Winery Visit: Wyncroft Winery (Michigan) (7 potentially 90+ wines with 1 95 pointer)

I visited this winery again with a few other board members from the Chicago area last weekend (Allred, LostVerse and our wives). The owner/winemaker, Jim Lester, has been in his new location for over a year now. Tastings are by appointment only and his Wyncroft wines are sold by mailing list only and at some select fine restaurants. I have been visiting, buying and tasting Jim's wines for over 10 years now and the lineup of wines he currently has is by far the most impressive. Anyone who lives in Michigan or has an interest in tasting the best wines that Michigan has to offer needs to contact Jim and get on his list (http://www.wyncroftwine.com/). These wines will change your opinion about the potential of Southwest Michigan and what can be accomplished by a dedicated and skilled winemaker. We were lucky that many of the wines we tasted came from the exceptional 2012 vintage and the very good 2013 vintage. Jim was very generous with the wines he opened and spent about 3 hours with us. I scored 7 wines in the outstanding or potentially outstanding category (90+) with one of them getting a classic score of 95. Here are my notes:

Riesling
  • 2009 Wyncroft Riesling Avonlea Vineyard - USA, Michigan, Lake Michigan Shore (9/1/2015)
    Tasted from bottle at the winery. Despite being a cooler year, this wine was ripe. The grapes were picked in November at 19.8 brix and Jim chapitalized the wine. 12.8% alcohol. Solid acidity. These vines were planted in 1989-1990. Gold color. Fine minerality at first with grapefruit notes. Once it warmed up it showed some crushed grape skin flavors as well. Bone dry and expansive on the palate. 89-90 points.

  • 2011 Wyncroft Riesling Avonlea Vineyard - USA, Michigan, Lake Michigan Shore (9/1/2015)
    Tasted from bottle at the winery. First time I have had this wine. Another cool year but warmer than 2009 and as a result, Jim did not have to chapitalize this wine. A little bit of petrol on the nose. As this wine warmed up it became more aromatic with floral aromas. Fruitier than the 2009. This wine is in its prime now. Long legs with moderate acidity. Notes of smoke, pears and apples. Dry Austrian in style. Well balanced. 90 points

  • 2013 Wyncroft Riesling Wren Song Vineyard - USA, Michigan, Lake Michigan Shore (9/1/2015)
    Tasted from bottle at the winery. This was the last wine we tried (Jim didn't seem to want us to leave and kept opening bottles). Grapes were harvested in October. Very minerally with notes of grapefruit and lime. Solid acidic backbone. Not giving this a score because we tasted it out of order. No score.

  • 2013 Wyncroft Riesling Avonlea Vineyard - USA, Michigan, Lake Michigan Shore (9/1/2015)
    Tasted from bottle at the winery. We tried this after the reds. This wine took longer to ferment and as a result received extended lees contact. A savory wine with a leesy character and notes of citrus, wet stones and white fruit. Tasted leaner than when I had this last year. No score because of tasting this out of order. However, when I had this last year I thought it could be the best Riesling Jim has made.

Chardonnay
  • 2013 Wyncroft Chardonnay Cuvée Rae Lee Avonlea Vineyard - USA, Michigan, Lake Michigan Shore (9/1/2015)
    Tasted from bottle at the winery. Last had this from barrel a year ago. 2013 was a very good but not great year in SW Michigan. Made in an unoaked Chablis style. 13.5% alcohol. Similar notes as before. Fresh honeycrisp apples, cool pears and some spices. A touch of heat on the finish. 87 points.

  • 2011 Wyncroft Chardonnay Avonlea Vineyard - USA, Michigan, Lake Michigan Shore (9/1/2015)
    Tasted from bottle at the winery. First time I have had this wine. The Chardonnay vines in the Avonlea vineyard are old California clones from Robert Young and Mt. Eden. Light gold color. Creamy texture and rather opulent. Notes of butterscotch (which Jim thought tasted more like creme brulee), white pepper and poached peaches. I'm curious to see what Allred and TLV gave this wine as they prefer Chard much more than I do. 88 points.

