For those interested in exploring Michigan-made wines, there is literally a lot of ground to cover. With 15,000 acres of vineyards, Michigan is the fourth largest grape-growing state in the nation. About 2,650 of those acres are devoted to wine grapes, giving the Great Lakes State the distinction of ranking fifth in wine grape production, and making way for an awful lot of qualitiy wineries to visit.
It can be challenging to make it to all those different wineries in person, and many of their unique products don't yet make it into shops or restaurants. Fortunately Michigan by the Bottle creators, Shannon and Courtney Casey, have embarked on a new adventure that makes it easier for oenophiles to discover multiple Michigan-made wines under one roof.
Located in Shelby Township, (just north of Detroit and southeast of Flint), the Michigan by the Bottle Tasting Room is the first of its kind in the state, offering tastings from six different Michigan wineries at one location. The husband and wife proprietors have been promoting Michigan wines online for several years now. Their experience eventually led to this collaborative venture that can open some Michigan wines up to a wider audience who might not otherwise discover them.
In selecting bottles for the menu the couple focused on very specific criteria: representing each of Michigan’s primary wine regions, providing exposure for boutique wineries whose products are not as widely known, and high quality vintages that are made exclusively from Michigan-grown fruit. The result is a delightful cross-section of choices to satisfy diverse palates and price points.
The six wineries represented on site are Chateau Aeronautique, Chateau de Leelanau, Domaine Berrien Cellars, Gill's Pier, Peninsula Cellars, and Sandhill Crane Vineyards. According to Shannon Casey, “Our hope is that we can serve as an alternative when people are not able to travel to the wineries themselves, and that visiting us will inspire more people to go check out these wineries in person.”
In keeping with a dedication to all things Michigan, the walls are bedecked with stylish and colorful art by Grand Rapids artist Stephanie Schlatter. These pieces, on long-term exhibition, are also for sale. They depict Schlatter’s journeys along Michigan wine trails which, appropriately enough, is where she met the Caseys.
Ironically, wine is not served by the bottle, or even the glass, at the Michigan by the Bottle Tasting Room. Their license is restricted to tastings, which makes for a fun atmosphere that distinguishes itself from a typical bar experience.
Here, wine is served by the flight to encourage patrons to explore. Owner Shannon Casey is quick to point out that you can take some home when you find one you like, or as he laughingly puts it, “You may purchase it by the bottle, by the case, or by the truckload.”
A full flight is only $10 and includes five 2oz. pours of your choosing, served with “Flight Bites,” a selection of Michigan-made cheeses and chocolate. The delectable Cheeses currently come from Cowslip Creamery near Grand Rapids, and Leelanau Cheese in Suttons Bay. Your sweet tooth will be treated to confectionaries from Mindo Chocolate Makers in Dexter and Champagne Chocolates out of Mount Clemens.
Once you’ve made your choices, the bartender will indicate in what order they will be poured. They are then served in real glassware on a placemat that indicates those numbers one through five. That way you can fluctuate between tastes and bites, and if you place your glass back on the appropriate number, will be able to keep track of which you enjoyed the most.
The concept of a multiple-winery tasting room is a long-time coming, and the Caseys have clearly put a lot of effort into creating an atmosphere that is relaxing, educational, and fun. Best of all, the unique selection gives opportunities for both novices and connoisseurs to uncover a taste of Michigan wine that is to their liking.
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