Michigan wines have fascinated me for a while, so I’m excited to be back this week tasting a bunch of wines from Brengman Brothers.
This family-run winery, now entering its 17th vintage, is based near Traverse City, Michigan, in the Leelanau Peninsula American Viticultural Area (AVA). The peninsula, which juts into Grand Traverse Bay, is home to more than 20 wineries. Cool climate grapes like Riesling thrive here, and the Bordeaux style blends from this region can show brisk, bright, Old World appeal, with lots of spicy and floral components.
The appellation, which was formed in 1982, is characterized by its proximity to Lake Michigan, creating an inland maritime climate which helps moderate temperature extremes. Lake effect snow can actually help protect vines against potentially devastating spring frosts. The climate allows for ice wine production in some vintages. Vineyards are planted on hills of
Brengman Bros. sources their grapes from three vineyards. In their Timberlee Vineyard (30 acres) Crain Hill Vineyard (25 acres) and Cedar Lake Vineyard (5 acres) they grow a wide range of grape varieties, from Chardonnay and Chenin Blanc to Muscat Ottonel, Petit Verdot, even some Rotgipfler. (I had to revisit my textbooks for that last one.) The winery is 100% solar powered, and equipped to move barrels outside for cold stabilization in the Michigan winter.
While I thought a few of the wines really stood out, they were all interesting, and only one missed the mark (for me). I can struggle with hot, heavy wines (especially in summer), so I found these wines a delightful, refreshing experience. They’re certainly worth checking out if you’re in the area or buying direct.
These wines were received as trade samples and tasted sighted.
2019 Brengman Brothers Chenin Blanc Timberlee Vineyard - USA, Michigan, Leelanau Peninsula
Medium lemon color. Nose shows mint and verbena over chalk, talc, saline, lemons and tart apricots. On the palate this is racy, rushing and lip-smacking with a tart, live-wire feel that works really well with this green apple, lemon and apricot fruit. Crusty sea salt, honeysuckle and minerals abound. Some may find this too lean/tart, but I think it’s exciting and quite delicious. Begs for oysters. (88 points IJB)
2018 Brengman Brothers Dagüdscht – USA, Michigan, Leelanau Peninsula
Very pale copper color. Boisterous aromas of lemon, lychee, peach nectar, with orange blossom, dandelions, ginger and floral perfume. Light-bodied, dry and brisk, with a slightly creamy texture and precise acidity and balance. Chunks of pineapple, green apple, apricot and white peach, drizzled with lemon, topped in mint, white pepper, smashed seashells and honey. Dry and brisk but deep and complex. This is a fascinating and delicious take on a Gemischter Satz blend, and really delicious. A blend of Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris, Muscat, Gewurztraminer, Riesling, Chenin Blanc and Rotgipfler from Timberlee and Crain Hill Vineyards. (90 points IJB)
2019 Brengman Brothers Block 65 Blend Crain Hill Vineyards – USA, Michigan, Leelanau Peninsula
Medium yellow color. So floral on the nose with white peaches, lemons, honey, orange blossom, nettle and lemon verbena. Crisp and bright on the palate, brisk but balanced with a light, steely, feel, yet shows solid complexity. Tart lemon, orange peel, apricots, with notes of white flowers, crushed limestone, white tea. Cool, crunchy, interesting stuff. Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc and Gewurztraminer. (88 points IJB)
2018 Brengman Brothers Chardonnay Barrel Aged Crain Hill Vineyards – USA, Michigan, Leelanau Peninsula
Deep yellow color. Nose of ripe apples, lemon curd, orange peel, with a cool mix of yellow flowers, chalk, oyster brine tones, some candle wax. Medium-bodied, crisp and bright with slightly waxy texture but a light and juicy appeal. Green apples and crunchy apricot, a bit thin on the midpalate but it also shows notes of toasted almond, hay, honeycomb. Stays bright and shellfish-friendly throughout. Aged 12 months in French oak. (87 points IJB)
2019 Brengman Brothers Chardonnay Concrete Crain Hill Vineyards – USA, Michigan, Leelanau Peninsula
