Michigan is home to five American Viticultural Areas (AVAs), giving several options for wine country getaways in the state.
Popular European grape varietals are grown in different regions, including Pinot Gris, Merlot, Syrah, Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir, Riesling and Gewürztraminer.
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