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:
- 2008 Wyncroft Riesling Avonlea Vineyard - USA, Michigan, Lake Michigan Shore (3/25/2010)
This was poured next to the 2009. Bottled in May 2009 which was later than he normally would have because of personal issues. Night and day between the 2009 and 2008. This was a light gold color and appeared older than it should. Some botrytis which is very common in SW Michigan was showing. This had a smokey and gunflint nose. A more serious wine despite a cool year. Dry with minerals running trough it. Less acid on the palate than the 2009. This was a bit of a oddity but interesting like circus side show character. Jim gave me a bottle of this as a gift as I was interested to see how it will develop. I'll wait a few years to open it. 85-86 points.
- 2009 Wyncroft Riesling Avonlea Vineyard - USA, Michigan, Lake Michigan Shore (3/25/2010)
We had originally ordered some of the 2008 a few months ago but Jim thought the 2009 was better after he bottled it in January 2010. Therefore, he asked us to try it when we visited and said we could have our choice of the 2008 or 2009. We chose the 2009. 2009 was a cool year in Southwest Michigan. The grapes for this wine are clone 10 from the Wachau valley. This was a fresh, young, clean and vibrant wine. The nose had mango and passion fruit aromas. It was a light clear straw color. It had steely acidity and a crisp finish. Notes of tart apple and stone fruit. 90 points.
- 2008 Wyncroft Riesling "VT" Wren Song Vineyard - USA, Michigan, Lake Michigan Shore (3/25/2010)
This is the first vintage of this wine that Jim has made. Only 80 cases were made. It is from a contracted vineyard that Jim has not used with in the past. The vineyard is planted with equal parts Geisenheim vines and clones from the Wachau. The grapes were allowed to ripen on the vine and picked very late (December 3rd) at 26 brix (Auslese ripeness) and then allowed to ferment until the wine was dry. The grapes were not botrytised. As a result you have high alcohol (14.8%) but the experienced winemaking resulted in no heat or alcohol on the palate or nose. This is a full bodied wine. Dry. Firm acidity with notes of pear, honeysuckle and diesel. Supple, long finish. Wonderful. 91-92 points.
- 2008 Wyncroft Riesling December Harvest Wren Song Vineyard - USA, Michigan, Lake Michigan Shore (3/25/2010)
This is the first vintage of this wine that Jim has made. 160 cases were made. It is from a vineyard that Jim has not worked with in the past. The grapes were allowed to ripen on the vine and picked very late (December 3rd) at 26 brix (Auslese ripeness). The grapes were not botrytised. These were the same grapes Jim used to make his VT wine. However, unlike the VT which was allowed to fully ferment to dryness, Jim took the vats with juice and stored them outside for the winter to stop the fermentation process and make an Auslese style wine which was only 12% alcohol (vs. 14.8% for the VT). This had a fruity nose. More gold in color than the VT. Notes of honey, apricot, pear and bees wax. Balanced acidity. Not quite as heavy as a German Auslese. A very pretty wine. 89-90 points.
- 2005 Wyncroft Chardonnay Avonlea Vineyard - USA, Michigan, Lake Michigan Shore (3/26/2010)
The 3rd time I have had this wine. Barrel samples the 1st time, just after bottling the 2nd and now about 3 years after bottling. This was the last vintage that Jim used new Francis Freres barrels (20%) for aging. 2005 was a very warm vintage and produced ripe grapes. This resulted in more sugar and thus higher alcohol wine (14.8%). This wine was much more Californian in style than either the 2006 or 2008 that I tried. I do not prefer that style; but those who do will love this wine and would probably rate it about 5 points higher than my score. Notes of honeyed pear, butterscotch and brown sugar. Too much vanilla oak for me but certainly in line with what you would expect from this style. This wine is at it's peak now. 86 points.
- 2006 Wyncroft Chardonnay Avonlea Vineyard - USA, Michigan, Lake Michigan Shore (3/26/2010)
Poured at the winery during a visit alongside the 2005 and 2008. This was the first year that Jim used new Damy barrels (25%) instead of Francis Freres. 250 cases were made. 2006 was a cooler year than 2005 and resulted in a more Burgundian wine (vs. Californian for the 2005) which I like better. 13% alcohol. Young with tart acidity. A clean fresh wine with notes of lemon merengue and citrus fruit. 87-88 points.
- 2008 Wyncroft Chardonnay Avonlea Vineyard - USA, Michigan, Lake Michigan Shore (3/26/2010)
Barrel sample. He pulled samples out of 3 barrels and blended them to provide a representation of the final blend. This is the first year that Jim did not any new wood barrels. Instead he used 1-2 year old Damy barrels and eliminated the nuetral barrels to compensate. This was a light gold color. He was just getting ready to sulfur the wine as it was not very lively at the moment. A clean wine with potential for a cool year. Light oak with some butter and white fruit notes. No score.
