making business..

All wines we tasted are from the ripe 2007 vintage, Circa’s first in production.  All of the whites are fermented in stainless steel, while the reds see at least some wood.


Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

2007 Circa Leelanau Pinot Grigio, $18.00: Medium colored, with green apple and citrus flavors and aromas shaded with green bean and sweet pea; not quite tart, with good body and crisp acidity and named appropriately, as this is more “Grigio” than “Gris” in style.  Refreshing and appealing.

2007 Circa Leelanau Chardonnay, $18.00: Medium color, and again, notes of green bean and sweet pea that grace the ripe, pure Chardonnay fruit on both the nose and in the mouth; full bodied, but not at all heavy or overdone, with excellent acids and a nice sense of balance.  Went through malolactic fermentation, but no sur lie.

2007 Circa Leelanau Improvisation, $14.00: Medium color, and yet again, green bean and sweet pea on the nose; these two have always been positive descriptors for us when those elements are in balance with the other components, as with these.  Very pretty in the mouth, with some ripe apple offset by a note of citrus that provides a nice contrast.  Medium bodied and then some, with crisp acids and a nice finish.  Claudia remarked that this is “beautifully framed.”  A blend of mostly Vignoles and Seyval, with some Pinot Grigio; 2.5% residual sugar.

2007 Circa Leelanau Requisite, 100% Blaufrankish (Lemberger), $23.00: Showing good dark color, with a perfumed nose of baking spice over black fruit; on the palate, the rich, yet bone dry black currant and blackberry flavors are almost, but not quite tart.  Claudia calls this one “sleek and satiny,” with its balanced tannins and cool climate acids, all of which makes for an excellent food wine.  It spent three months in American oak, then finished in stainless steel.

David Bell decanting the Cab Franc - click to enlarge

David Bell decanting the Cab Franc - click to enlarge

2007 Circa Leelanau Cabernet Franc, $29.00: Good, dark color, with a lovely, perfumed nose of blackberry and black currant graced with a kiss of sweet oak and hints of blueberry and lavender.  The rich flavors, being both ripe and yet quite dry; full bodied and sleek, with silky tannins and excellent acids, and while structured for some years in the cellar, already eminently drinkable.  This one was just too good to miss and we had to pick one up for the cellar.  Spent 9 months in 3rd year french oak.

When we remarked on the deft use of oak in the two reds, Margaret told us that she has received some criticism from fellow winemakers in that regard, which surprised us all, as there is nothing excessive or out of balance in either wine.

Circa Estate Winery tasting room - click to enlarge

Circa Estate Winery tasting room - click to enlarge

Everything about Circa speaks of a singular vision, from the tasting room décor to the winery to the wines themselves and even to the jazz playing softly (but not so softly that I couldn’t catch the plaintive strains of Stan Getz’ saxophone) in the background.  Kim and I were reminded somewhat of Stratus in Niagara-on-the-Lake, in the sense of the refined, artistic vision and presentation, only on a smaller scale.  The Bell’s have certainly hit a home run with their first vintage, and it’ll be interesting to watch their growth and development in the coming years.

To purchase the wines, contact the winery – 231-271-1177

Continued from the article Tasting Leelanau

Related posts:

  1. Tasting Leelanau: Gill’s Pier Vineyard and Winery
  2. Tasting Leelanau: Ciccone Vineyard and Winery
  3. Tasting Leelanau: Longview Winery
  4. Tasting Leelanau: Bel Lago Vineyard and Winery
  5. Tasting Leelanau: Prologue

9 Responses to “Tasting Leelanau: Circa Estate Winery”

  • @CircaEstateWine – a Twitter-warming present: from @gangofpour about our last (&first ) visit!

  • Kim Adams:

    Hi Carrie – Thanks for stopping by and leaving a response. We really like their wine too, as you can tell. They are now being offered down here in the Detroit market. Bonus!!!

  • Carrie Petzold:

    I love to explore the Wineries in Northern Michigan, and Circa is definitely one of my favorites. The tasting room is beautiful, the staff has been wonderful at every visit, the buttons are fun, and the wine!!! Not being a Chardonnay drinker I was skeptical but I gotta tell you it’s the best. I hope the next vintage is as good as the 07. Thank you!!

  • @PromoteMichigan – I just posted the @GangofPour link on Circa's FB page ..FYI… :) Thanx!

  • Kim Adams:

    Sean, thanks for the feedback. Love your corn association and nature’s bounty reference – very poetic.

    We certainly are in agreement that this team is doing very good things out of the gate and it will be fun to see how they progress in the future.

    Thanks for stopping by.

    Kim and George

  • Sean:

    My wife and I bought two bottles of Circa wines while on our honeymoon in early October. Tonight, we opened the first, and it was absolutely sublime.

    We just drank a bottle of the ’06 Improvisation – fantastic! I love a good Michigan wine, being a Flint-area foodie, but this bottle, in particular, blew me away.

    The ‘green bean and sweet pea’ nose noted above in the ’07 came across to me, a native Hoosier, (in our ’06) as the tart smell of a field of growing sweet corn. It’s hard to overestimate how strong that association is, in me, with the richness of nature’s bounty.

    American palates being what they are, Improvisation is the kind of wine that can serve to coax curious Americans into the deep waters. It doesn’t punish a palate accustomed to Coca-Cola with a dry first touch; its sour is saved for the finish, which is grapefruit, grapefruit, grapefruit.

    Reminds me a great deal of a South African pinot grigio a friend shared with us a few years back. That, too, was absolutely lovely.

    Margaret, David, thank you.

  • @PromoteMichigan Here's your Circa answer: from me & @GangofPour

  • Tasting Leelanau: Circa Estate Winery via @GangofPour

  • Just added Circa Estate Winery #wine to the Tasting Leelanau report :

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