Michigan Wine Tour: Discover the Best Wineries and Vineyards in the State
Michigan is known for its picturesque landscapes, vast freshwater coastline, and of course, its wine. The state's wine industry has been growing rapidly, with more than 150 wineries and vineyards spread throughout the state. Michigan's unique climate and soil provide ideal conditions for growing a variety of grapes, resulting in wines that are distinct in flavor and character.
A Michigan wine tour is an excellent way to explore the state's wine country and sample some of its best wines. With so many wineries and vineyards to choose from, visitors can customize their tour to suit their preferences. Some popular wine regions in Michigan include the Leelanau Peninsula, Old Mission Peninsula, and the Lake Michigan Shore. Each region has its own unique charm and offers a variety of experiences, from rustic and charming to modern and sophisticated.
Whether you're a wine enthusiast or simply looking for a fun and relaxing day out, a Michigan wine tour is a great way to discover the state's hidden gems. Visitors can expect to enjoy scenic drives through rolling hills, picturesque vineyards, and quaint towns. Many wineries offer tours and tastings, giving visitors an opportunity to learn about the winemaking process and sample a variety of wines. With so much to see and taste, a Michigan wine tour is an unforgettable experience that's not to be missed.
History of Michigan Wine
Michigan has a long and rich history of wine production that dates back to the 1800s. In fact, Michigan was one of the largest wine producers in the country before the Prohibition era. During this time, the wine industry in Michigan was brought to a halt, and many vineyards were destroyed.
However, once Prohibition ended, the wine industry in Michigan slowly began to regain its footing. The first winery to open after Prohibition was St. Julian Winery in Paw Paw, which is still in operation today. Other wineries soon followed, and by the late 1940s, Michigan was once again a major player in the wine industry.
One of the factors that helped the wine industry in Michigan grow during this time was a clever tax break. Wines made with 75% Michigan-grown grapes were taxed at only four cents per gallon, which encouraged wineries to use locally sourced grapes. This tax break helped to boost the local industry and put Michigan back on the map as a wine-producing state.
Today, Michigan is home to nearly 200 wineries, making it one of the fastest-growing wine regions in the country. The total economic impact of the wine industry in Michigan is more than $6.33 billion, making it a significant contributor to the state's economy.
Michigan is known for its unique climate and soil, which allow for the production of a wide variety of grape varietals. Some of the most popular grape varietals grown in Michigan include Riesling, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc, and Chardonnay.
Overall, the history of Michigan wine is a testament to the resilience and determination of the state's winemakers. Despite setbacks and challenges, Michigan's wine industry has continued to grow and thrive, producing some of the most delicious and unique wines in the country.
Regions of Michigan Wine Production
Michigan is home to five American Viticultural Areas (AVA), each with its unique terroir and wine production. The following are the four main wine regions in Michigan:
Old Mission Peninsula
Located in the northwest corner of Michigan's Lower Peninsula, Old Mission Peninsula is a narrow strip of land that juts out into Lake Michigan's Grand Traverse Bay. The region has a unique microclimate, with cool breezes from the bay and the surrounding hills providing ideal growing conditions for cool-climate grape varieties such as Riesling, Pinot Noir, and Chardonnay. Some of the most notable wineries in the region include Chateau Chantal, Bowers Harbor Vineyards, and 2 Lads Winery.
The Leelanau Peninsula is located just north of Traverse City and is home to over 25 wineries. The region's rolling hills, sandy soils, and proximity to Lake Michigan create an ideal environment for grape growing. The area is known for producing high-quality wines, particularly Riesling, Pinot Grigio, and Cabernet Franc. Some of the most popular wineries in the region include Black Star Farms, Shady Lane Cellars, and Chateau Fontaine.
Lake Michigan Shore
The Lake Michigan Shore AVA is located in the southwestern corner of Michigan, along the eastern shore of Lake Michigan. The region has a moderate climate, with warm summers and mild winters, making it ideal for growing a wide range of grape varieties. The area is known for producing high-quality red wines, particularly Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Pinot Noir. Some of the most notable wineries in the region include Tabor Hill Winery, Round Barn Winery, and Domaine Berrien Cellars.