- 2007 Wyncroft Pinot Noir Avonlea Vineyard - USA, Michigan, Lake Michigan Shore (3/26/2010)
2nd time I have had this wine. 1st was a a barrel sample at the winery in 2008. Two years later this has reached the potential I suspected back then. Sadly Jim is sold out of this wine last week; but, he had a case set aside for tastings and agreed to sell my friend and I 3 bottles out of it. 2007 provided great growing conditions in Southwest Michigan. The only concern came with some September remnant hurricane rain but some dry weather thereafter helped. This Pinot is all about finesse and is Burgundian in style. Firm acid at present and little more time in bottle will help. Notes of black cherry, wild berries and light oak. Medium bodied wine with a pleasant tart finish. 90 points.
- 2008 Wyncroft Pinot Noir Avonlea Vineyard - USA, Michigan, Lake Michigan Shore (3/26/2010)
Barrel sample. He was about to bottle this wine within the next week to 10 days. It was a lighter color than expected and Jim attributed that to the fact that he had recently sulfured the wine.The grapes were harvested between October 2-9 at 24 brix. 14.4% alcohol. Drank this alongside the 2007 and 2009. This was not as warm a year as 2007. Notes of asian five spice and cherry. 87-89 points and probably on the lower end of that at present.
- 2009 Wyncroft Pinot Noir Avonlea Vineyard - USA, Michigan, Lake Michigan Shore (3/26/2010)
Barrel sample which was poured alongside the 2007 and 2008. This sample came for the 100% free run barrel (the 2nd barrel being 60% free run and 40% pressed). 2009 was a cool vintage in SW Michigan. Jim has high hopes for this vintage. Ruby red in color. At present it was acidic and rather tart but that is expected at this stage. Notes of pomegranite and cranberry but I do not expect that will be the fruit profile when all is said and done. Shows promise and I will be interested to see how this develops. No score.
- 2006 Wyncroft Shou Avonlea Vineyard - USA, Michigan, Lake Michigan Shore (3/26/2010)
Jim poured this for us at the winery. 2006 was a cool year. This wine ended up spending 36 months in barrel which was longer than expected because Jim did not have time to bottle it due to personal issues. 12.3% alcohol. The blend is 80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Merlot and 5% Cab Franc. The vines are now all 10-20 years old. It is sold out but luckily I had ordered some. Nobody makes the quality red wine in Michigan like Wyncroft and this is a good example of that. This was not as good as the 2003 (which I rated outstanding every time I had it) but was only a short step behind. Still a bit tight with a tannic grip but that is just a matter of some bottle aging. Notes of pipe tobacco, bright cherry and an ancho chile like character on the finish. 90 points.
- 2007 Wyncroft Shou Avonlea Vineyard - USA, Michigan, Lake Michigan Shore (3/26/2010)
This is more of a story than tasting note. I did not try this wine as Jim Lester did not make any this year. Asian beetles crawled between the grape clusters during harvest and gave off an unpleasant taste when they were crushed. By that time it was too late to do anything and the wine was affected. Jim refused to bottle any of it and sold it of to a large local winery that decided to use it. Proof of the commitment to quality at Wyncroft. Jim did not want me to name the winery.
- 2008 Wyncroft Shou Avonlea Vineyard - USA, Michigan, Lake Michigan Shore (3/26/2010)
Barrel sample. Poured alongside the 2006 and 2009. This is going to be bottled in the next 2 months. A blend of 79.5% Cabernet, 17.6% Cab Franc and 2.9% Merlot. The Merlot in this blend is very low because a harsh winter damaged the vines. As a result of the large percentage of Cab Franc, this wine is more powerful and raw than most other Shou's despite 2008 being a cooler year. At present it shows raspberry and cherry notes. More acidic than the 2006. Solid tannins. Probably needs 4-5 years to show it's best. 88+ points.
- 2009 Wyncroft Shou Avonlea Vineyard - USA, Michigan, Lake Michigan Shore (3/26/2010)
Barrel sample and still way to young for me to properly assess. 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Merlot, 7% Cab Franc and 1% Petite Verdot. This is the 1st vintage that Jim used any PV in his blend. He is considering bottling this as a Cabernet Sauvignon instead of the Shou depending on how it turns out. Should be about 12% alcohol (instead of the usual 13%) because of the cool weather in 2009. This had an herbal character with tart brambly fruit. Light bodied at present and short on the midpalate. No score.