Owner(s): John Braganini
Winemaker: Nancie Oxley
Open to Public
Mon-Thu 9 to 6, Fri-Sat 9 to 7, Sun 11 to 6
716 S Kalamazoo St, Paw Paw, MI 49079
phone: (269) 657-5568
St. Julian Wine Company Profile
Written by Brian—Sep 28, 2018
The wine region that spreads along the southwest shore of Lake Michigan is just beginning to gain recognition. Despite the fact that the conditions are ideal for wine grapes, most of the wineries are less than 20 years old. Only one can trace its roots to the period immediately following prohibition.
St. Julian Winery relocated from the Detroit area to the town of Paw Paw in 1936. In addition to being the state’s oldest winery, it grew to become the largest producer. With 250,000 cases of wine bottled annually, it is a massive operation. Along the way, it also gained a reputation as a producer of unsophisticated bulk wine, but St. Julian is working hard to rehabilitate that image.
The introduction of a high-end line of fine wines has taken place over the last few years. Nancie Oxley, is just the most recent winemaker to nudge St. Julian in the direction of world-class wine. Local growing conditions are ideal and winemaking expertise is provided by one of the region’s rising stars. Jancis Robinson referred to the winery’s Sherry as “the best she had tasted outside Spain.” For my part, I think the offerings can complete any in the US.
I tasted just a half dozen of the St. Julian offerings, but everything I sampled was excellent. They are producing a very good Riesling, but the Gruner Veltliner is simply stellar. It’s tropical notes, bright acidity and balance were everything I hope for in that grape. They are also doing an fabulous estate Pinot Noir, a Tempranillo and a reserve red blend. All are well crafted and worthy of note. I can also attest to Jancis Robinson’s opinion of the Sherry. It is amazing.
While touring the winery, I observed that it is just like any other winery tour I had ever taken… but, on steroids. The production facility is large. With 103 different labels, it has to be. There is an entire wall devoted to awards that go back decades. They recently ran out of space, so they started displaying ribbons and other competition swag at their satellite tasting rooms. It’s a busy place and slightly overwhelming, but quantity does not seem to affect quality.
Recent upgrades to the tasting room offer additional reasons to stop by. Viewed from the parking lot, St. Julian has a slight industrial appearance and the main entrance is a bit dated. Inside, however, you can imagine yourself in any upscale tasting room. It is well appointed, modern and appropriately staffed. In short, the customer experience is as exceptional as the wine.
With all of this in mind, there is only one course of action. Visit St. Julian. It’s that simple and when you do, please let me know what you think.