Wine-tasting your way around Michigan
BY KATH USITALO For Sun-Times Media
Swept away: Visitors to Chateau Chantal vineyards in Traverse City, MI, can enjoy sweeping views of Grand Traverse Bay while enjoying wine from the European-inspired winery. | Supplied photo
Thanks to the moderating “lake effect” climate off Lake Michigan and sandy soils and ridges courtesy of the glacial age, western Michigan has long been an important fruit (including grape)-growing region. But winemaking has expanded to almost every corner of Michigan, with more than 90 vineyards, wineries and tasting rooms in both the Lower and Upper Peninsulas.
Sample the fruit of the vine on a weekend getaway or longer winery tour with the help of the free Michigan Wine Country magazine from the Michigan Wine Industry, www.michiganwines.com. Lovers of the grape may want to consider checking out some of these interesting wineries spread out across three regions of Michigan:
Fenn Valley Vineyards & Wine Cellar
6130 122nd Ave.
Fennville, MI 49408
(800) 432-6265 (Northern IL, IN, MI)
When Bill Welsch moved from Chicago to Michigan to establish a winery in 1973 he chose a fruit farm on a sandy-soiled ridge for the moderating effect of nearby Lake Michigan. Fenn Valley credits “The Lake Effect Everyone Loves” for the success of its grape and fruit wines, especially the raspberry, cherry and blueberry. Enjoy complimentary tastings all year ’round, and check the calendar for special events.
Reserve a spot on the Grape Train for a vineyard tour ($8) that includes wine samples in your keepsake logo glass and coupon for wine shop purchases. The annual Wine Festival and Open House, 1-5 p.m., Saturday, June 23, features tastings through the vineyard, music, food and winemaking demonstrations.
Fenn Valley is located in Fennville near the popular Lake Michigan resort towns of Saugatuck and Douglas.
Lemon Creek Winery & Fruit Farm
533 E. Lemon Creek Rd.
Berrien Springs, MI 49103
In 1834 the Lemon family arrived in the southwest corner of Michigan, and in 1855 began farming the land worked by generations. The 300-acre Berrien County farm produces wine grapes and a variety of fruit used in winemaking and sold at the summertime farm market. Tastings of Lemon Creek’s 100 percent estate grown and bottled wines are $5 for five samples, and you keep the Lemon Creek glass.
Lemon Creek is known for its annual series of special events featuring wine, music and classic cars, including the Memorial Weekend Wine & Art Fair May 26-27, Father’s Day Festival June 17, Vintage Blues Bash July 21 and Harvest Festival September 8. Want to learn to turn grapes into wine? Check the website for details on the Home Wine Makers Event in late September.
Southwestern Michigan Tourist Council: www.swmichigan.org/
Black Star Farms
10844 E. Revold Rd.
Suttons Bay, MI 49682
Follow the winding drive past rows of grapevines to a brilliant red manse with gleaming white pillars that would look more at home in Kentucky horse country than along the 45th parallel near Suttons Bay. Built as an equestrian center, Black Star Farms has grown into a 160-acre agricultural tourism destination with cherry orchard, farm animals, vegetable crops and farmers market, cheese-producing creamery, distillery, vineyard and winery.
Sample award-winning Riesling, Cabernet Franc and Pinot Noir beneath the soaring ceiling of the handsome post-and-beam tasting room; five tastes are $5 with a keepsake glass.
In warm-weather months the Hearth & Vine wine bar and café serves wood-fired pizzas and other casual fare. The luxurious, 10-room Bed & Breakfast Inn is open year-round (rooms from $225).
15900 Rue de Vin
Traverse City, MI 49686
Sip a glass of wine and take in the sweeping views of vineyards, woods and the sparkling waters of Grand Traverse Bay from the patio at Chateau Chantal. The European-inspired winery and 11-room Bed & Breakfast sit high on a ridge a dozen miles north of Traverse City.
Located on Old Mission Peninsula along the 45th parallel, Chateau Chantal offers complimentary tastings of its Chardonnay, Riesling, Pinot Noir and other varietals year-round. Summers are special with daily winery tours and free Jazz at Sunset on Thursday evenings. Reserve a spot for a lunchtime Tapas Tour ($28) or a seven-course wine dinner ($70) for abundant food and wine pairings. Complete the experience with an overnight stay at one of Gayot’s Top 10 Wine Country Inns in the U.S. (rooms from $155).
Garden Bay Winery
321 Superior St.
Munising, MI 49682
The label’s illustration of berries and blue wine bottle in the shape of the Upper Peninsula says it all: Garden Bay Winery specializes in fruit wines “made with a lot of berries and a lot of love.”
Ask for the story behind Garden Riot, a blend of berries, and be aware if you sip Northern Lights, a blackberry wine: “It has a higher alcohol content so that’s kind of fun,” says owner Gloria Anderson.
She and her husband John Lucas founded the winery on the Garden Peninsula, on Lake Michigan in the southern U.P. The tasting room is north of there in Munising, near the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore on Lake Superior. That’s where you can sample three fruit and grape wines for $5 (keep the glass) and buy works by local artists including daughter Emily Lucas, who designed that colorful wine label logo.
Mackinaw Trail Winery 103 W. Lakeshore Dr.
Manistique, MI 49854
Laurie and Ralph Stabile blazed the trail for commercial winemaking in the Upper Peninsula when they opened the first winery there in 2005. Now three other winemakers have followed suit and produce fruit of the vine in the northernmost part of the state.
Mackinaw Trail, based in Manistique on Lake Michigan, grew out of the Stabile family’s tradition of winemaking. Among its grape varieties, Mackinaw Trail’s medal-winning White Ibis and signature Big Red are popular; favorite fruit wines include the sweet dessert RazzBerry, cranberry, blueberry and the new Cherry Sangria and Strawberry Rhubarb. Samples are five for $5, including the glass. Visit the tasting room at the Manistique marina on summer Saturday evenings for free live music beginning June 23.
Manistique Visitor Info: www.visitmanistique.com/
Michigan Travel Information: www.michigan.org