Michigan Wine Travel Guide
Michigan is highly regarded for its unadulterated wilderness: The longest freshwater shoreline in the country, vast lakes, gleaming shorelines, a plenitude of agricultural products and unlimited outdoors activities. Not to mention the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary in Lake Huron and of course there’s Detroit, which is home to the world renowned Henry Ford Museum and Gilmore Car Museum, America’s “Most prominent History Attraction”.
Oh, and did we mention there are more than 130 wineries in Michigan!!! That’s where we come in. With all that Michigan has to offer, wine country is one them. Let our Michigan Wine Country Guide help guide you on your next wine country getaway.
WELCOME TO CARPE TRAVEL!
Hi, I’m Elaine Schoch. I’m an award-winning travel writer, wine judge and Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) certified. At Carpe Travel my goal is to help guide ALL WINE LOVERS – from novices to experienced pros – on their wine adventures. To arm you with insider tips, must-visit spots, and things to see and do beyond the vines.
Michigan Wine - A Short History
1. Fennville AVA: The Fennville AVA consists of 75,000 acres and is located within the Lake Michigan Shore AVA.It was established as an AVA on September 18, 1981, making it Michigan’s first AVA and the United States’ third. Fenn Valley Vineyards was and still is the only commercial winery located within the AVA.
2. Leelanau Peninsula AVA: – The Leelanau Peninsula AVA located in Leelanau County, Michigan, it was the second AVA in the state, established March 30, 1982. This Michigan wine region includes all of Leelanau County, which forms a peninsula between Lake Michigan on the west and Grand Traverse Bay on the east. Being surrounded by water helps to moderate the climate of the region, which is generally cold for viticulture. Frost can occur on all but about 145 days of the calendar year.
3. Lake Michigan Shore AVA: The third AVA to be established in Michigan is the Lake Michigan Shore AVA; October 13, 1983. This AVA is Michigan’s largest consisting of 1,280,000 acres and is home to a majority of Michigan vineyards and half of the state’s wine grape production. This region also produces most of the country’s grapes for juice and jelly production, so you will find a lot of vineyards filled with Concord and Niagara grapevines.
While it’s the third AVA to be created, it’s the oldest modern commercial grape region of the state with some vineyards dating back to 1867. The “lake effect” off of Lake Michigan tempers the northern climate helping to create a warmer growing season, as much as two weeks longer than the only other Michigan AVAs. As a result, the area can produce a variety of different wine grapes including, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chancellor, Chardonnay, Chelois, De Chaunac, Gewurztraminer, Lemberger, Malbec, Marsanne, Merlot, Muller Thurgau, Petit Verdot, Pinot gris, Pinot noir, Riesling, Roussanne, Seyval blanc, St. Vincent, Syrah, Traminette, Vidal blanc, Vignoles.
Lake Michigan Shore wine country is a short driving distance from both Chicago and Detroit, making it a perfect destination for a wine weekend.
4. Old Mission Peninsula AVA: The Old Mission Peninsula extends northward from Traverse City into the Grand Traverse Bay of Lake Michigan, ending at Old Mission Point. The peninsula is 19 miles (31 km) long by 3 miles (5 km) wide at its widest point. The climate on the peninsula is moderated by the surrounding waters, helping to prevent frost during the growing season. Grape varietals suitable to cool climates, such as Riesling, Chardonnay, Gewürztraminer, Pinot gris, Pinot noir, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot do best in the Old Mission Peninsula AVA. There are only about 10 wineries offering tasting rooms, but each is located within five miles of each other making it a perfect weekend wine country getaway.
5. Tip of the Mitt AVA: In August 2016 the Tip of the Mitt AVA was officially recognized. The area is located in the northern Lower Peninsula of Michigan and specializes in cultivating of cold-weather wine varietals such as Marechal Foch and Leon Millot.
RESOURCE: A More In-depth History of Michigan’s AVA’s
Michigan Wine Trails
There are five official wine trails in Michigan, according to the Michigan Grape & Wine Industry Council.
