Where, oh, where, do you begin?
This region of the state is ideal for cultivating nearly 14,000 acres of vines of multiple grape varieties, making us the fourth largest grape-growing state. Not all of it is for wine, however. Most of it is for juice grapes (i.e., Concord grape). Wine grapes grown here – due to the special care taken by the wineries and because of the unique combination of the elements and weather — consistently produce high quality, award-winning wines. In fact, Michigan is fifth in the country for wine production and attracts more than 1.7 million visitors a year.
Have you been able to count yourself among them? If not, then add a wine tour to your summer or fall itinerary. In the Northwest region, where about 55 percent of wine grapes are grown, there are multiple wine trails you follow to enjoy a Michigan chardonnay, Riesling, pinot noir, pinot gris, cabernet franc, ice wine (specialty), blends, and more.
Tip of the Mitt Wine Trail
For a trail map, visit: petoskey.wine
In an area that’s known for its scenic beauty and small town charm, you’ll find at least 12 wineries ready to give you a taste of their vintages. The route follows Little Traverse bay as well as several inland lakes. Not as well-known or busy as the Leelanau and Old Mission Peninsula wine trails, who seem to get more of the hype, this can be the perfect wine trail for a more relaxing, meandering experience. Towns you’ll visit include Charlevoix, Petoskey, Harbor Springs, and Indian River. And the wineries are just as unique and beautiful as the towns themselves, and many of them have cider or craft beer as well. Most are kid-friendly, too, and offer either a restaurant or small bites to enjoy along with your wine.
Leelanau Peninsula Wine Trail
For a trail map, visit: lpwines.com
There are 24 wineries – and more in the planning stages – in this little slice of heaven. You may want to take a long weekend if you want to experience them all. There is the main trail, but there are also three mini-trails: Sleeping Bear Loop, Northern Loop, and Grand Traverse Bay Loop. The views and hospitable, laid back personalities of the owners and winemakers seem to transport you to another world. Many provide tours, seasonally of course. This is the largest and oldest wine trail in Michigan. Check the website for events, some of which are ticketed and nearly always sell out.
Wineries of Old Mission Peninsula
For a trail map, visit: wineriesofomp.com
Each of the 10 tasting rooms on the Old Mission Peninsula has its own unique character, from old world to modern. And the views from many of them can’t be beat: Take in the sight of East Bay, West Bay, or both! Go on a winemaking tour and also be sure to ask the attendants at the counter which wines are their favorites. There are so many to choose from, they’ll probably be able to point you in a new direction. One of the best parts of this wine trail? Take 37 all the way to the tip of the peninsula and enjoy some of your new wine at the Old Mission Lighthouse. If you manage to get there for sunset, it doesn’t get more romantic than that.
Of course, be responsible if you’ll be driving yourself. Designate a driver or consider looking into a touring company that can do the driving for you. A bit of a splurge, but it keeps only safe drivers on the road and allows everyone in your group to enjoy the wine tasting experience in Northwest Lower Michigan.
Note: The wineries on these trails are considered members. Wineries may choose to opt in and as such not all wineries in a particular region may be represented.