Light yellow color. Bursting aromas of apricot, white peach, guava, along with white flowers, white pepper, crushed shells and smashed sweet tart candies. Vibrant and nervy on the palate with a mineral and mountain stream aesthetic, along with lemon, white peach and guava. Racy but juicy with chalk dust, stony minerals. A Chardonnay for Sauv Blanc lovers, but this offers a lot of dynamic and flavorful elements. (88 points IJB)
2019 Brengman Brothers Pinot Noir Rosé Block 7 Crain Hill Vineyard – USA, Michigan, Leelanau Peninsula
Bright pink color. Zesty aromas of red apple peel, watermelon rind, spiced tea, mint and rhubarb. Fleshy texture with zesty acidity meets red apple peel, white cherry fruit, along with elements of mint, dandelion. Delightful, crisp and fun, this shows some fun, floral and spicy complexity. (87 points IJB)
2017 Brengman Brothers Right Bank Cedar Lake Vineyard – USA, Michigan, Leelanau Peninsula
Bright ruby color. What a spicy nose with green herbs, tobacco and white pepper on top of sour cherry, red apple and wild raspberry. On the palate, this shows bright acid, a crisp and crunchy frame with light tannins and a spicy appeal. Wild raspberry and red currant mixes with bell pepper, tobacco, mint and earth. Crunchy, vibrant style. Cabernet Franc with 20% Merlot, 3% Cabernet Sauvignon and 3% Petit Verdot. (87 points IJB)
2017 Brengman Brothers Left Bank – USA, Michigan, Leelanau Peninsula
Medium purple color. Aromas of tart black cherries and red and black currants, along with spiced black tea, anise, wild herbs and beef broth tones. Medium-bodied with a tart and zippy appeal, with tart currants, wild raspberry, red plums. Elements of earth, beef broth, anise, cocoa, leather. Already complex and integrated, this seems like one to pop now, but also shows significant complexity and balance. Interesting Cab Sauv-based blend with Merlot, Cab Franc and Petit Verdot. (88 points IJB)
2016 Brengman Brothers Riesling Beerenauslese Crain Hill Vineyards – USA, Michigan, Leelanau Peninsula
Light gold color. Impressive, complex aromas of baked apples and honey with lively, fresh tones of candied lemon, white flowers and chalk dust. On the palate, the richness and sweetness is woven in so well bright acidity. Fruit-wise, we have plump yellow apples meeting lime zest, with complex notes of chalk, minerals, nuanced graham cracker, honey glaze and toasted almond. This is vibrant, balanced and exciting American noble rot Riesling worth checking out! Gaining depth with age, I think this will continue to improve for years to come. (90 points IJB)
2016 Brengman Brothers Gewürztraminer Sélection de Grains Nobles Crain Hill Vineyards – USA, Michigan, Leelanau Peninsula
Deep gold color. Rich and honeyed on the nose with glazed pear, baked apple, candied nuts, cinnamon, graham cracker and shaved ginger. On the palate, this is sweet and plum but balanced with crisp acidity, round but precise. Baked yellow apples and orange marmalade mix with cinnamon crumb cake, honeycomb and glazed pecans, but there’s also this underlying seashell, mineral and spiced tea aesthetic. Nuanced and delightful, should continue to age well. (89 points IJB)
2017 Brengman Brothers Riesling Ice Wine – USA, Michigan, Leelanau Peninsula
Deep yellow color. Aromas of gorgeous honey, apricot marmalade, with lychee, graham cracker, lamp oil – a really cool mix. The texture is waxy and plump but the acidity is really vibrant, balanced well with unctuous sweetness. Sweet, honeyed, orange and apricot marmalade fruit – juicy, ripe and plush. But there’s also notes of chalk, mineral, clover and white tea, with some floral perfume and oyster shell tones. Finishes with lovely freshness and sweetness – the balance and depth are really something. I’d love to see how this ages over the next 10 years or so. (91 points IJB)
2019 Brengman Brothers Sauvignon Blanc Timberlee Vineyard – USA, Michigan, Leelanau Peninsula
Pale lemon color. The nose shows lots of floral perfume, sudsy, soapy notes and lime. High acidity on the palate, light and brisk with green apple peel, lime, and lots of floral perfume. A bit austere and heavily perfumed.