  • 2013 Wyncroft Chardonnay Avonlea Vineyard - USA, Michigan, Lake Michigan Shore (9/1/2015)
    Barrel sample at the winery. 2nd barrel sample I've had with the other being a year ago. This wine will be bottle in early September. 13.5% alcohol. Notes of vanilla, toast points, citrus and cactus. The finish had some warmth to it. I preferred the 2011 which we had from bottle. 87 points.

Pinot Noir
  • 2012 Wyncroft Pinot Noir Avonlea Vineyard - USA, Michigan, Lake Michigan Shore (8/29/2015)
    From bottle at the winery. This has been bottled for 1 year. A ruby/scarlet color. Wonderful structure and elegant for being so young and from a ripe vintage. 2012 was a hot year which produced very ripe fruit. Bright fruit with notes of pomegranite, roses and cherries. Fine silky tannins. A lovely well proportioned wine. Burgundian style. 47 cases produced. Jim thought this would be in it's prime in 3-4 years. This is the best Avonlea Pinot since the 2005 vintage. 91 points.

  • 2013 Wyncroft Pinot Noir Avonlea Vineyard - USA, Michigan, Lake Michigan Shore (9/1/2015)
    Tasted from an unlabelled bottle at the winery. This was bottled on June 18th and has not been released. 2013 was a warm year but the growing conditions were not as ideal as 2012. This was more tannic and tasted like it had more acid than the 2012. Aged in 1/3 new Cadus oak barrels and 2/3 used Freres oak barrels. 2nd time i have had this wine. Gone was the sulfur, cola and tart notes that the barrel sample had a year ago. Nice round texture now. A little heat or alcohol on the nose which should subside with more bottle age. This had a fleshy mouthfeel with notes of burnt cherry, chocolate and berries. This should be a longer lived wine than the 2012. 88+ points.

  • 2014 Wyncroft Pinot Noir La Esperanza Vineyard - USA, Michigan, Lake Michigan Shore, Fennville (8/31/2015)
    Barrel sample at the winery. This is the first vintage which Jim Lester has made this wine. Made from purchased grapes sourced from a small vineyard located in Glenn, MI in the Fennville AVA. The vineyard is a mix of sand and clay. The grapes were picked at 22.2 brix and yielded enough juice to make 25 cases (1 barrel). This will be bottled in about a month as it was fairly complete now. 13% alcohol. Aged in used French oak. Dark ruby red color. Aromas of toast and strawberry jelly on the nose. Fine acidity with a beautiful underlying minerality. Rather Burgundian in style. Bright and lively fruit with notes of red currants and raspberries. I was surprised by how ripe this wine was considering 2014 was a cooler year. 90-92+ points.

  • 2013 Wyncroft Pinot Noir SWMREC Cuvée Dr. G Stanley Howell - USA, Michigan, Lake Michigan Shore (8/31/2015)
    Barrel sample at the winery. The grapes for this wine came from the Southwest Michigan Research Center vineyard which is run by Michigan State University. This is the first and last vintage that Jim Lester will make of this wine since MSU ripped out these vines after the grapes were picked. This wine is named after the man who started the Enology and Viticulture program at MSU, promoted Michigan viticulture and played an important role in the SWMRC site. The vineyard was in Berrien County near Benton Harbor. This wine was more tannic, ripe and had more alcohol than most of Jim's Pinot Noir. The reason being that the SWMRC called Jim in mid October to offer him the grapes so they were picked late in the year. A concentrated wine with 14+% alcohol. 25 cases produced. Crimson color. Long thick legs. Creamy texture with firm tannins and a little heat at first. Ripe berries with some spiceiness on the finish. Solid acidity. 88 points.

