Michigan wine

Michigan wine
Michigan (wine region)
Old Mission Peninsula.jpg
A view from Chateau Chantal on Michigan's Old Mission Peninsula
Official name State of Michigan
Type U.S. state
Year established 1837
Years of wine industry 1933-present
Country USA
Sub-regions Fennville AVA, Lake Michigan Shore AVA, Leelanau Peninsula AVA, Old Mission Peninsula AVA
Total area 97,990 square miles (253,793 km2)
Size of planted vineyards 2,000 acres (810 ha)[1]
Grapes produced Baco Noir, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Catawba, Cayuga, Chambourcin, Chancellor, Chardonnay, Concord, Gamay Noir, Gewürztraminer, Kerner, Lemberger, Leon Millot, Marechal Foch, Merlot, Niagara, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Seyval Blanc, Syrah, Traminette, Valiant, Vidal Blanc, Vignoles[2]
No. of wineries 64
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Michigan wine refers to any wine that is made in the U.S. state of Michigan. As of 2007, there were 2,000 acres (810 ha) under wine-grape cultivation and 64 commercial wineries in Michigan, producing 425,000 cases of wine (1 million US gallons (3,800 m3)).[1] According to another count there were 112 operating wineries in Michigan in 2007.[3] Wine and wine tourism were estimated in 2007 to be a $100 million industry.[1] Most of the quality bottled wine of Michigan is produced in the four listed American Viticultural Areas (AVAs) of Fennville AVA, Lake Michigan Shore AVA, Leelanau Peninsula AVA, and the Old Mission Peninsula AVA. Besides grape wine, Michigan is a leader in the production of fruit wines such as cherry wine.



The traditional wines of Michigan were sweet wines, often made from grape varieties native to North America, such as the Catawba, Concord, and Niagara, or from hybrid grapes partly developed by crossing native species with vinifera grapes. North American native grapes have the advantage of being adapted to local growing conditions, with consequent high fruit yield. In addition, growers can switch back and forth between the production of sweet wine and grape juice. Of Michigan's 14,600 acres (5,900 ha) under grape cultivation, only 12%, 1,800 acres (730 ha), were devoted to wine grapes as of 2007.[1]

Michigan's wine industry dates from after the repeal of Prohibition. With large plantings of Concord in the southwest, mostly for the Welch Grape Juice Company, the state was well positioned to enter wine production. Four large wineries (out of eleven wineries established by 1946) came to produce almost all Michigan wine: La Salle Wine and Champagne Company which was established in Windsor, Ontario and moved to Farmington, Michigan, the Bronte Champagne and Wines Company of Hartford, Michigan Wineries (now Tabor Hill Winery) of Buchanan, and St. Julian Winery, which was also established in Windsor, Ontario on the Canadian shore across from Detroit during Prohibition and moved to Paw Paw after repeal.

Vineyard on the Leelanau peninsula

To promote the local industry, Michigan law in the mid-20th century placed a tax of 4 cents per U.S. gallon on Michigan wine while other wine was taxed at 50 cents per U.S. gallon. Michigan wine of that era was, primarily, fermented to dryness, giving about 9% alcohol, and then fortified with California brandy to 16% alcohol. State laws considered this natural wine and allowed it to be sold in grocery and drug stores while fortified wines from out-of-state, produced to 18-20% alcohol, could only be sold from state liquor stores.[4]

The wineries of Michigan specialized in sweet wine and fruit wine well into the 1970s. With the growth in demand, starting in the latter half of the 20th century, for locally-grown and locally-labeled U.S. fine wines, several existing Michigan makers of sweet wine experimented with upgrading their production, and new vintners entered the scene. Tabor Hill Winery in southwest Michigan, opened in 1971 as the first Michigan winery specializing in vinifera wines. Only a few years later in 1974, Chateau Grand Traverse opened in the Traverse Bay region of Northern Michigan. A slow growth in the number of wineries and continued trials of different vinifera varieties continued well into the 2000s.[4]


The four AVAs of Michigan.

Michigan contains four American Viticultural Areas (AVAs), regions whose wines share similar and distinct characteristics: Fennville, Lake Michigan Shore, Leelanau Peninsula, and Old Mission Peninsula. All four regions are located in proximity to Lake Michigan, and almost all of Michigan's wine grapes are grown within 25 miles (40 km) of the lake. The lake effect provides a favorable microclimate compared to interior regions of the state. The northern wine regions have a 145-day growing season while the southern ones have a 160-day season.

The Greater Traverse City area, which includes the peninsulas of Leelanau and Old Mission, is one of the primary wine regions of Michigan. The soil is sandy, with good drainage, and a lake-dominated climate allows a longer growing season than in most of the U.S. Midwest. 51% of Michigan's wine grapes, including much of the state's vinifera grapes, are grown in this area.

The same advantages exist, to a slightly lesser degree, on the eastern shore of Lake Michigan south of Grand Rapids in the Fennville and Lake Michigan Shore regions. 45% of Michigan's wine grapes are grown in this area.