Bay View Wine Trail
Following the shores of Lake Michigan’s Little Traverse Bay and the inland lakes of the “Northwest Michigan Wine Region”, you’ll find new wineries with remarkable old world wines, as well as exceptional new grape, and fruit varieties to the wine world. Come enjoy a relaxing wine tour without the crowds, and discover why this beautiful area comprised of Charlevoix, Petoskey, Harbor Springs and Indian River has been attracting resorters for more than 100 years.
Lake Michigan Shore Wine Trail
They call Lake Michigan Shore Wine Trail the Napa Valley of the Midwest. Like the hills of California, this land is ideal for handcrafting fine wines. And its charming resort towns and incredible shoreline are like bottles of bubbly waiting to be uncorked. You’ll find more than 20 Southwest Michigan wineries and tasting rooms along this trail, each with its own style.
Leelanau Peninsula Wine Trail
The Leelanau Peninsula Wine Trail is the largest and oldest in Michigan and has garnered national attention as a world-class destination. The small peninsula is home to 25 wineries located within diverse microclimates uniquely suited for a variety of wine grapes. Among the internationally acclaimed varietals are Riesling, Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Franc. The trail is divided into three mini-trails for easy touring: the Sleeping Bear Loop, the Northern Loop and the Grand Traverse Bay Loop. Each tasting room along the trail offers its own unique experience, from pure elegance with unparalleled views to cozy nooks loaded with charm.
Southeast Michigan Pioneer Wine Trail
Southeast Michigan’s newest pioneers are the vintners of the early 21st century, growing and selling special wines for you to discover. Southeastern Michigan’s Pioneer wine making region is a great place to spend a few hours … or a few days! The beautiful rolling Irish Hills, many lakes and Hidden Lake Gardens are right along the trail.
Wineries of Old Mission Peninsula
Jutting north between the azure arms of Lake Michigan’s Grand Traverse Bay lies Old Mission Peninsula. Situated at the globe’s 45th parallel – the ideal climate for growing varietal wine grapes – the seven distinct wineries that comprise this stunning area have been well recognized by international wine enthusiasts and award-winning wines: Chardonnay, Riesling, Pinot Grigio, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Gewrztraminer.
Where to Sip in Michigan
We’re busy bottling more of this information, stay tuned!
Where to Stay in Michigan Wine Country
Lake Shore Michigan AVA / Fennville AVA
Leelanau Peninsula AVA
Old Mission Peninsula AVA
Coming soon… Interviews with winemakers who are shaping the Michigan wine region.
Michigan Wine Festivals and Events NOT to Miss
Oct. 2018 (TBD)
One of Michigan’s largest wine tasting events, Detroit Uncorked features more than 250 wines, Michigan beers and premium spirits.
June 16, 2018, Warren Dunes State Park
The festival features fantastic regional live music programming, a big top tent that houses locally-grown-and-produced wine varietals from The Lake Michigan Shore AVA including 12 Corners, Baroda Founders, Cody Kresta, Cogdal, Contessa, Dablon, Domaine Berrien, Fenn Valley, Gravity, Hickory Creek, Karma Vista, Lawton Ridge, Lazy Ballerina, Lemon Creek, Round Barn, St. Julian, Vineyard 2121, Warner and White Pine. Visitors have access to the beach and beautiful Lake Michigan, an enviable sunset all below the backdrop of the towering sands of Warren Dunes.
Saturday, June 9, 2018, Leland, MI
Enjoy tasting local award-winning wines from 12 Leelanau Peninsula wineries and one local brewery, delicious specialties from eight local food vendors while soaking up beautiful views of Lake Michigan and the Manitou Islands from our Leland Harbor venue. Live music, artist booths and the beach will all be a part of the festivies.
September 7-9, 2018 – Downtown Paw Paw
The festival offers something for everyone including tastings and tours for wine enthusiasts; a 5k, grape stomping competition, kayak race, and other contests for the active members of your family; four stages of entertainment for music-lovers; and carnival rides, fireworks, and the parade for all ages. This is one weekend you won’t want to miss.
Michigan Wine Resources
Beyond the Vines...
Things to do in Michigan besides sipping wine.