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…
A Michelin-recognized restaurant’s guide to pairing drinks with Indian cuisine
From beer to wine to cocktails, the experts at Chola Coastal Indian Cuisine break down all the details.
bowl of Indian shrimp black background

When it comes to beverage pairings, French and Italian food holds the spotlight in America. But with its vast range of spices and variety, Indian food is also an amazing culinary landscape when it comes to drink pairing. If the idea of ice-cold lager combined with spicy shrimp baghari jhinga doesn't excite you, we don't know what will. 

For expert guidance, we spoke with Chola Coastal Indian Cuisine in New York City. Recognized in the Michelin Guide and a favorite of Martha Stewart, Chola breaks down every pairing from beer to wine to cocktails.
The shrimp baghari jhinga at Chola. Chola

Read more
23 easy cocktail recipes you can make at home
Check out this curated list of classic cocktail recipes to master in your own bar
Bartender making a whiskey highball

A cocktail doesn't have to be a complicated thing. In fact, many of the best classic cocktails involve just a few ingredients. These, my friends, are the cocktails you should know how to make, as they're simple to pull off and taste superb.

Maximalist cocktails with as many ingredients as there are stars in the sky are great, but better left to the pros. We like to make the ones that don't require a whole lot of special equipment (outside of a good cocktail shaker) or that take too much of your precious time. These are cocktails that tend to let your favorite spirit shine, whether it's good rye whiskey or a favorite gin.

Read more
6 easy camping cocktails to shake your post-hike thirst
Bring all these ingredients to quench your thirst in the wild
Outdoorsman's Hot Toddy

So you're camped out in your best tent for too long? Or wearily panting atop the summit of a fourteener? Perfect! Time for some easy cocktails to make everything better. Yes, that's right, when you've got the 4-1-1 behind these easy-to-make, tasty adult libations, you can enjoy a fine drink on a mountain, at the campsite, or when you're home and don't feel like cutting lemon twists or adding sugar to the rim of your cocktail glass.

The secret to making great camp cocktails is the same trick to achieving military victory: Keep it simple. There's no camp-friendly version of the Long Island iced tea, but that doesn't mean you have to stick with cheap whiskey when roughing it.

Read more