DiscoverDiscover the Michigan Wine Scene

Discover the Michigan Wine Scene

Michigan might not be the first place that pops into your mind when you think of wine country, but this trending region in America is becoming a must-visit for anyone with a taste for exquisite wines. In the 1970’s Michigan only had a handful of wine producers. Now, it boasts over 100 wineries and is the 5th largest wine-producing state in the US. Today, we want to shed light on some of its best wineries and what they produce. Let’s take a journey to the mitten state to Discover the Michigan wine scene!

The Lay of the Land: Michigan’s AVAs

Before we spill the secrets of Michigan’s top vineyards, let’s uncork a little background on its wine regions. Michigan currently boasts five American Viticultural Areas, or AVAs, which all have a little flair of their own. The climate for the wine regions in Michigan is a cool continental area that often has a lot of lake effects due to the massive great lakes in the area. Each AVA has its unique soil composition and climate, which creates a diverse range of terroirs and a fantastic portfolio of wines. The AVAs are as follows: 

1. Fennville AVA 

Fennville was the first Michigan AVA and surprisingly, the third in the whole nation. It was established in 1981. It’s also the smallest, encompassed within the larger Lake Michigan Shore AVA. It has Lake Michigan on its west side, and the Kalamazoo River to the North. The massive bodies of water surrounding the area have a significant moderating impact on the climate, making it warmer than the areas inland. This “lake effect” helps to extend the growing season by delaying spring frosts, and also extends the fall growing season too. The vines that grow here are primarily Vitis vinifera, and the soils are filled with sand, and clay which provide good drainage for the vines. 

2. Leelanau Peninsula AVA 

The Leelanau Peninsula is located in the upper part of Michigan to the northwest and was given AVA status in 1982.  Like its southwestern Michigan counterparts, it benefits from the “lake effect” with Lake Michigan, Grand Traverse Bay, and Lake Leelanau close by. Vineyard soils tend to be sandy and are well-draining, which means that the vines can be deeply rooted. There are nearly 700 vineyard acres on the Leelanau Peninsula.

3. Lake Michigan Shore AVA

The Lake Michigan Shore AVA is the second-largest AVA in Michigan and was approved in 1983. Like the Fennville AVA which is located within the Michigan Shore AVA, it benefits from Lake Michigan’s lake effect. This area also has rolling glacial hills that move cool air over the vineyards, lowering the risk of frost. The climate, soils, and growing areas are going to be mostly the same as Fennville. 

4. Old Mission Peninsula AVA  

Located across Grand Traverse Bay and close to the Leelanau Peninsula, Old Mission Peninsula became an AVA in 1987. Like most Michigan AVAs, the lake effect plays a major role here. However, due to its northern location, more cool climate grapes are grown here and even icewine is produced. 

5. Tip of the Mitt AVA

The Tip of the Mitt is Michigan’s newest AVA and was approved in July 2016. It has a longer frost-free growing season because of the different soil composition in the area. It has sandier, lighter soils that heat up faster in the spring, which allows for higher-quality grapes to grow compared to its cooler counterparts in the rest of the state. 

Michigan’s Best Wineries

With ​​our thorough vineyard research, we’ve created a list of exceptional wineries that are the pride of the Michigan wine scene. Below are 10 standout wineries, carefully selected to include at least one from each of the five American Viticultural Areas (AVAs) in the region. While these featured wineries are noteworthy, Michigan’s diverse wine landscape includes hundreds more worth visiting.

1. Chateau Chantal – Old Mission Peninsula AVA

Chateau Chantal is renowned for its breathtaking vineyard vistas and European-inspired wines. The Riesling, in particular, exudes a symphony of crisp and aromatic flavors. Not to miss is their Cerise, a unique cherry wine that celebrates Michigan’s cherry heritage.

