The Results Are In: Michigan’s Best Wines for 2023

Two wineries earned platinum medals — and many others received high marks — at the Michigan Governor’s Cup
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These wines took home half of the “Best of” awards at the 2023 Michigan Governor’s Cup. Photo courtesy of St. Julian

If the results of the 2023 Michigan Governor’s Cup are any indication, Southwest Michigan vintners are onto something.

St. Julian Winery in Paw Paw and 12 Corners Vineyards in Benton Harbor brought home the only two platinum medals awarded at the competition, which was hosted by the Michigan Wine Collaborative and the Chicago-based Beverage Testing Institute.

Those highest-ranking wines — St. Julian’s 2020 Braganini Reserve Cabernet Franc and 12 Corners’ 2021 estate-grown Vidal Blanc ice wine — were both named Governor’s Case winners, a designation reserved for the top five white, top five red, and top two sparkling wines. They also won “Best of” awards in their respective categories, vinifera red and sweet/dessert.

St. Julian took home five out of the available 10 “Best of Category” awards.

“[These awards are] a tribute to our entire winemaking team, cellar staff, and grower partners,” says Nancie Oxley, vice president of winemaking at St. Julian, via email. “[They] truly reflect our commitment to produce distinctive wines across our portfolio while we continue to enhance the reputation of Michigan wines, especially those from the Lake Michigan Shore appellation.”

Dedication — even in bitter-cold conditions — likewise paid off at 12 Corners, also in the Lake Michigan Shore American Viticultural Area.

“It is especially gratifying to win an award for our ice wine, as it is such a labor-intensive [and] time- and temperature-sensitive process,” says Gloria Oberst, the operations manager, via email.

All told, the judges of the competition awarded 83 gold, 152 silver, and 45 bronze medals to wineries from around the state. A handful of other wineries also won “Best of Category” awards (Modales Wines, Cherry Creek Cellars, Mawby, and End of the Road Winery) and/or a spot in the Governor’s Case (Cherry Creek, Modales, Chateau Fontaine, Mawby, Left Foot Charley, and Karma Vista Vineyards).

To rate and rank the submitted wines, ciders, and meads, the BTI team conducted a series of blind tastings over three months.

“We were very excited by the diversity and quality of the red wines, particularly Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Blaufränkisch, which, based on our findings, are well suited for Michigan’s terroirs,” says BTI President Jerald O’Kennard via email. “Also, the uniform high quality of white grapes like Sauvignon Blanc and sparkling Riesling and Grüner Veltliner was notable and very promising.”

The variety of Michigan wines is “something to be celebrated,” says Emily Dockery, the executive director of the Michigan Wine Collaborative.

“The winners of the 2023 Michigan Governor’s Cup can serve as a wine buying guide for those traveling around Michigan wine country to tasting rooms, shopping at wine shops supportive of Michigan wine, and dining in restaurants,” she says via email.

The full list of awardees is available on the Collaborative’s website.

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