May is Michigan Wine Month and a great time to explore the budding greenery of the countryside. Why not pair your weekend retreat with some fine wine? Michigan’s flourishing grape industry is not only producing more award-winning wines than ever before, it has sprouted a booming addition to our tourism industry. While wineries and tasting rooms can be found all around the state, there are now eight key areas worth exploring, each with its own distinctive taste, look and feel. We’ll start at the tip o’ the mitt.
Leelanau Peninsula Wine Trail
Leelanau offers over two dozen different wineries to discover, along three different loops: Sleeping Bear (9), Northern Peninsula (8), and Grand Traverse Bay (6). Among them are Chateau Fontaine, a beautiful vineyard that overlooks the countryside, and Willow Vineyards, which is on a wind-swept hillside and features panoramic views of West Traverse Bay. Black Star Farms is situated on a 160-acre horse farm, and is complete with a winery, distillery, tasting room, creamery, bed & breakfast, and wooded trails. Bubbly-lovers, don’t forget to pop by Mawby. If you make it all the way out to the tip of the peninsula, you can enjoy one of our state’s prettiest recreational sites, Leelanau State Park. Another highlight of the area is Fishtown in Leland, and of course further south is the must-see Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.
Old Mission Peninsula Wine Trail
Across the West Grand Traverse Bay is Old Mission Peninsula, which boasts ten unique wineries to delight visitors to the Traverse City area. One of the most stunning vistas can be found at Chateau Chantal, perched high on a hill overlooking vineyards and orchards with water all around. Some of the state’s best reds can be found here too, particularly at 2 Lads Winery and Mari Vineyards. In a single day you can stop by at least half of the wineries and still have time to take in the historic Mission Point Lighthouse. Most offer at least some light bites, but if you’re really hungry, the folks at Jolly Pumpkin will take good care of you.
Petoskey Wine Region
Often overlooked when compared to its western cousin of Traverse City, this area has really expanded its winetasting stops in recent years. There are now fourteen wineries between Petoskey and nearby Charlevoix. Each of those towns has so much to offer by way of shopping and dining that the wineries present a great enhancement to any visit. If you make it there often, consider buying the region’s Wine Passport, which saves you $5 off a winetasting at each location. It costs $30 and never expires, so you have time to work them all in.
Sunrise Side Wine & Hops Trail
Venturing east toward the amazing Lake Huron, there is plenty to discover on our sunrise side of the state. There are five wineries and a few tasting rooms in and around Alpena. Most notably, Thunder Bay has a cool location in a historic old building in the center of town. While in Alpena, also check out Art in the Loft, a gallery showcasing Michigan artists, and explore shipwrecks at the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary.
Thumbs Up Wine Trail
Michigan’s most notable digit, the infamous Thumb, is home to another dozen wineries nestled along Lake Huron’s shore and down into the northern suburbs of Detroit. All told this trail meanders for approximately 270 miles roundtrip. If you’re making a weekend of it, consider kayaking out to Turnip Rock in Port Austin and enjoying the view from Pointe aux Barques Lighthouse in Port Hope.
Southeast Michigan Pioneer Wine Trail
While the rest of the wine trails are along the shore, where grapes grow so well, it may come as a surprise to some, that there is a fun trail worth discovering in and around the Jackson area. Particularly worthy of a stop is the old schoolhouse turned winery at Cherry Creek Cellars. Sandhill Crane Vineyards offers some scrumptious food pairings in its café. Chateau Aeronatique has two different locations, each with a different feel, but the same great wine. If you haven’t been in downtown Jackson in a while, or perhaps ever, make some time to walk around and explore. Thanks to some recent festivals, there are incredible murals dotting the landscape all across town. There are also some fantastic antiquing opportunities in this region.
Lake Michigan Shore Wine Trail
Last, but by no means least, we find ourselves in the southwestern portion of the state. With a trail that runs from Saugatuck south to New Buffalo, there are sixteen wineries awaiting your arrival. Among the most notable are the two oldest, St. Julian and neighboring Warner Vineyards in Paw Paw. Another highlight of the trail, Fenn Valley is located on a 240-acre farm in Fennville.
Southwest Michigan Makers Trail
Several wineries in the southwestern portion of the state have partnered up with breweries and distilleries to create this Maker’s Trail. Among the participating wineries are Dablon Vineyards, which often hosts live music and Round Barn Estate, which is exactly that, and worth the trip. Tabor Hill in Buchanan boasts a dining experience that parallels and nicely complements its wines. You can get a free Makers Passport for this trail to earn rewards through the end of the month.
Pick a direction and fill your glass and your soul in Michigan wine country. If you can’t get away just yet, then pick up a bottle from your local market. Cheers to Michigan Wine Month!