For those that came of age in the 80's or 90's, you undoubtedly got the Madonna reference in the title. Upon returning from Traverse City, I would test this question out on people, "We went to The Ciccone Winery. Does that ring any bells?" Many would pause, narrow their eyes and even ask, "Why does that name sound familiar?" Are you on to me yet? Madonna Louise Ciccone, lest we not forget, hails from Michigan. Good old Silvio, father to The Material Girl, has planted roots, quite literally on The Leelanau Peninsula, where he owns and operates a world-class winery. Salut!
Before we get into this Silvio Ciccone story, I want to back up to our first night in Traverse City. We had departed from Chicago, via rental car, on a Friday morning, with the ambitious plan of clicking through the estimated 5.5 hour drive and hitting up a few wineries prior to checking into Airbnb and our 8pm dinner reso at Poppycock's. Best laid plans, right? Time zones. Be aware. We lost an hour there. Construction season in the Mid-west. Also be aware. Lost another hour there. Needless to say, once we arrived, hours later than anticipated and having had no wine (imagine a toddler throwing a tantrum for juice), we were crabby and hungry. Fortunately, Poppycock's was a gem! I mention this because A) I am an external processor. And B) Because this was the first time, to my knowledge that I tried wine from The Leelanau Peninsula.
The 2013 Chateau Fontaine Pinot Noir. This ephemeral wine is light as baby's breath. Aged in French Oak, the flavors were so subtle that I found it quite a challenge to refrain from downing it all before the food arrived. It would pair with most anything, as that light-bodied, kiss of wine quality, found in lighter style Pinots. Maybe it was my road weary, wine-seeking state of mind, but this one left an impression. We did not make it to this winery but I wanted to share this experience nevertheless. It was my welcome introduction to The Leelanau Peninsula, across the Lake from The Old Mission Peninsula, which I featured in the previous 3 posts.
Back to Silvio and his grapes.
Full disclosure: we knew we were going to the vineyard of Madonna's dad. Gabe discovered this fact when he was doing research for our trip. I was like, "We HAVE to go there! No matter what people say about their wine." Luckily, their wine is well-recieved and as we discovered, very good. It was however, such a different experience than I imagined. The tasting room is nice but rather modest. When we arrived, likely because it was early on a Sunday and also Father's Day (yes I visited Madonna's dad on Father's Day!), it was not crowded. The tasting room staff made clear that the wine "has nothing to do with the Madonna." Ok. Can we still have some wine please?
Focus on what we're here for.
Ciccone Vineyard and Winery offers their tastings in flights: white, red or the signature which is a mix of white and red tastes. I went red, so those will be what I comment on.
2013 Lee La Tage. This playful name reflects a blend that consists of: Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec. Like the açaí berry, it is a "super-fruit". Though there is some black pepper of which to speak. This 100% Estate grown wine is aged in both French and American oak. Would pair nicely with a heavier meal. Or the balcony. Really nice.
The 2012 Cabernet Franc. Definitely a food wine, this 100% Cab Franc is aged in French and American Oak, as well as stainless steel. It has some honey on the nose, as well as strawberry. It also beckons a tobacco lounge feeling. Big game for this one. And if you eat none such, some smoked mushroom something would match.
The 2013 Tre Rossi. This unusual blend contains the following hybrid grapes: Marechal Foch, DeChaunac and Baco Noir. Apparently the hybrids do well in the cold weather. This one, being composed of grapes I don't recall ever tasting, was so unfamiliar to me. I could not place it. So I bought some. There is a floral aroma, maybe geraniums? And cherry flavors. But seriously it was all cherries at that point, in the Cherry Capitol. This wine is unique. Get some if you can. Apparently the 2014 version, due to the absolutely cauterizing Polar Vortex of that year, necessitated some adjustments to how the wine is made. At least there was still wine to be had. I am still traumatized from that winter.
In addition to drinking wine at Ciccone, you can enjoy the spectacular view and get married! Well not until 2016 that is. The waiting list is long and we're told that Thursday weddings are now a thing. From the looks of the joint, I am guessing that it again, "has nothing to do with Madonna." The vista of the vineyards with Lake Michigan in the background is seriously, the stuff dreams are made of. Hopefully all those marriages will be too. At the encouragement of the staff, we walked around and peeked inside the barn where the wedding receptions are hosted. To my shock, Silvio's house is a mere few hundred yards away, Honda parked in the driveway. Given that it was Father's Day, I hope his famous daughter called home and wished him well. I was certainly sending him some positive vibes, showing gratitude for his passion for stellar wine. Cheers!