2. Black Star Farms – Leelanau Peninsula AVA

At Black Star Farms, wine enthusiasts can enjoy a dash of pastoral elegance along with their tasting. This prestigious winery is rated #1 in Michigan and produces a Pinot Noir that impresses with its rich complexity, representing Leelanau Peninsula wines well.

3. Fenn Valley Vineyards – Fennville AVA 

Fenn Valley Vineyards, nestled within the Fennville AVA, crafts a spectrum of fine wines including a standout Meritage, which is a testament to their artisanship and the fertile Michigan terroir. They were founded in 1973, and have a 17,000-square-foot winery cellar that was built into the side of a hill to take advantage of the natural cooling temperature. This allows them to store their wine in a temperature-controlled environment. The vineyard also used to be a fruit farm. Today, they still create Peach, Cherry, and raspberry wines as a testament to their land. 

4. St. Julian Winery – Lake Michigan Shore AVA

St. Julian is Michigan’s oldest and most storied winery with various changes in its name, location, and wines over time. It was founded by Italian immigrant Mariano Meconi, who decided on its final name ‘St. Julian’ in 1942 after his hometown. It has been honing Michigan’s winemaking craft for generations. Their Braganini Reserve line, featuring the Traminette, offers a deep dive into the nuanced flavors that Lake Michigan Shore grapes can achieve.

5. Harbor Springs Vineyards & Winery – Tip of the Mitt AVA 

Harbor Springs Vineyards & Winery, the gem of the Tip of the Mitt AVA, brings northern Michigan’s unique climate to the forefront with its selection, particularly its vibrant and refreshing Marquette Rosé and ciders. The vineyard also boasts spectacular views of Lake Michigan. 

6. French Valley Vineyards – Leelanau Peninsula AVA

With a sweeping landscape as its backdrop, French Valley Vineyards is a haven for those seeking both beauty and quality in their wines. Notable for their expressive Chardonnay and Riesling, French Valley is a must-visit in the Leelanau Peninsula AVA. They are also extremely into sustainable agriculture, and make sure all of their vineyards are planted with consideration for the land. They even plant roses at the end of each row of vines, which act as a natural fungicide. Read more about their sustainable practices here

7. 45 North Vineyard & Winery – Leelanau Peninsula AVA

45 North Vineyard & Winery, set in the heart of Leelanau Peninsula, pairs innovation with tradition. Their complex and earthy Cabernet Franc showcases the robustness and vitality of this Northern Michigan AVA. While their Cabernet Franc is our favorite, the winery actively farms 35 acres of several varieties including Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Riesling, Vignoles, Merlot, and Pinot Noir. 

8. Verterra Winery – Leelanau Peninsula AVA

Verterra Winery’s wines capture the essence of the land, with the Chaos Red Cuveé as a crowd-pleaser. This blend seduces with its velvety fruit layers that reflect the soil and climate of the Leelanau Peninsula. Discovering Michigan’s wine scene would not be the same without a stop here. Verterra translates to “true to the land” making this an important stop to understand the complexities, soil, and beauty of this region.

9. Domaine Berrien Cellars – Lake Michigan Shore AVA

Domaine Berrien Cellars takes the craft of winemaking to heart, producing wines like their distinguished Syrah with its peppery spice and savory richness that exemplifies the Lake Michigan Shore terroir. 100% of their wines are grown onsite.

10. Modales Wines – Fennville AVA 

Modales Wines, situated in the Fennville AVA, operates with the philosophy that great wines begin in the vineyard. Their meticulously crafted Orenda and riesling wines speak volumes about the care and passion that go into every bottle.

Dive into the Michigan wine scene where every label has its tale and every taste brings a smile. Michigan’s wineries are brimming with character, serving up exceptional wines. If you’re looking for cozy vineyard views or you’re eager to discover Michigan’s wine scene, these vineyards offer a fun adventure. Pop open a bottle, fill your glass, and enjoy the laid-back charm of the Midwest’s best wineries. Here’s to new wine experiences—your gateway to the vibrant world of Michigan wines!

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