We met John Keller in the parking lot at Third Coast Soif when he was just getting started and were instantly blown away by how unique and natural his wines tasted. John used to work in a lab at Ravenswood in CA but wasn’t into industrial winemaking so he quit and started the Neu Cellars project with his Dad. Neu in German means new, fresh, or young and all his fruit hails from the Old Mission Peninsula. In the cellar, everything is fermented spontaneously and there are zero additions or subtractions. If there was an ingredient list on the label, it would read simply– grapes.
Michigan agriculture is the second most diverse in the nation next to, of course, California. There are 112 operating wineries in Michigan and the wine scene dates back to the 1800s. Like other regions in the US, prohibition set back the wine industry there and for a long time, most of the grapes grown went to the production of grape juice like Welch’s.
The Great Lakes, specifically Lake Michigan make the difference for growing there. The giant lake tempers the air along shoreline regions, protecting fall crops from harsh, early frosts, and preventing spring crops from blooming too early. Lake effect snow is important too, as it insulates vines from extremely cold temperatures. Also, the state runs between the 41st-47th parallels with a lot of vineyards on or near the 45th. Most vineyards are planted either in the south across the lake from Chicago called the Lake Michigan Shore region, or in the north on Leelanau Peninsula and Old Mission Peninsula…like Neu Cellars! It’s definitely a cool climate wine region, similar to the wine regions of Germany in grapes and style with some native grapes similar to upstate NY.
-Jenny & Francois
Vinifcation notes: In early October, the Chardonnay was hand harvested, foot trod, and pressed with stems into a neutral oak barrel to complete fermentation and age for 5 months. In late October, the Riesling was hand harvested, foot trod, and placed into stainless tanks with the skins and stems for 1 month. After the month long skin contact, the free run was transferred to a neutral oak barrel to complete fermentation and age for 5 months. At this time the wine was racked, blended and bottled.
-From the producer