Last weekend I visted this winery to pick up some wine with a friend and Jim Lester arranged some cheese, bread and wine tasting. We talked, ate and drank for almost 4 hours. He poured recent releases, a few older wines and a handful of barrel samples. I have been drinking and buying Jim's wines for over 6 years now. He is in a class by himself among Michigan winemakers in my opinion. Although there are perhaps a dozen wineries in Michigan that make outstanding white wines, nobody can match what Jim does with Reds.
Jim Lester is committed to making fine wine in the Lake Michigan Shore Appellation of Southwest Michigan. He overseas everything from vineyard management to the bottling. He has identified excellent vineyard sites (primarily calcerous soil with a high mineral and stone content) to make his single vineyard bottlings and was glad to see he is expanding. He holds yields down (to as small as 1 ton/acre) and uses Allier and Betrand oak barrels from France. If he is not satisfied with the quality of the grapes he declassifies the wine and sells it off in bulk like he did with his 2003 Riesling and 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon. He grows 100% vitis vinifera. His total production is slighlty over 1000 cases per year. Everything that touches the wines is first class.
2008 was the first year that he started purchasing grapes from the Wren Song vineyard and made a pair of fine late harvest rieslings. Sadly, he informed me that he lost the contract on the Madron Lake vineyard when the Son of the owner took over and decided to try his own hand at viticulture. He has recently partnered with a new grower and hopes to bring the Moraine vineyard online for production in the 2011 vintage with new Dijon clones of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Here are my notes:
I have seen and heard a lot of good stuff on Wyncroft on this board, but have never had any of the wines or made it there. I may make an effort to visit there this summer.
By appointment only.
I may ask Jim if he is interested in another vineyard dinner this Summer like the one we did in 2006. If we do it I'll keep you in mind.
This is the part that requires 'effort'. I have no problem lining up appointments when going on trips out of state or country, but when it is just up the road, I seem to have a tougher time. Go figure.
Last summer I was treated to a similar tasting at Wyncroft. It was a reprieve in a trip that was a heavy duty family event, so I did not get around to posting notes right away and let them slip.
I do remember the wines, though.
Right across the board I'm going to say that identifying the style with another geographic area is going to mislead more than inform. There has to be something to "terroir", because the wines all showed it.
The Rieslings really impressed me. The dry versions were crisp, and the late harvest lush.
They showed a combination of German and Alsatian influence, but would not be mistaken for either.
The Chardonnay leaned more towards California,
but could have been Burgundy in a hot year. It is not to my style, all the same, I'd love to serve it blind to doubters of SW Michigan wine.
The Pinot Noir stood apart from other new world renditions and was still not quite Burgundian. The most notable unusual characteristic is a distinct iron note. It was ripe and lush, and had a bit of meatiness for interest. If only it had the acidity to tighten up the package.
If I put on a critics hat, I'd say it lacked definition.
The Bordeaux blends were the weakest of the wines tasted. Reminiscent of Chile. Climate change may eventually reward Michigan with enough heat in the fall to finish the ripening.
VM, I'd love to try these wines blind. If you ever make it out this way, please include some of these in your luggage.
PdN, I'm not following your comparison in the Chards. How are they already more towards CA in style but might be closer to Burg in a hot year? Wouldn't the inverse be more accurate?
I vistited Jim and Wyncroft with a small group of friends in the fall last year - nice wines by any measure. Particularly liked the whites, and absolutely agree with your 06/05 Chardonnay impressions.
I'll be sure to bring one out if we ever get out there. What in particular would you want to try?
Sorry if I was not clear. Jim Lester uses classic Burgundian techniques, but his grapes get ripe by Burgundian standards. A comparison would be a year like '03 in France.
The same really goes for the Pinot Noir I tasted. It was not as ripe as CA Pinots, but fell far short of the acidity normal to Burgundy.
It could have to do with night time temperatures in SW Michigan.
Jim Lester stopped in at a friends house in Michigan last Sunday to drop off some wine we had ordered. He brought a few wines for us to try so we visited for a while and sampled a few wines. Jim mentioned that it has been a while since we had a vineyard dinner at his Avonlea property and was open to the idea of hosting another this Fall if there was interest. Here are my notes:
I would be interested, however it would have to be in October. September is a very busy month and so is November. Please keep us advised.
Bench!!! How ya been? Been a long time! Sorry for the thread intrusion.
I am still looking forward to tasting these Wyncroft wines, all the times I visit MI. and still haven't made the time...one of these days!
Lifes too short to drink bad wine!!
2008 Wyncroft Riesling "VT" Wren Song Vineyard - USA, Michigan, Lake Michigan Shore (12/3/2012)
Grabbed this bottle by mistake. Thought I was pulling a dry Riesling from Wyncroft but when I tried it I was surprised by how ripe, luscious and full bodied it was for a 2008. Looked at the label and saw it was the VT (which is in small print on the corner of the label). Very Alsatian in style with notes similar to when I last had it. 90 points.
I was talking to Jim Lester a few weeks ago to get some advise on a vineyard I was thinking of planting and he informed me that he is in the process of moving his winery from Buchanon, MI to just outside of South Haven, MI.
I was very glad to hear about this move as he will now only be a few minutes away from our Summer cottage. Sounds like he is going to be upgrading from the garage/warehouse he used to something much nicer. Haven't seen it yet. He is hoping for completion in the Fall.
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