Grape varieties

Most of the grapes grown in Michigan are grown for "table" uses (like jelly and grape juice), not wine. Of 100,000 short tons of grapes produced in 2005, only 4,600 tons were used for wine-making. However, the proportion of vinifera grapes used in winemaking is increasing. In 2005, the wine industry pressed 2,640 tons of European vinifera grapes, 1,660 tons of hybrid varieties, and 300 tons of American varieties. European grapes grown include Cabernet Franc, Chardonnay, Gewürztraminer, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Syrah, Pinot Gris, and Riesling.[5]

Speciality wines

Ice wine

The climate of Greater Traverse City allows for the production of ice wine, which requires an early hard freeze so the fruit still on the vine can be harvested while frozen. A small number of wineries produce this style; although it is not possible every year. In 2002, for example, 6 Michigan wineries produced over 13,000 half-bottles of ice wine, a record at that time.[6]

Ice wine was first produced in Michigan in 1983 by Mark Johnson, who at the time, was working at Chateau Grand Traverse and is currently the head winemaker at Chateau Chantal. Northern Michigan wineries follow some of the German practices that govern what wine qualifies as ice wine. German law dictates that ice wine must be picked only when the grapes are frozen on the vine, while United States law allows for wine to be sold as ice wine if the grapes are picked and then artificially frozen.[7] Because of the impossibility of predicting nature, making ice wine requires a great deal of luck. The grapes are generally picked in December after prolonged below freezing temperatures, to ensure they are frozen all the way through. But in warmer years the grapes cannot be picked until late into January. It can also be difficult to protect the grapes from birds and wind as they stay on the vine until after they are very ripe.[8]

Fruit wine

Cranberry wine and vineyard in the Lake Michigan Shore AVA

Michigan may be the foremost U.S. state in the production of diverse varieties of bottled, fermented fruit wine. Fruit wine has a long and honorable history in Europe, especially in regions such as Poland and the Baltic states where grapes do not easily grow. In Michigan, apple wine and cherry wine are produced in the highest volume, but almost any fruit juice can be fermented with novel results. Michigan is the leading state for tart cherry production and much of the Traverse City vineyard land was formerly cherry orchards. A number of Michigan wineries produce cherry wine, spice cherry wine and cherry-grape blends. Michigan is a North American leader in the production of fortified fruit wines and eau-de-vie (fruit brandy).

Ongoing issues

Tourism synergy

As with other states, the Michigan wine industry is seen as an attractive example of regional cuisine and is supported by tourists. More than 800,000 tourists visited Michigan wineries in 2005.[3]

State support

The wine industry in Michigan is supported by an agricultural research program at Michigan State University which began experimental vineyards around the state in 1970 and established a winery on campus in 1972. The Michigan Grape and Wine Industry Council is a state agency established in 1985 to promote and support Michigan wineries.[4]

Future prospects

A warming trend in the climate of the Great Lakes region could increase Michigan vinifera productivity and lead to a higher profile for Michigan wines. However, Michigan vineyards, particularly vinifera vineyards, remain vulnerable to late spring and early fall cold snaps, such as the killing frost of March, 2003, insufficient growing season heat to fully ripen the grapes, and rot or mildew originating from rainfall while the grapes are maturing. The Michigan Grape and Wine Industry Council has set a goal of 10,000 acres (4,000 ha) of wine grape production and 3 million cases of Michigan-produced wines annually by 2024, about 10 times current production.[9] Consumption of Michigan wine has risen from 1.5% of all wine consumed in Michigan in 1997 to 5.2% in 2006 with the number of wineries rising from about 16 to 50 in the same period.[10] Michigan liquor law revisions in 2005 affirmed the right of wineries to sell from their tasting rooms, ship wine directly to consumers, and sell directly to licensed retailers and restaurants, bypassing wholesale distributors.[11]

Michigan Wineries

As of 2011 there were 81 Wineries operating in Michigan. A large number of these wineries operate within the 4 Viticultaral areas of Michigan.[12]

Upper Peninsula

Garden Bay Winery, Mackinaw Trail Winery, Threefold Vine Winery


Dizzy Daisy Winery and Vineyard, Nicholas's Black River Vineyard and Winery, Rose Valley Winery, Inc., Stoney Acres Winery, Valley Mist Vineyards


A northwest Michigan vineyard in fall

2 Lads Winery, Bel Lago Vineyard & Winery, Black Star Farms, Black Star Farms Old Mission, Boskydel Vineyards, Bowers Harbor Vineyards, Brys Estate Vineyard and Winery, Chateau Chantal Winery & Inn, Chateau de Leelanau, Chateau Fontaine, Chateau Grand Traverse, Cherry Republic Winery, Ciccone Vineyard and Winery, Circa Estate Winery, Douglas Valley Organic Vineyards, Forty-Five North, Vineyard & Winery, Fox Barn Market and Winery, Gill's Pier Vineyard and Winery, Good Harbor Vineyards, Jomagrha Vineyards and Winery, Krolczyk Cellars, L. Mawby Vineyards, Leelanau Cellars, Left Foot Charley, Longview Winery, Northern Natural Winery, Peninsula Cellars, Pleasantview Vineyards, Raftshol Vineyards, Shady Lane Cellars, Silver Leaf Vineyard & Winery, Tartan Hill Winery, Willow Vineyards


