Doug Welsh

Lake effect doesn’t always mean snow

April 7, 2011 // 0 Comments

by CLIFF AND NANCY HILL The dreaded “lake effect” that results oftentimes in heavy snows and brings dismay to most people, at the same time, is embraced by the Lake Michigan lakeshore vineyards and wine makers of Michigan. Their proximity to Lake Michigan and its prevailing westerly winds across 50 miles of open water, even in winter, provides temperature modification that protects the vineyards’ grapevines from winter damage. Because of this “good side” of the lake-effect phenomenon, Michigan has become a real player in the winemaking industry. Recently we learned that, for the first time ever, U.S. wine sales topped France. Americans bought more wine overall in 2010 while at the same time practicing moderation by consuming only 2.6 gallons per capita as compared to 12.2 gallons a year for the French. This was great news to Michigan winemakers. We, your reporters, consider ourselves wine aficionados who, in embracing the “Pure Michigan” concept, only purchase and consume wines that are produced in Michigan. As with farm produce, we strive also to think locally. So on a recent Saturday evening after a short 60-mile drive, we arrived at Fenn Valley Vineyards just east of Fennville. We were there to support and partake of the annual Pre-release Winemaker’s Dinner hosted by Doug Welsch, Fenn Valley’s owner and winemaker. In the setting of a gourmet meal, we were given the opportunity to experience six pre-release wines in the very best way possible: with paired food courses. What a setting it was! We found ourselves in the company of 132 wine lovers as we settled down to an educational evening of superb food complemented with the perfect wine variety. With white linen napery, 22 round tables each seating six were resplendent with fresh tulip floral pieces, fine china and silver settings, along with rows of six wine glasses radiating spoke-like from the table’s center. The wine glasses, to each person’s right, were matched to and to be filled with the wine being served with each of the meal’s six courses. But before even being seated, guests mingled and were invited to enjoy the tasting of sparkling wines (both dry and sweet) as they began to know one another while grazing from a table laden with crackers and an array […]