St. Julian: A Visit to Michigan’s Oldest Winery

StJulianSign It was fun… and, frankly, a little emotional… re-connecting with my Dad’s bakery roots in Wisconsin, first by visiting some of my cousins in Dad’s hometown of Eau Claire, and then by stopping by a Danish bakery that specializes in the pastry known as “kringle” in Racine.

Both Mom and Dad passed away in June of 2009, and to this day, certain sights or smells or sounds will trigger memories of one or both of them. With Mom, it’s usually an aroma in a restaurant. With Dad, it typically involves music, especially renditions of “Rhapsody in Blue” or other tunes with a strong piano presence.

But at O&H Bakery in Racine, memories of both were vivid, because the family bakery they owned in Balboa, Calif., during my childhood really was a FAMILY bakery. All four of us — Mom, Dad, my brother Terry and I — performed various tasks, from making the bakery products to boxing goodies for customers.

So when Michelle and I visited O&H Bakery, it was as if Mom and Dad were there. We selected a few pastries for the road, including a blueberry kringle.

I have to say, that kringle topped anything we ever made at our family bakery. (Sorry, Dad.) And, believe me, we set a pretty high bar.

As a wine lover, I immediately began thinking about what type of wine might pair with the sweet, flaky, fruitful confection. But even though I’ve tasted literally hundreds of different varieties and cuvees of wine through the years, nothing came to mind.

So, we continued our vacation, and met up the next day with our friends from Chicago. I’ve been going with them to a concert called “Smooth Jazz at Sunset” since the days I was living and working in Chi-town, and now my (relatively) new bride has joined the group.

We would be spending three nights at a lovely B&B called the South Cliff Inn in St. Joseph, Mich., overlooking Lake Michigan. The agenda called for multiple games of Scrabble, lots of wine drinking, the StJulianEventSpaceSaturday night concert featuring Mindi Abair and the Boneshakers, and a day trip to some nearby wineries. There are quite a few in that part of Michigan, and we try to hit different ones each year.

This year, we headed to the town of Paw Paw to check out the tasting rooms of two wineries that are right next door to each: St. Julian Winery and Warner Vineyards.

St. Julian was founded in 1921 by Mariano Meconi, making it the state’s oldest winery. Today, it’s run by Mariano’s grandson David and granddaughter Angela.

Michelle and I shared a six-wine tasting, and I selected a mix of dry reds (mainly for me) and sweet wines (mainly for Michelle). The star of the sextet was a wine called Cream d’Or, a perfectly balanced dessert wine made from Niagara grapes with a gorgeous nose of vanilla and almond, along with a kiss of caramel.

Under David’s and Angela’s leadership, St. Julian has become Michigan’s largest winery, with additional tasting rooms in Union Pier, Frankenmuth and Dundee.

We then walked next door to Warner Vineyards — which got me thinking about my Dad again because his name was Warner.

I’ll tell you about our visit to that tasting room… and an unexpected discovery… in tomorrow’s blog.

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Posted in Editor's Journal, Our Wine Travel Log
2 comments on “St. Julian: A Visit to Michigan’s Oldest Winery
  1. Jill Barth says:

    Being from Chicago, I love the wineries in SW Michigan.

    I’ve written about Fenn Valley, Dablon & Tabor Hill. Hope you can check them out on my blog.

    Thanks for sharing!

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