Since the 1970s, Michigan has been making its mark as a major wine producer in the U.S. wine industry. The state is now called home by over 100 wineries, whose size combined  makes up thousands of acres of vineyards. Now, the state has soared into the top 10 wine-producing states in the nation and is a top destination for wine tasting in the country. Wondering what led to this and what some of the top wineries in the state are? Let’s explore this in more detail below.

The meteoric rise in popularity of Michigan’s wines

What caused this meteoric rise in winemaking and popularity in Michigan wines? The answer is simple. QUALITY! For many years, Michigan was known for fruity or tart wines, mostly made from cherries and other fruits, and less frequently from grapes. The grapes that were grown more in past years were Concord or Niagara. However, over the last decade alone, many more varieties have been grown in Michigan and the quality of Michigan wines is getting the attention of renowned wine critics around the country.

Top restaurants around the Midwest are adding Michigan wines to their stellar wine lists as well! “If there’s one word to apply to Michigan wine, it’s freshness,” says Eduard Seitan, a partner in Chicago’s One Off Hospitality Group. Seitan is a champion of Michigan wines, featuring them on wine lists at the Publican, Publican Quality Meats, and the recently closed Michelin-starred Blackbird, which boasted Michigan vino. “They’re bright, zippy, and the best part is the acidity.” The Boka Group, The Gage, and other prominent hotels and restaurants are also featuring Michigan wines! Michigan is here to stay.

Certain grapes love cool climates and these varieties can also grow in the Lake Michigan Shore and Fennville areas, located 200-plus miles south of Old Mission and Leelanau. In addition, the slightly warmer climate of the southern American Viticultural Areas (AVAs) allows these regions to grow grapes such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, and Chardonnay, to produce robust, hearty wines. While the areas are different from each other, there is something that ties Michigan wines together. These areas are very popular areas to explore and begin your wine-tasting adventures.

Michigan comprises five official AVAs: Lake Michigan Shore and Fennville, located in the southwest corner of the state, and Leelanau Peninsula, Old Mission Peninsula, and Tip of the Mitt set along the northwestern shores of Lake Michigan.

St. Julian Winery, the state’s oldest producer, turned 100 years old in 2021, and today, Michigan claims approximately 200 wineries — many of which are located within 25 miles of Lake Michigan. According to the Michigan Craft Beverage Council, the state produced 3.6 million gallons of wine in 2019.

For many years, much of that wine was sweet, often coming from a variety of fruits (after all, the state is known for producing most of America’s tart cherries). Other wines were made from vitis labrusca grapes such as Concord and Niagara, as well as hybrid grapes like Traminette and Chambourcin. Suffice to say, the wines weren’t on par with Napa’s world-class wines.

Michigan ice wine!

Michigan ice wine is a true labor of love that’s done for the sheer passion of winemaking. But what is this much-loved ice wine that we are talking about? It’s all about the process of creating it. It all starts in winter when it’s time to pick the grapes for this delicious nectar of the gods. But not just any cold temperature will do. In fact, grapes are only picked when the temperature hits just under 20 degrees Fahrenheit. If you’re wondering why this is the case, it’s because the water inside the grapes is frozen but the sugars remain unaffected. From there, the process begins to create a longtime favorite of wine lovers worldwide.

Old Mission and Leelanau peninsulas have, in recent years, become known for producing wines from cooler-climate grape varieties like Riesling, Pinot Blanc, Gruner Veltliner, Cabernet Franc, Gamay, Blaufränkisch, and many more. Here, you can find well-balanced gorgeous wines with bright acidity and subtle flavors with spice and herbaceousness.

Top Michigan wineries and their amazing wine selections

Here are some beautiful Michigan wineries with amazing wine selections to get you started on an amazing wine adventure.

Fenn Valley Vineyards

Fenn Valley Vineyards is one of the most established wineries in Fennville, becoming a major household name among wine lovers. Established in 1973, this is a Welsh family-owned winery, which carefully selected the land in Michigan to grow its grapes on and create its distinct wine tastes. From Roses to Chardonnays, you will be spoiled with choices with all the options available from this winemaker.

Lemon Creek Winery

Located in West Michigan, the Lemon Creek Winery is a family-run operation, where traditions as old as 160 years continue to thrive to this day. Indeed, the grapes grown on this vineyard are crushed and bottled by the family members themselves, keeping up with centuries-old traditions and ensuring a truly local, immersive experience.

Mari Vineyards

Looking for a European atmosphere while you sip on some delectable wine? Why not enjoy the stone arches of the elegant tasting room at Mari Vineyards? This winemaker specializes in Italian-style wines and the location itself is absolutely gorgeous as it overlooks the peninsula vineyards. A completely breathtaking experience that you don’t want to miss. It is located at 8175 Center Rd, Traverse City, Michigan – this is an experience you absolutely must add to your to-do list.

Chateau Chantal Winery and Inn

Chateau Chantal’s founding couple, Robert and Nadine Begin, have a back story a Hollywood screenwriter could appreciate: he is a former Catholic priest, she is a former nun. Together they purchased this beautiful property on the Old Mission Peninsula with sweeping views of Grand Traverse Bay, vineyards, and rolling hills. The well-appointed tasting room offers a range of tasting and touring options, wine dinners, and a host of other events, including jazz concerts on Thursday evenings in the summer. The upscale bed & breakfast makes a great home base for area wine visits.

Chateau Grand Traverse

Chateau Grand Traverse and its owners, the O’Keefe family, deserve credit for helping to bring the Old Mission Peninsula — a strip of land jutting into Grand Traverse Bay — to prominence. Today, Chateau Grand Traverse is the largest commercial winery in northern Michigan. The spacious, bustling, year-round tasting room offers two very affordable five-wine flights, and you can sample the wine with munchies on The Patio in all but the coldest months. Be sure to try the outstanding Rieslings. Guests can also stay at The Inn at Chateau Grand Traverse.

St. Julian Winery

This southwestern Michigan winery, the state’s oldest and largest, has a colorful history. Founder Mariano Meconi flourished as a winemaker in Prohibition-era Ontario, Canada, but he moved his operation to Detroit after repeal. Named after the patron saint of Meconi’s home village in Italy, (the winery’s motto: “Italian roots, Michigan soil”), St. Julian continues to grow and innovate, producing over 60 products in every conceivable style, from crisp Riesling to Solera Cream Sherry to vodka. The standard tasting at the main Paw Paw winery is for six samples, but you can reserve ahead for various enhanced tastings, which pair each wine with cheese or chocolate.

It’s time to discover the beauty of Michigan and its amazing world of wines!

The amazing world of Michigan wines is not to be missed! From the gorgeous scenery of rolling hills and green rows of vineyards to the absolutely delectable tastes of different wine varieties, you’re in for a treat when you decide to explore the top wineries in the state.

Of course, at Bus Connection we completely understand that there’s no better way to enjoy a glass of wine (or three) than without having to worry about how you’ll travel from winery to winery. This is why we’ve taken all the hassle out of your wine-tasting trip by offering you the best of both worlds: you get to sip on some amazing wine while we transport you from winery to winery. Our transportation options are diverse and we can cater to groups both large and small. All while ensuring you complete convenience and comfort during your journey.

Get in touch with us today to help you arrange your wine-tasting adventure. As the summer approaches, this is an activity that’s not to be missed!