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Tasting Leelanau: Longview Winery

Continued from the article Tasting Leelanau


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We began our second day of tasting Leelanau at Longview Winery, a producer with which Kim and I had essentially no previous experience.  Owner Alan Eaker comes from a Fine Arts background, having studied ceramics and sculpture before accepting a professorship at the University of South Florida in 1969, where he worked in various capacities until his retirement in 1998, including serving as Chairman of the Fine Arts department from 1984-1989 and as the Director of GraphicStudio, the premier joint public-private venture for research in art at USF from 1989-1995.  He bought land in Leelanau County in 1998 after his wife Linda told him that she wanted to live on a farm, but she wasn’t so sure what to think when he told her that vineyards would be planted there.  Happily, things have turned out very well for the Eakers; the wines they are producing are very fine indeed.

We arrived at the rustic Longview tasting room in Cedar at around 10 on Tuesday morning, where we were met by Alan, his son Seth and Shawn Walters, who, as previously noted, makes the wines at Longview. (Coincidentally, Linda owns and operates a restaurant next door called the Cedar Rustic Inn.) Alan refers to Shawn as, “My mentor, my lucky charm, my simpatico,” and it’s abundantly clear just how much importance he places in Walters’ skills in this video, which also gives an essential overview of the entire operation.

After the requisite introductions and greetings, we bellied up to the bar and tasted through pretty much everything Longview makes, produced entirely from estate grown grapes.  Although some of these are now sold out, they all give compelling testimony as to just how strong their program is.  By the way, these wines are sold only through the winery. The online store may be found here.

2008 Longview Leelanau Dry Riesling, $17.00 (Sold Out): Clean medium color, with pretty Riesling aromatics that show just a hint of petrol; tart in the mouth, and refreshingly so.  Medium bodied, with zippy acidity and very good length.  Very appealing, which explains why the 100 case production sold out in 5 weeks.

2008 Longview Leelanau Chardonnay, $18.00 (Sold Out): Medium straw color, and offering pure, unoaked Chardonnay fruit, and nicely so; medium-full to full bodied, with good cut and length, this does what Chardonnay ought to do.

2008 Longview Leelanau Pinot Gris, $18.00 (Sold Out): Pale in color, with an herbaceous character that dominates the nose nicely; fleshes out in the mouth with a rich core of Alsatian-style fruit, slightly oily and dense, medium-full bodied, with good acidity.  Claudia characterized it as “racy and food friendly,” and, of course, she was quite correct.

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Shawn Walters - Click to enlarge

“We tend to not do a lot of manipulation with these.” – Shawn Walters

2007 Longview Leelanau Pinot Gris, (Sold Out): Pale to medium straw in color, with a slight tinge of peach; rich and luscious ripe white peach flavors with nice minerality underneath and just enough acidity to make it all work.  Almost unctious and long on the finish, this is rather different than the ’08, but both are quite enjoyable.

2008 Longview Leelanau Rustic White, $14.00 (Sold Out): This is made from 100% Cayuga, and the locals refer to it as “Leelanau lemonade.”  Rich and fruit forward, with a melange of ripe tropical fruit, citrus and honey flavors and aromas.  It’s easy to see why this is a real crowd pleaser.

2008 Longview Leelanau Rustic Rose $15.00: Watermelon pink color, with a rich, earthy strawberry and cherry personality.  Somewhat fruit forward, medium to medium-full bodied, with good depth and intensity.

Longview Leelanau Cherry Wine, $15: Very aromatic, rich, ripe cherries in all their radiant glory, with alcohol (12%)! Made from 2007 Montmorency, Balatan and Danube cherries.

Longview Leelanau Cherry Mead, $19.00: Cherry pink color; Kim pegged this perfectly when she likened it to a blend of ripe cherries and the Sleeping Bear Farms Star Thistle Honey that we so enjoy.  Not at all cloying or excessively sweet, and very appealing.

2007 Longview Leelanau Pinot Noir, $19.00: Clean ruby color, with lovely varietal character; like a blend of black cherries and white house (vanilla and cherry) ice cream, with some subtle earth and underbrush in support.  Smooth, rich and very harmonious.

2007 Longview Leelanau Rustic Red, $18.00 (Sold Out): Clean dark garnet color, with an expressive nose of earthy mullberry and loganberry that follows through nicely on the palate with hints of smoke and coffee (black, no cream or sugar).  Medium-full bodied, with good structure.  Made from the frontanac grape.

I’m a big fan of no lees contact (and use) extremely cool fermentation temperatures to the point of being risky.” – Shawn Walters

2005 Longview Leelanau Rustic Red (Sold Out): A funky underbrush nose follows through on the palate in an almost Rhone-ish manner; deep, dark and earthy.

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2007 Longview Leelanau Cabernet Franc, $24.00: Clean, dark color, with earthy, dusty underbrush on the nose that fleshes out on the palate with deep, dark black currant and blackberry; rich, mouth coating and appealing, with the structure to age and develop for several years.