Fennville is a small wine region located in the southwestern corner of Michigan, near the Lake Michigan Shore AVA. The region has a unique microclimate, with cool breezes from Lake Michigan and the surrounding hills providing ideal growing conditions for cool-climate grape varieties such as Riesling and Pinot Noir. Some of the most notable wineries in the region include Fenn Valley Vineyards, Virtue Cider, and Crane's Winery.
Overall, Michigan's diverse wine regions offer a wide range of grape varieties and wine styles, making it a must-visit destination for any wine lover.
Types of Wines Produced
Michigan has become a hub for wine production, with over 150 wineries across the state. The wineries in Michigan produce a wide variety of wines, including red, white, fruit, and ice wines.
Michigan's cool climate is ideal for growing red wine grapes such as Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Pinot Noir. These grapes produce red wines that are rich in flavor and aroma. Some of the popular red wines produced in Michigan include:
- Cherry Creek Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon: This wine has a deep ruby color with aromas of black cherry, vanilla, and spice.
- Youngblood Vineyards Marquette Estate: This wine has a medium body with flavors of dark fruit, chocolate, and coffee.
- Chateau Grand Traverse Pinot Noir: This wine has a light body with flavors of raspberry, cherry, and spice.
Michigan's climate is also suitable for growing white wine grapes such as Riesling, Pinot Grigio, and Chardonnay. These grapes produce white wines that are crisp and refreshing. Some of the popular white wines produced in Michigan include:
- Verterra Winery Pinot Blanc: This wine has a light body with flavors of green apple, pear, and citrus.
- Brys Estate Vineyard & Winery Riesling: This wine has a medium body with flavors of peach, apricot, and honey.
- Black Star Farms Arcturos Dry Riesling: This wine has a light body with flavors of lemon, lime, and green apple.
Michigan is also known for its fruit wines, which are made from a variety of fruits such as cherry, raspberry, and blueberry. These wines are sweet and fruity, making them perfect for dessert. Some of the popular fruit wines produced in Michigan include:
- Chateau Grand Traverse Cherry Reserve: This wine is made from Michigan cherries and has a sweet and tart flavor with a hint of almond.
- Mackinaw Trail Winery Raspberry Wine: This wine is made from Michigan raspberries and has a sweet and tangy flavor with a hint of spice.
- St. Julian Winery Blue Heron: This wine is made from Michigan blueberries and has a sweet and fruity flavor with a hint of vanilla.
Michigan's cold winters are perfect for producing ice wines, which are made from grapes that have been left on the vine to freeze. These grapes produce a sweet and concentrated juice that is used to make ice wine. Some of the popular ice wines produced in Michigan include:
- Black Star Farms Arcturos Winter Harvest Riesling: This wine has a sweet and honeyed flavor with notes of apricot and peach.
- Lemon Creek Winery & Vineyards Cabernet Franc Ice Wine: This wine has a rich and complex flavor with notes of blackberry, chocolate, and spice.
- Bowers Harbor Vineyards 2896 Ice Cider: This wine is made from apples and has a sweet and tangy flavor with notes of caramel and honey.
Famous Michigan Wineries
Michigan is home to some of the best wineries in the United States. Here are some of the most famous wineries in Michigan:
Black Star Farms
Black Star Farms is a popular winery located in Suttons Bay, Michigan. It boasts of two wineries and three tasting rooms, an eau-de-vie and grappa distillery, a farm-to-table cafe, and an inn. The winery produces a variety of wines, including Riesling, Pinot Noir, and Chardonnay. Visitors can take a tour of the winery, enjoy a wine tasting, or attend a wine-pairing dinner.
