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It's Been a Very Good Decade for Michigan Wine

by Lisa Diggs

Gubernatorial proclamations have made it an annual tradition for April to be celebrated as Michigan Wine Month. The designation kick-starts a season that attracts more than 2 million visitors. It’s also a good time to take a closer look at the economic impact of Michigan’s expanding wine industry, and toast the coming season.

The number of wineries in the state continues to grow, with 121 producers of Michigan wine currently recognized by the Michigan Grape and Wine Industry Council, a program within the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development that is charged with supporting industry growth. The state now ranks 10th nationally in wine production.

Much of that expansion can be credited to the availability of locally grown fruit, though not all producers use grapes grown in Michigan, and certainly not all grapes grown here are used for wine. In fact, while Michigan is the fourth largest grape-growing state, of the 13,700 acres of vineyards, only about 2,050 acres are devoted to wine grapes. That leaves lots of room for wine industry growth. Overall, the industry already contributes $300 million annually to the state's economy.

The evolution of the industry in Michigan is already impressive. Vineyard acreage doubled over the preceding ten years, making it possible for production of wine to increase an astounding 63% between 2011 and 2014. The change in the local industry is not just evident in quantity however, it’s also apparent in quality.

Michigan wines are consistently winning high awards at competitions around the country, and the state is increasingly being recognized nationally for the quality of the wines produced. In fact, according to the Michigan Grape and Wine Industry Council, more than 500 awards were earned by 30 producers of Michigan wine in national competitions in 2015. The industry itself earned global attention this past year when CNN named it one of ten up and coming wine regions in the world. The only other American destination to make the list was Walla Walla Valley in the Pacific Northwest.

To continue the momentum, this month many of the wineries, along with local restaurants, will be hosting special events to introduce their products to even more potential customers. That makes April a fantastic time to explore Michigan’s wine country, attend a tasting, or just buy a bottle from your local market and toast the coming of spring and a Michigan industry on the rise.

Before embarking on a journey, consider joining the Vintage Michigan Club to be eligible for discounts at participating wineries, restaurants, retailers, B&Bs, and hotels. Membership also includes a copy of Michigan Wine Country magazine, which is a helpful guide for learning about and seeking out Michigan wine.

Even more helpful is to pick a region and experience the scenery, culinary treats, and of course fruit of the vine for yourself. In the south, explore the Pioneer Wine Trail in the east, or head west to the Lake Michigan Shore Trail. In the north, excursions to the Leelanau Peninsula and Old Mission Peninsula wine trails will yield tremendous delights. 


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