I have always been hospitable to our neighbors from Michigan (except on football weekends), so when my New Buffalo hosts invited me to a Berrien County winery specializing in dry wines, I went without hesitation.
We drove past blueberry farms and apple and apricot orchards just beginning to blossom when suddenly we approached vineyards, still naked from a harsh winter, bud break still a fortnight away. My hosts parked at the entrancxe to Domain Berrien Cellars on Lemon Creek Road near Berrien Springs just a few miles north of the Indiana Line.
The weather was uninviting, the fields were deserted, and life at the winery was calm. Winery manager Jennifer, however, seemed happy to see us. As manager of the estate, she was also able to tell us what goes on at DomaineBerrien Cellars — and how complicated and unnecessary Indiana wine law has become and how grateful she is that Hoosiers put up with it in order to get their wines.
She explainexd that estate president and wine maker Walter Mauerer III is passionate about fine wine, especially traditional wines intended to be enjoyed with food. In spite of two devasting winters back-to-back, the micro-climate which protects the domaine’s forty acres helped preserve the vines and protect the Lake Michigan Shore American Viticutural Area.
Of the six wines she showed the four of us, five of them had no residual sugar, so the Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc, Marsanne, and Dry Traminette were exactly what you would expexct of them in more kindly climes.
Wally Mauerer works with 21 different varietals and has proved that fine wine can come from soils made famous by the weather announcers who coined the well known phrase “a liftle cooler by the lake.”
Headesd to Michigan for Sunday sales of wine? Include a stop at Domaine Berrien Cellars. www.domaineberrien.com.
I first got the idea in a pub on the Isle of Wight around 1960. One wall behind the beer pumps was covered with the ends of wooden cases of Scotch Whiskey, each end containing the burnt-in names of a distillery. Two walls in the lounge were papered with wine labels. Right then I thought if I ever had a room for a bar, I would smother it with labels.
For years I collected labels. At first I tried to organize them and keep track of them. Hours and hours were spent soaking and scraping and cataloging. Later, I just stuck them in empty shoe boxes, but the room I envisioned never materialized.
I don’t know if it was just getting tired of seeing labels spilling out of cluttered boxes or her artist instincts recognizing the allure of many of those labels or simply her love of wine, but my wife began sorting through them and selectivity affixing them to tag board or poster board thus creating greeting cards, menu cards, and place cards. To some she also attached corks.
We never became a threat to Hallmark, but our cards always led to splendid conversations.
Michael Richard’s character, Cosmo Kramer, celebrated “festivus for the rest of us” in the 1997 episode “The Strike” from the widely popular TV sit-com Seinfeld. “Festivus” was actually a holiday in the household of Seinfeld writer Dan O’Keefe, invented by his father to air out family grievances, and celebrated anytime between December and May. On the show, Kramer “invents” festivus as a protest against the commercialization of Christmas.
The English word festival is derived from the Latin festum and later festivus which connotes celebration, holiday, or joy. Ancient civilizations held festivals to celebrate vine blossoms (spring) or the grape harvest (fall) or both. With all 50 U.S. states claiming to produce wine, you won’t be at a loss to find a modern day wine festival. Here are a few that have wide acclaim and may fit into your upcoming vacation plans.
New Orleans Wine & Food Experience: May 20 – 23, 2015 www.nowfe.com
In it’s 23rd year, expect wine tasting venues offering over 1,000 wines from around the world, exceptional specialty restaurant dining, and seminars for both the novice and connoisseur.
Food and Wine Classic in Aspen: June 19 – 21, 2015 www.foodandwine.com/classic
Sponsored by Food and Wine Magazine, tickets sold out in three weeks at $1350 each. Celebrity chefs and fabulous wine are mainstays here. Buy tickets in February, 2016. Now you know!
GrapeFest: September 17 – 20, 2015 www.grapevinetexasusa.com
Grapevine, Texas hosts the largest wine festival in the Southwest. Showcasing Texas wines, the venue also includes a carnival midway, GrapeStomp, live entertainment, and the largest consumer-judged wine competition in the nation.
Check out some festivals closer to home that may spark an annual tradition and be easier on your wallet.
Indiana Wine Fair: April 25, 2015 www.indianawinefair.com The Story Inn, Nashville, IN
Live music, food, and wine from over 30 Indiana wineries. Tickets $30/$10 designated driver. Shuttles run 11 AM to 7 PM from downtown Nashville.
Vintage Indiana: June 6, 2015 www.vintageindiana.com Military Park, downtown Indianapolis, IN, noon to 6 PM. Bring a blanket or lawn chairs. Live music, artists’ booths, food and wine tasting. Ticket prices vary per activity.
Swiss Wine Festival: August 27 – 30, 2015 www.swisswinefestival.org Vevay, IN
Now in its 42nd year, this festival boasts entertainment, riverboat cruises, carnival rides, craft vendors, food booths, and pavilion wine tasting beside the Ohio River. Ticket prices vary per activity.