It’s winter in a summer resort town and on Friday night the hottest ticket in town is wine tasting at the Anderson’s IGA. It might seem odd for a town of 788 residents to have a grocery store with a large wine department, but not Glen Arbor, Michigan. Located in the heart of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore with over 1.5 million visitors annually (mostly summer) , the store has many of the amenities of a big city grocery. In addition, 25 wineries are within a 20-mile drive, so a large wine department is not all that unusual.
The newly remodeled store’s expanded wine department has a wine specialist, Dennis Boulanger, who started the Friday night wine tasting event to showcase his expanded offerings from all over the world, some local wine included. At first I was a little skeptical of wine tasting at the IGA, but discovered it was fun, educational and a great way to taste wines you’ve never tasted and would never buy if you couldn’t try first. The Friday I attended, Dennis had uncorked a Voignier for his white and a nice red blend for people to taste. The Voignier is a varietal I’d never tried before and it was fruity, semi-sweet and pleasant (*I don’t generally care for most white wine). The red was a newer red blend. Blends are very popular and getting more so as wine marketers try to enlarge their core market. In my opinion, blends tend to take away the strong flavors I like in a dry cabernet or malbec, to appeal to a broader audience. The blend met that definition and was pleassant, with no discernible high or low notes in the taste.
Dennis was a wonderful host, talking about the featured wines and wineries when asked, without lecturing. I decided that any opportunity to try new wines is a good one, regardless of the venue. So take a chance and go to any wine tasting you can. Test your preconceptions. Taste a little wine at your local IGA or visit mine in Glen Arbor on Friday nights in the off season.
*Full Disclosure: I do not pretend to be a wine expert. As a matter of fact they generally irritate me. Good wine is what you like, not what someone else likes. Every person’s palate is different, Doing blind tastings of expensive cabernets I have been known to repeatedly pick the cheaper, younger vintage over it’s more expensive and pedigreed sibling. We do not do wine reviews at winecraze, so brand names were not mentioned to protect the innocent. Opinions about blends are all mine and do not extend to European winemaking regions, where many excellent wines are produced as blends and have been for centuries.