2007 Longview Leelanau Cabernet Franc Barrel Reserve, $28.00: Deep, dark color, and deep, dark currant and berry on the nose, rich and somewhat perfumed; flavors echo, rich and almost opulent, yet completely dry, in a Bordeaux-like manner.  Well structured; the oak plays a supporting role, rather than a dominant one.

2005 Longview Leelanau Cabernet Franc (Sold Out): Deep, dark color, with a slightly funky, not-too-expressive nose; more Rhone-like funkiness in the mouth, with a rich core of black currant and blackberry and a little earth underneath.  Full bodied, almost sleek, and well structured for some years yet in the cellar.

2005 Longview Leelanau Cabernet Franc Barrel Reserve (Sold Out): Deeply, darkly colored, with coffee, chocolate and black fruit flavors and aromas shaded with some subtle, Rhone-like funk; full bodied, well structured and long on the finish.  Obviously a step up from the regular bottling in both the ’07 and ’05 vintages.  We were gifted with all of the wines tasted, as the tasting room wouldn’t be open for another few days, and this really blossomed by the evening, making a terrific match for some delicious pork belly.

2007 Longview Leelanau Winter Ice Dessert Wine, 375 ml, $60: Because Shawn brought along some other things to taste on this occasion, this and the following wine got packed away with the other Longview selections and I didn’t get to them for about five days.  No fear, as both were still in great shape!  A clean, pale golden colored sticky (and make no mistake, it IS sticky!), this exudes effusive apricot and honey aromatics that explode from the glass, and the like flavors wash across the palate, rich, unctuous, thick, intense and just shy of cloying.  If it were any more over-the-top, it would be too much for my liking, but as it is, it’s absolutely delicious, and the residual sugar should hold it for several years in the cellar.

Longview Leelanau Cherry Port, $19.00: Showing intense cherry character and obvious, but not necessarily excessive, new French oak, this is dense and intense without being too heavy or overdone.  Having said that, I can only take this in very small amounts.  It’s obviously well made and certainly has its fan base, but it just doesn’t ring my bell.  I guess that’s just the kind of hairpin I am.  Made from the 2007 cherry crop.

This tasting was a real eye-opener for all of us, and particularly revelatory for me not only as a testament to the quality of Longview’s (and the entire appellation’s) wines, but also to the skill of Walters’ winemaking.  I’ve been hearing for some time now that this guy is one of the best winemakers in Michigan, and the wines tasted here and at Chateau Fontaine on the day previous did nothing to dispel that notion.  In fact, he reinforced that impression by bringing along a selection of wines that he made for Forty-Five North and Chateau de Leelanau for us to try as well.

2008 Chateau de Leelanau Bianca: The Bianca grape originated in Crete, and this particular bottling has ½% natural residual sugar.  Pale in color, with a subtle herbal quality to it, it’s like a blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling, with grapefruit, gooseberry and even a little note of boxwood to its flavor profile; Claudia found it “grassy.” The RS makes is more fruit forward than most Sauvignons, even those from New Zealand, and thus, the comparison to Riesling.  I sold this wine in a retail position a few years ago and it did well for me.

2007 Forty-Five North Leelanau Semi-Dry Riesling: Pale color, with a hint of petrol on the nose and rich, ripe red and green apple flavors underscored with mineral and petrol; medium bodied and then some, with excellent acids and length.

2007 Forty-Five North Leelanau Pinot Gris: Pale color; rich and fairly ripe, with appealing peach and pear in nice proportion and a subtle creamy quality to it.  Rich and round, with good depth, cut and presence.

2007 Forty-Five North Leelanau Chardonnay Reserve: Spent 1 year in new French oak, Radoux tight grain, medium + toast, and it shows that pretty kiss of oak over attractive, fairly ripe Chardonnay fruit; medium-full bodied, with good intensity and cut, this is balanced, harmonious and appealing.

2008 Forty-Five North Leelanau Pinot Noir Rose: Electric pink, with a dusty, ripe cherry nose and rich, ripe, moderately sweet, medium bodied cherry and strawberry flavors.  A drink-me-now kind of rose.

2007 Forty-Five North Leelanau Late Harvest Vignoles:  Picked at 27.5 ° Brix, weighing in at 7½% residual sugar and not a bit of botrytis, according to Walters.  Pale color, with a stingy nose, but plenty of expressive, pure, rich, ripe apricot and sweet white grape flavors; just enough acidity to make it all work, and very nice to taste.

2008 Forty-Five North Leelanau Ice Box Riesling: A faux ice wine; the fresh fruit was frozen to simulate the same on the vine.  Pale gold in color, with ripe, ripe, ripe apricot and honey on the nose, and lots more of the same in the mouth; the flavors just keep going and going and going.  Over the top and unctuous, but I like it!  Shawn likes to cook salmon and pork with this; he says it creates a glaze that you can crack with a fork.

Continued from the article Tasting Leelanau

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