Chateau Grand Traverse
Chateau Grand Traverse is one of the oldest wineries in Michigan. It was established in 1974 and has since become a leading producer of Riesling wines. The winery is located on the Old Mission Peninsula, which provides a unique microclimate that is ideal for growing grapes. Visitors can take a tour of the winery, enjoy a wine tasting, or attend a wine-pairing dinner.
St. Julian Winery
St. Julian Winery is the oldest and largest winery in Michigan. It was established in 1921 and has since become a household name in Michigan. The winery produces a variety of wines, including Riesling, Pinot Noir, and Chardonnay. Visitors can take a tour of the winery, enjoy a wine tasting, or attend a wine-pairing dinner.
Left Foot Charley
Left Foot Charley is a unique winery located in Traverse City, Michigan. It is housed in an old mental asylum and produces a variety of wines, including Pinot Blanc, Pinot Grigio, and Pinot Noir. The winery is known for its innovative winemaking techniques, such as using wild yeast and aging wine in oak barrels. Visitors can take a tour of the winery, enjoy a wine tasting, or attend a wine-pairing dinner.
Michigan is home to many other great wineries, but these four are some of the best-known and most reputable. Whether you're a wine enthusiast or just looking for a fun day out, a visit to one of these wineries is sure to be a memorable experience.
Planning Your Wine Tour
When planning a wine tour in Michigan, there are several important considerations to keep in mind. Below are some tips to help plan a successful and enjoyable wine tour.
Michigan's wine country is beautiful year-round, but the best time to visit depends on personal preferences. Spring and summer are popular seasons for wine tours, as the weather is mild and the vineyards are in full bloom. Fall is also a great time to visit, as the leaves change color and the grape harvest is in full swing. Winter can be a quieter time to visit, but some wineries may be closed or have limited hours.
Many wineries offer tour packages that include tastings, tours, and other activities. These packages can be a great way to save money and get a comprehensive experience of the local wine scene. Some popular tour packages include:
- The Wine Trail Package: This package includes tastings at multiple wineries along a designated wine trail.
- The Vineyard Package: This package includes a tour of a local vineyard, as well as tastings and other activities.
- The Food and Wine Pairing Package: This package includes tastings paired with local food and snacks.
When planning a wine tour, it's important to consider where to stay. There are many options for accommodations in Michigan wine country, including hotels, bed and breakfasts, and vacation rentals. Some popular areas to stay include Traverse City, Grand Rapids, and the Leelanau Peninsula. It's also important to book accommodations in advance, especially during peak season.
When planning a wine tour, it's important to consider transportation options. Many wineries are located in rural areas and may not be easily accessible by public transportation. Some popular transportation options include:
- Renting a car: Renting a car is a popular option for exploring Michigan wine country. Many car rental companies offer pickup and drop-off locations in popular wine regions.
- Hiring a driver: Hiring a driver or booking a wine tour shuttle can be a convenient way to travel between wineries without worrying about driving.
- Biking: Biking is a popular option for exploring Michigan wine country, especially during the warmer months. Many wineries offer bike racks and bike tours.
By keeping these considerations in mind, visitors can plan a successful and enjoyable wine tour in Michigan.
Michigan wine tours offer a unique experience for wine lovers and tourists alike. With over 150 wineries and vineyards across the state, visitors can enjoy a variety of wines and scenic views.
By following the tips provided by experts, visitors can plan a successful wine tour in Michigan. Grape and Grain Tours provide knowledgeable tour guides, while Chateau Grand Traverse offers suggestions on how to make the most of the wine tasting experience.
Michigan Wine Country's map tool allows visitors to plan their own wine adventure, selecting from wineries, campgrounds, state parks, and trails. Visitors can also bike along a wine trail, explore unique wine experiences, and attend wine festivals and events throughout the year.
Overall, Michigan's wine industry continues to grow and thrive, providing visitors with a unique and enjoyable experience. Whether it's a day trip or a weekend getaway, a Michigan wine tour is a must-try for wine enthusiasts and travelers looking for a new adventure.