Blue Water Winery and Vineyard, Burgdorf's Winery, Carriage House Cellars, Chateau Aeronautique Winery, Cherry Creek Cellars, Cherry Creek, Old Schoolhouse Winery, J. Trees Cellars, Lone Oak Vineyard Estate, Old Town Hall Winery, Pentamere Winery, Sandhill Crane Vineyards, Sandy Shores Winery,Sleeping Bear Winery, Uncle John's Fruit House Winery, Wolcott Winery


Cascade Winery,Clay Avenue Cellars, Cody Kresta Vineyard and Winery, Contessa Wine Cellars, Country Mill Winery, Domaine Berrien Cellars, Fenn Valley Vineyards, Founders Wine Cellar, Free Run Cellars, Hickory Creek Winery, Karma Vista Vineyards, Lake Effect Winery, Lehman's Orchard, Lawton Ridge Winery, Lemon Creek Winery, McIntosh Apple Orchards & Winery, Old Shore Vineyards, Peterson & Sons Winery, Robinette Cellars, Round Barn Winery and Distillery, St. Julian Wine Company, Tabor Hill Winery & Restaurant, Warner Vineyards, White Pine Winery and Vineyards, Wyncroft

Wine Events

Listed alphabetically:

Blossom Days

The Original Traverse City Cherry Festival began in 1925 as the Blessing of the Blossoms Festival. This Festival was originally an event held in early May to attract tourists to Northern Michigan to view the cherry blossoms. In 1931 the Michigan Legislature renamed the festival the National Cherry Festival, and moved the event to the summer.[13] The Wineries of Old Mission Peninsula restarted this tradition in 2004 by hosting the Blossom Days Festival. The festival is a two day event with a non-denominational ceremony taking place to bless the cherry and grape blossoms for the coming growing season. The 2011 Blossom days event took place on May 14th and 15th and the Blessing of the Blossoms was performed by Bishop Bernard Hedba and took place at Chateau Chantal.[14]

Great Lakes Wine Festival

Starting in 2010, Michigan International Speedway has hosted the annual Great Lakes Wine Festival. In 2011, 25 Michigan wineries and 17 breweries attended this event. The 2011 Great Lakes Wine Festival was a three day event beginning Friday May 20th until Sunday May 22nd. The festival offers people to opportunity to taste Michigan wine from all over the state and gives them the chance for wineries to demonstrate food pairings. MIS has camping available for festival goers to spend the entire weekend.[15]

Paw Paw Wine and Harvest Festival

The Paw Paw Wine and Harvest Festival is a three-day event held on the second weekend of September in Paw Paw, Michigan.[16]

Awards and Recognition

In 2010, USA Today named Traverse City one the Top Ten Places for Local Wine.[17]


  1. ^ a b c d Michigan Grape and Wine Industry Council (2007). "Michigan Wines Fast Facts". Retrieved Aug. 26, 2007.
  2. ^ Appellation America (2007). "Michigan: Appellation Description". Retrieved Nov. 16, 2007.
  3. ^ a b "Midwestern wine: Move over, California", The Economist, August 23, 2008 [1], accessed September 7, 2008
  4. ^ a b c Pinney, Thomas (2005). A History of Wine in America: From Prohibition to the Present. Berkeley: University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-24176-2. 
  5. ^ Fruit Production 2005, U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Agricultural Statistics Service, Michigan Field Office, January 25, 2006, [2], accessed July 20, 2006
  6. ^ Record number of Michigan wineries make ice wine in 2002 vintage, (January 2, 2003), Sandra Silfven, Detroit News, accessed July 18, 2006.[3]
  7. ^ http://barbaradiggs.files.wordpress.com/2010/01/wine.pdf
  8. ^ http://www.winesandvines.com/template.cfm?section=features&content=49688&ftitle=Michigan%20Ice%20Wine%20Rises%20When%20Mercury%20Falls
  9. ^ Michigan Grape and Wine Industry Council Research and Education Advisory Committee: Funding Priorities, 22 May 2006, David P. Miller, accessed July 18, 2006.[4]
  10. ^ "Michigan Grapevine: Business aims to convert Michigan wine skeptics into buyers", Traverse City Business News, Cari Noga, July 2007, Vol. 13 Number 12, accessed August 24, 2007
  11. ^ Michigan Public Act 268 of 2005 and Michigan Public Act 269 of 2005, accessed Aug. 8, 2008.
  12. ^ http://www.michiganwines.com/page.php?menu_id=106
  13. ^ http://archives.record-eagle.com/2007/jul/10ncf_heritage.htm
  14. ^ http://calendar.record-eagle.com/events/index.php?com=detail&eID=87562
  15. ^ http://www.mispeedway.com/Events/Great-Lakes-Wine-Fest.aspx
  16. ^ ""Paw Paw Wine and Harvest Festival"". Paw Paw Wine and Harvest Festival. http://www.wineandharvestfestival.com/. Retrieved 2011-08-06. 
  17. ^ http://www.usatoday.com/travel/destinations/10great/2010-10-07-local-wines_N.htm

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