Michigan has a rich history of winelands and vineyards. Known for its traditional sweet wines, Michigan always provided the perfect climate for growing grapes native to Northern America. In turn, the state capitalized on this climate and cultivated one of the biggest wine industries in the country.
Michigan is currently the sixth-biggest wine-producing state in the country with over 190 wineries in operation, so it’s ripe for a visit!
A Brief History of Michigan Wineries
The wineries in Michigan produced speciality sweet wines and fruit wines well into the late 1970s. The oldest winery in the state, St. Julian, was founded all the way back in 1921. They were one of the wineries that specialized in wines made from Concord, Niagara, and Catawba grapes.
Which Wines are Michigan Known for Today?
Michigan is currently the fourth largest grape-growing state in the country. It might not be a state that is often associated with wine culture and the snobbism that sometimes comes with that, but in fact, they love their wines and do it a little differently to many other wine-drinking states and countries, specializing in sweet and fruity wines.
Michigan currently has over 13 000 acres of land dedicated to the cultivation and production of wine. Vineyards and wineries are scattered throughout the different wine regions within the state.
It is estimated that there are around 15 different wines that are specific to the state of Michigan, which as mentioned before focuses on ice wines, sweet wines, and fruity wines. The people of Michigan consider these unique and organic wines as delicacies and part of the history of the culture. There are 3 main grapes that produce these wines in Michigan.
These grapes are native to central Europe and the Mediterranean areas. It turns out, however, that Michigan also has the perfect climate for the growth of these grapes. They mainly produce wines within the state such as Pinot Noir and Pinot Grigio
Michigan Hybrid grapes
These grapes are unique to the state of Michigan and are a hybrid between two French and American grapes. The hybrid grapes normally produce wines such as a Gris or a Cabernet Franc.
Wine Regions in Michigan
The different wine regions within the state all provide climates that differ, even if subtly so, which in turn means that different types of grapes can be grown around the state. This means that if you decide to indulge in Michigan wine culture at some point in your life then you’ll be able to pick which part of the state needs visiting, based on the wines that they produce.
Or if you’re feeling even more adventurous than that you might do a state wine tour, visiting and enjoying wines from all the different wine regions in the state.
Lake Michigan Shore
Lake Michigan shore is officially the oldest wine-producing region in the state. Coupled with this fact it is also home to more vineyards than any other wine region in the state. It is one of the hottest tourist spots in the entire state because of the classy wineries it has to offer.
The climate in this region is also unique in that the grape growing season here is two weeks longer than any other wine region in the state. This means that in this area wineries are producing wines at a higher rate which in turn drives up tourism. This is a must-see on the Michigan wine route.
Tip of the Mitt
Located in the lower northern Michigan, the Tip of the Mitt is a 2700 square mile peninsula that is known for its delectable wines and beautiful wineries and vineyards. The soils found in the region are particularly rich, especially in comparison with some of the developing wine cultivation areas in the state. These soils offer great water retention, meaning that the vineyards here are always well hydrated. This is wonderful for wine production and healthy grapes.
The description of this region includes the entire Leelanau country, although the main grape growing and wine production take place on the peninsula. The climate here is almost perfect for wine growing except for one fatal problem – the area often experiences frost seasons. Frost will not necessarily kill grapes and halt wine production completely, but it will be harmful to young/budding grapes.
The Best Wineries in Michigan
Michigan has the fastest-growing wine industry in the United States, with one of the highest production rates. This has led to many wineries being established in the more scenic wine regions of the state mentioned above. If you’re looking to plan a trip through Michigan to experience and indulge in the wine culture within its borders, then these are the wineries that you simply cannot miss.
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Situated in the Old Mission Peninsula, the Bonobo winery is a must-see. The area is surrounded on its sides by the Grand Traverse Bay of Lake Michigan making it one of the more idyllic places to enjoy wines in the whole country. The Northern Michigan winery was founded by Grand Traverse Natives and brothers Todd and Carter Oosterhouse.
The objectives of this class winery are to produce world-class wines and produce a rustic yet modern atmosphere within their wine tasting rooms. The brothers have made a commitment to the community around them and have structured large parts of their business to social responsibility regimes for the state of Michigan and the city of Traverse.
Some of the wines that Bonobo specializes in are Blanc de Blancs, sparkling Rose, and Rieslings.
Detroit Vineyards – Detroit
Situated in Detroit, this is one of the best wineries in Michigan. Surrounded by urban architecture and the modern city, Detroit Vineyards produces an experience quite unlike anything other in the wine industry. The owners of the winery worked closely with local architects from the city to produce their unique wine tasting rooms. The building is large and industrial and contrasts from the elegant norm of wine culture.
The wines, of course, are of a world-class quality, with the winery producing a wide variety of different types. Some of the new releases on their catalogue include a 2020 Sauvignon Blanc, a 2020 Blau, and a 2020 Frais.
Mawby Sparkling – Sutton Bay
Located in the Elm Valley, the Mawby Sparkling Estate was founded, and vineyards planted, in 1976. This makes it one of the older commercial wineries in the state, and with that comes a rich history. The winery has always tried to do things differently, by experimenting with traditional wine production methods to create some of the most unique and fun sparkling wines on the market.
All of the bottled wines and the ciders therein have been allowed to ferment naturally, resulting in an array of different styles of wines ranging from richness to freshness. The tank-fermented wines are produced with grapes sourced from Washington, California, or right one home soil in Michigan.
Some of Mawby’s signature wines include their estate-grown Talis or Pinot Noir, their dark berry Redd or Marquette, and their Chardonnay and Riesling combination.
Unmissable Michigan Wineries
The bottom line is that Michigan, despite beliefs to the contrary, is a major wine destination in the United States. Many of the current day wine industry trends in the country, such as the rise of sparkling and sweet wines, come from Michigan and their rich history in the wine industry. For those reasons alone everyone should experience the best Michigan wineries and wine culture that the state has to offer.