  • 2013 Wyncroft Pinot Noir Trillium Springs Vineyard - USA, Michigan, Lake Michigan Shore (9/1/2015)
    This was the last of the Pinot Noir barrel samples poured at the winery. This is the first vintage Jim Lester has made from this vineyard which is managed by his Son. The vines are only 5 years old and the 2 acre vineyard is located a mile or two East of New Buffalo, MI. The vineyard is planted to 50% Dijon 115 clones with the other half being Swan, Chalone and Hansell clones. Only 1 barrel (25 cases) will be made. Aged 6 months in new Cadus oak barrels before being transferred to used barrels. This was a very different style than his other Pinots and a bit of a diversion from the style Jim normally makes. I found this to be very Californian. Garnet color. Very tight and tannic at this stage. Young and probably in need of more barrel time (or perhaps bottle it and delay its release) but I think Jim had plans to bottle this soon. notes of black tea leaves, cinnamon and blackberries. Dry and almost puckering now. Will be interesting to see how this evolves. Reluctant to score this in the condition it is in but I would give it an 85+ at this stage.

Bordeaux Blend
  • 2012 Wyncroft Shou Avonlea Vineyard - USA, Michigan, Lake Michigan Shore (9/1/2015)
    Tasted from bottle at the winery. This was the last red which we tried and the best in my opinion. 77% Cabernet Sauvignon, 16% Cabernet Franc, 6% Merlot and 1% Petit Verdot. From the excellent 2012 vintage. The grapes were picked at 23 brix in early to mid October. 13% alcohol. As you would expect from the blend, this was left bank in style. Round silky texture and well proportioned. Supple tannins. Notes of graphite, ripe red berries and leather. The best Shou that I have had (matched only by the 2003 in its prime) which includes the 2002, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2013. I purchased a magnum of this and plan on holding for 8-10 years. 92 points.

  • 2013 Wyncroft Shou Avonlea Vineyard - USA, Michigan, Lake Michigan Shore (9/1/2015)
    Merlot Barrel sample at the winery. 7 barrels of the Shou are being made (the largest ever) and this sample was from a barrel which had 60% Merlot with most of the rest being Petit Verdot and a little Cab Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon. 2013 produced a bumper crop of ripe Merlot in SW Michigan. Dark purple color. Firm acidity in this sample. Notes of puckeringly tart red fruit with cocoa and brown sugar. No score.

  • 2013 Wyncroft Shou Avonlea Vineyard - USA, Michigan, Lake Michigan Shore (9/1/2015)
    Cabernet Barrel sample at the winery. 7 barrels of the Shou are being made (the largest ever) and this sample was from a barrel which had 60% Cabernet Sauvignon and 40% Cab Franc. The wine had a better structure but showed some green notes at this stage. notes of tobacco, plum and pencil lead. The body in this sample was lighter than the Merlot barrel. No score.

  • 2013 Wyncroft Shou Avonlea Vineyard - USA, Michigan, Lake Michigan Shore (9/1/2015)
    Barrel sample of a cross section of all varietals in this blend. The final blend will be about 57% Cabernet Sauvignon, 24% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Franc and 4% Petit Verdot. This combined sample was rounder and more complete than the 2 separate samples. A perfumed wine. Bright and fresh on the palate. Notes of brambly fruit, light oak and some green pepper on the finish. This last descriptor will hopefully resolve. 2 of the 7 barrels in this cuvee spent 9 months in new French oak. 87-91 points.

Dessert
  • 2013 Wyncroft Riesling Icewine Wren Song Vineyard - USA, Michigan, Lake Michigan Shore (9/1/2015)
    Tasted from bottle at the winery. 2nd time I have had this wine but the first was a barrel sample. This was harvested at 40.7 brix on January 2, 2014 at 7 degrees above zero. 8.8% alcohol. 20-25% of the grapes were affected by botrytis. This has really added some depth since I last had it. A wow wine. Laserlike acidity holding all the sugar and fruit together. Some sesame and woody aromas. Notes of candied apricots, almond paste, honey, tropical fruits and botrytis nuances. 95 points.

VM
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