On Valentine’s Day my wife, Jill, and I spent the afternoon doing something that we both enjoy. Jill is a true wine lover, especially enjoying visits to local wineries. Me…I just love exploring new and fascinating places. So, to satisfy both of our fancies, I convinced her to join me in visiting the newest Northern Michigan winery, Maple Moon Family Sugary.
Nestled between birch and maple forests just a few miles east of Petoskey, Maple Moon is America’s first and only manufacturer of maple wine. You read that correctly. First and only. Maple wine. Right in our backyard.
Like many people I’m sure, you’re probably expecting a mouth full of thick, sticky maple syrup, transformed into something closer to mead than wine. I myself pictured Will Ferrell from Elf gulping down syrup from a flask. But no, they don’t just add maple syrup to grape or fruit wine. Their wine is actually fermented directly from the sugars of pure maple sap. Still, we trudged into the winery, nervous the wine would be something we’d feel obliged to guzzle down with an awkward smile.
Mark my words…we were sorely mistaken.
Entering the Maple Moon tasting room, we were greeted by the Peterson family; the owners of the winery and maple syrup business. As we sat down at the end of the bar, we discovered it was actually Maple Moon’s opening day. With an excitement to his greeting, Todd Peterson handed us a menu and explained the flavors. Without hesitation, Jill ordered the Maple Blackberry Wine. But I was still a bit leery, so I opted to start with what I knew – a pint of the Maple Ginger Cider.
One sip of the cider and I was hooked. The maple is subtle, perfectly complimenting the bold apple and ginger flavors. The second sip was really a gulp. Followed by another. And another. By the time Jill tried a sip of her wine, my cider was nearly empty.
Jill offered a taste of the Maple Blackberry Wine. It was sweet, but not Moscato-sweet, and reminded me more of a Riesling. Todd Peterson explained the effect the maple has on the wine; a smooth maple finish that lingers on your tongue – and my wife instantly nodded in agreement as she experienced the effect. It’s almost like a palate cleanser. Not a sharp finish that some chardonnays, for example, could have. It’s a very slight coating that’s smooth and almost tasteless. Literally readying your palette for the next sip.
After the sip I almost immediately declared: “We’re going to try all of them.” Jill simply nodded with a smile.
The Petersons launched Maple Moon Family Sugary four years ago. Todd is in construction, but he wanted to launch a family-run business that would teach their four children important values like hard work and resourcefulness. Walking through the forest around his house, the maple trees spoke to him. He decided that he would manufacture maple syrup. His original goal was to sell enough to take the family on a short vacation. Through their hard work and determination, however, Maple Moon has grown into one of Michigan’s largest maple syrup manufacturers.
During syrup season – which lasts only about 6 weeks in the spring – the sap is harvested from 5,000 taps on the Peterson property, and flows through an aerial tubing system before it’s deposited directly into the sugar house. Reverse osmosis separates the concentrate from the water, which are then collected in separate 4,000 gallon tanks. Once at least 500 gallons of concentrate is collected, it’s moved to the evaporator and processed into syrup. Having such great success in the maple syrup business, it was a blessing for them to be able to open the winery just four short years later.
Returning to the tasting room, Jill and I finished sampling all of Maple Moon’s wines. My wife’s favorite was the Maple Blanc, a dry white. I absolutely loved the Maple Gold, a port-style wine that is aged in bourbon barrels. America’s first and only maple winery is a refreshing, family-based business that leaves a sweet taste in your mouth and in your heart.