Tabor Hill Winery & Restaurant Review
Address: 185 Mt. Tabor Hill Rd. Buchanan,Michigan 49107.
Phone Number: 269-422-1161
Tasting Hours: Mon-Tues 10:00-5:00, Wed-Sat 10:00-9:00, Sun 12:00-9:00
Region: Lake Michigan Shore AVA, Michigan
Reviewer: Jill Barth
Review Date: 1/16/2016
Reviewer: Jill Barth
When people talk about Southwest Michigan wineries, they often mention Tabor Hill Winery and Restaurant. Tabor Hills winemaker, Michael Merchant, has been around for over 30 years, and in that time his wine has been served in the White House, praised by celebrities and awarded graciously.
I visited with my husband and two friends, and we had the tasting room to ourselves for most of the time we spent there. It was 5:00 on a Saturday, an hour when many local wineries close their doors for the day. Tabor Hills tasting room stays open until 9:00 on weekends, in tandem with the lovely restaurant onsite. The restaurant is as established as the winery, and the chef, John Paul, is recognized favorably.
The setting in the tasting room and restaurant is cozy, well-suited and rustic. The original tasting area features a reasonably-sized bar; theyve recently added an additional tasting room with a large island-style tasting bar and views of the vineyards. We found a spot in the main room and accepted glasses and tasting menus from Ralph, the consultant who welcomed us into the room. For $9 (refunded with case purchase), visitors can sample six wines from the 21 that are listed on the menu: seven dry whites, four dry reds, one off-dry, six semi-dry and three sparklers. New releases for the estate include a Michael Merchant Signature Red and White, both dry blends priced at the top of the scale for Tabor Hill, which ranges from about $9-$34.
I sampled the Lake Michigan Shore Viogner, a Rhône varietal that would be a pleasure with a light summer meal. I also tasted the Lake Michigan Shore Barrel Select Chardonnay; estate grown followed by 18 months in oak, buttery and balanced. The Lake Michigan Shore Syrah also spends 12-18 months in oak; I found this wine to be particularly smooth with a shake of pepper. Ralph indicated that all single varietals are produced by vintage.
I ended my tasting with a wine called Classic Demi-Red, a semi-dry blend made primarily of Chancellor and Chambourcin and, incredibly, 12 other grapes. There is a Special Classic Demi-Sec, a white blend made primarily of Riesling, of which 20,000 cases are made annually. Ralph told us that this wine was served in the White House by the request of multiple presidents.
My tasting at Tabor Hill was an educational experience. I learned about the years of history and accolades that Tabor Hill has enjoyed while making wine in Southwest Michigan. Ralph was generous with this knowledge and indicated that all Tabor Hill wines only contain grapes grown in Southwest Michigan, most grown by Tabor Hill. There is only one bottle, a cherry wine that wasnt on the menu, that includes fruit from elsewhere in the state. Recent winters, Ralph said, have caused the wineries to have smaller yields on red varietals; this was reflected in the tasting menu (the Merlot was out-of-stock).
Tabor Hill is a lovely setting with lots of natural foliage as well as vineyards on view. Traditional tours are available; weather permitting, and the tours include the vineyards. If visiting during the summer, May-June, Ralph indicates that tours run 7 days a week. A formal schedule isnt included on the website, so call ahead to determine if a tour will be on offer during your visit. A video tour is always an option, viewable by request, if a vineyard tour isnt scheduled. The facility has a comfortable outdoor terrace, available for dining as well as entertainment during the summer months. Aside from the full-service restaurant, there is small gift area and a simply gorgeous case of sweets from Norman Love, chocolatier. We didnt have dinner, but we were told that wine flights paired with appetizers were available.
Tabor Hill operates tasting rooms in the nearby towns of Bridgeman and Saugatuck. There are many quaint villages and welcoming establishments in this area, and summer is a particularly favorable season due to the Lake Michigan Shore beaches. The fall colors draw crowds as well.
The flagship facility (winery, vineyards and restaurant) is located outside of Buchanan, Michigan in a hilly region with several neighbor wineries within five miles or less. For visitors interested in understanding Michigan grape varieties and regional winemaking history, Tabor Hill is a requisite stop. With such generous tasting hours, schedule this tasting near the end of the day followed by dinner in the Tabor Hill Restaurant, a landmark establishment for Southwest Michigan!