While much of the libation attention in the state in recent years has been on the enormous growth in popularity and quality of the craft beer industry, our wineries have earned high acclaim as well.

For example, earlier this year, Wine Enthusiast magazine chose Michigan as the only U.S. state on its global list of “Wine Regions on the Rise.” The publication cited impressive strides in defying the cold to produce great reds, as well as the highly-acclaimed Riesling production, among the reasons for the distinction.

Also it has been 30 years since Michigan has become host to a new American Viticultural Area (AVA), which is a federally determined area that boasts distinctive growing conditions such as climate, soil, and elevation. Late last year “Tip of the Mitt” earned the distinction. It joins Fennville, Lake Michigan Shore, Leelanau Peninsula, and Old Mission Peninsula as the state’s fifth AVA. The area covers 2,760  square miles including Alpena, Antrim, Charlevoix, Cheboygan, Emmet, and Presque Isle, and is home to the Bay View Wine Trail.

If experts around the world making note of our gorgeous grapes and fine wines, isn’t motivation enough to get out and try some, then perhaps the calendar will spur your interest. For the first time, our state is celebrating its annual Michigan Wine Month in May, rather than April, so there are lots of incentives to celebrate. We have one big tip and four fun ideas for celebrating.

Big Tip: Join Vintage Michigan Club
This tops our list because it gives you the opportunity to make plans and save money on the rest of the items on our list. The club is managed by the Michigan Wine and Grape Council and membership is for life. You’ll get a free copy of the annual Michigan Wine magazine, among other benefits, but the biggest bonus is that you gain access to discounts at participating wineries, retailers, restaurants, and inns around the state. Membership is only $45 so why not join today?

Buy and Try a New Bottle
You may already have a favorite or two among Michigan’s many brilliant wineries, and yet, there are most likely countless others that you have yet to discover. Not to mention the fact that new wines are produced by each company annually. Make a point of stopping by your local Michigan-based market and picking up a bottle or two. Try something different like a cherry wine, or one of the state’s newer reds, or check out these lists of medalists to find some highly-touted options.

Host a Wine Tasting with Friends
You don’t have to be an oenophile to invite friends over to sip and savor. Just gather some bottles that are to your liking or ask the expert at your favorite wine shop for some suggestions. Put together a few hors d’oeuvres that you think will pair well, and voila! For extra fun, print out some info about each wine (you can easily find that on most winemakers’ websites) and have some writing utensils and paper ready so that your guests can make note of what they liked most.

Compare Wines at a Local Winery or Tasting Room
There are so many wineries across our state now that it’s highly likely there is one near you. If not a winery, then either a tasting room or wine shop that offers tastings. The best part about doing a tasting among experts is the extra information they can provide. If it’s the winery that actually produced the bottle, they will be able to tell you about the harvest, the grapes, the growing conditions, and all of the other elements that may have influenced its taste. If you’re in a tasting room or wine shop that carries products from several wineries they may not have that specific info, but they are very likely to be able to make recommendations of which to try based on what you like, or help you figure out what you like, or suggest what foods would pair well with your favorites.

 Partake in a Wine Event
Because this is Michigan Wine Month there are incredible opportunities to attend special wine-centric events all across the state. Visit the Michigan Wines Event Calendar for a wide array of choices or check with one of the state’s five popular wine trails: Bay View Wine TrailLake Michigan Wine ShoreLeelanau Peninsula Wine TrailSoutheast Michigan Pioneer Wine Trail, or Wineries of Old Mission Peninsula to see what each has planned.

Author: Lisa Diggs

Lisa Diggs is a writer, speaker, entrepreneur, business consultant, avid traveler, and founder of The Catalyst Company, LLC, Michigan Positivity Project, and Buy Michigan Now.