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 […]
Having weathered the economic storm that has ravaged the state and nation, Rockford’s premier destination for exclusive wines and beers is proud to celebrate its one year anniversary. “We opened the doors last February, wanting to share our love of beer and wine with downtown Rockford,” said co-owner Sue Ten Broeke, “In the year since, we have strived to expand our selection, and our regulars are happy we’ve done so.” And they are not done expanding their inventory. “We are currently looking at expanding our business to include beer-making supplies,” said Sue’s husband and co-owner Bill Ten Broeke. “There are few places on this end of town where brewers are able to buy supplies.” Bill knows the ins and outs of home brewing as he has long brewed his own beer at home. Their selection of hundreds of wines and beers come from the immediate area as well as the other side of the globe. “We are happy to be selling what we can from Michigan breweries and wineries and are even starting to carry vodka, gin, whiskey, and rum from local distilleries like New Holland and Divine,” said Bill. The store also has a full selection of spirits, mixers, and a wide selection of gourmet groceries. “We’re especially excited to carry the entire line of Brownwood Farms mustards, jellies, and salsas,” said Sue, “They’re out of Traverse City, and many of their sauces are award winning.” Bill and Sue strive to carry local, organic, and fair trade goods whenever possible. Custom gift baskets are also available. The store, located at 126 Courtland in downtown Rockford, was previously home to the American Legion – which was remodeled and is now home to several new stores. More information can be found at their website, www.RockfordDryDock.com, or by calling the store at 616.884.0700.