Skip to main content

A Quick and Easy Guide to Michigan Wine

Next time you’re looking to wow friends with a bizarre drinks-related factoid, tell them this: Michigan is the nation’s sixth-largest producer of wine. For a state more recognized for its contributions to music, the automobile industry, and for some massive lakes, it can be a bit of a head-scratcher.

Like a lot of Midwestern states, Michigan started out in sweet wine. In fact, it still makes quite a bit of the stuff, and it also continues to be a leader in fruit wine and fortified fruit wines, cherry especially. But in the last couple of decades, wine grapes have found a home here — to the extent that some locals are dubbing the state’s wine scene as the Napa of the Midwest.

detroit vineyards
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Presently the state is set up with five different appellations: Lake Michigan Shore, Fennville, Leelanau Peninsula, Old Mission Peninsula, and the wonderfully named Tip of the Mitt. By recent estimates, some 150 producers exist over this span, specializing in Cab Franc, Gewürztraminer, Merlot, Chardonnay, Syrah, and Riesling, as well as a few others.

The vast majority of the state’s grapes are grown within about 25 miles of Lake Michigan. The lake effect is real and vital, as the rest of the state routinely turns out conditions that are simply too harsh for most wine grapes. Traverse City is a big draw, a town of about 16,000 centrally located along the wine trail.

Like Virginia and Texas, it’ll be interesting to see how Michigan wine culture comes of age. At the moment, it’s a growing industry with a fair amount of potential—one that will only get wiser and better as future generations take to the task of winemaking.

Some stops of note, should you find yourself in The Great Lakes State:

Brys Estate

brys estate
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Set in Traverse City, Brys Estate rests on 91 acres including a tasting room, sprawling deck overlooking vineyards, garden, and guest lodging. The brand focuses on Riesling, makes an un-oaked Chardonnay and even takes a stab at finicky Pinot Noir. Rosé enthusiasts will find joy in Brys’ lush but dry version, made from Cab Franc, Merlot, and Pinot.

2 Lads

2 lads sunny
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Another Traverse City spot, 2 Lads is a pretty and modern slice of architecture. The tasting room gazes east at Grand Traverse Bay while the winemaking facility is a gravity-flow operation, which offers a lighter winemaking touch. The wines are soft and flavorful and include Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, and some bubbles.

Chateau Fontaine

chateau fontaine
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Lake Leelanau’s Chateau Fontaine is very much a family-run project, responsible for some 15 varietals and a decidedly homespun label. The Matthies family attributes some of the resident grapes’ success to south-facing aspects and good pH levels. The wines that stand out most are the Rieslings (sweet and dry) and a bracing Pinot Blanc.

Detroit Vineyards

Detroit Vineyards Interior
Detroit Vineyards/Facebook

Regardless of what you think about urban wineries or what they’re capable of producing, this one touts a cool history. Detroit Vineyards, located in the heart of the Motor City, stems from one of the first vineyard plantings in the U.S., dating back to 1702. While the winery brings in a lot of the fruit from beyond city limits today, the production still takes place in-house and deals in interesting grapes like the hybrid Traminette and a Merlot Rosé. The brand also turns out some cider and mead. 

Dablon Vineyards

Dablon Vineyards - Our Story

Located in Baroda, Dablon Vineyards has turned the former fertile grounds for Concord grapes into rows of Burgundian varieties like Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. The tasting room is setup with a fireplace and patio and the vineyards continue to expand, with newer rows of grapes like Malbec, Tannat, Tempranillo and Nebbiolo joining the estate lineup.

Editors' Recommendations

Mark Stock
Mark Stock is a writer from Portland, Oregon. He fell into wine during the Recession and has been fixated on the stuff since…
The truth about cooking with wine — everything you need to know
Confused about how to cook with wine? We've got you covered.
cooking with wine myths tips and tricks man

We've all seen them. Those stale, falsely rustic home decor signs that boast tired sayings like, "I love cooking with wine, sometimes I even put it in the food!" or "Drink wine. It isn't good to keep things bottled up." The chortles these decor pieces get, however frequently they can be found at discount retailers, are never in short supply. People love to boast their love for wine, and if we're totally honest, we're no exception. We love a good bottle both for its drinkability and its generosity in flavoring a dish. But when it comes to using this sacred nectar in the cooking process, things can sometimes become a bit confusing. So we're here to answer all of those burning questions you may have when it comes to cooking with wine.

Why cook with wine?
Apart from its obvious sexiness, there are lots of other reasons to uncork a bottle when whipping up a delicious meal. In addition to the bold, unique, rich flavor wine adds to a dish, its acidity can also help to tenderize meat, poultry, and seafood.  Depending on the wine used and the dish being prepared, as the alcohol burns off, the complexity and flavor of the wine will concentrate, making for an extremely flavorful dish.

Read more
How to order wine, according to a seasoned pro
Need a little more confidence when it comes to ordering wine? We've got some pro tips to share.
White wine

When a wine list the size of an encyclopedia is dropped on your table, it's easy to be intimidated. Ordering wine should be an enjoyable adventure, not a daunting task. To make sure of that, we reached out to an industry pro for some sage advice.

Our wine expert revealed some great tips for navigating wine lists, ordering something you'll actually like, and not breaking the bank in the process. Next time you're at a restaurant or wandering through a bottle shop, you'll know just what to do. Better, you may even discover a new favorite winemaker or varietal. Read on for excellent tips on how to order wine.

Read more
Experience summer the right way with organic, travel-friendly wines from Besa mi Vino
besa mi vino organic canned wine review img 0545  2

Summer's sunshine, fresh air, and blue skies have one undeniable effect on everyone: it brings us outside. Summer is, after all, a season of the great al fresco. When dining and drinking outdoors, a sophisticated brand of canned wine is almost essential. Besa mi Vino, a Santa Monica-based company founded by brothers Michael and Roddy Radnia, brings more than a dash of fun to the world of environmentally conscious organic wine. Grab a can and come with us as we explore the Besa mi Vino-verse.
Canned wine is one of those products that has undergone a complete makeover in the last twenty years. Nowadays, it's easy to see that the benefits of canned wine over glass bottles are enormous. It's fairly obvious that cans are lighter, more compact, and simpler to open than a traditional glass bottle. They're also easier to drink out of than bottles, but what happens in Vegas...

These factors all come into play for those taking their drinks outside, but there are environmental benefits to staying home with them too. Single-serve cans have a smaller carbon footprint than glass bottles and are easier to recycle. Besa mi Vino wines are Sustainable in practice and "SIP" certified, in addition to skipping animal by-products, gluten, added sugar, and pesticides. Besa mi Vino is also low in sulfites and crafted sustainably in Paso Robles, California.

Read more