Raise a Glass to Michigan Wine Month
By Dianna Stampfler
It’s no secret that I LOVE Michigan wine. I drink other wine from around the country and the world of course, but I have a special place in my heart for the wines that are made here in the Great Lakes State. Maybe it’s because many of the winemakers and staff and the 130+ wineries have become friends over the years.
And, I admit, there are times when I’m out in public at a restaurant where I become a little overly-passionate and perhaps downright aggressive in my quest to enjoy Michigan wine. Yes…I’ve been known to order water, iced tea or pop when not a single Michigan wine is on the list…just to prove a point.
When was the last time YOU tried Michigan wine? I often have people tell me that “Michigan doesn’t make any good wine” or that “Michigan only makes sweet white wine.” And, I love to educate those people about how the industry has changed over the last 40 years.
When I first started working in the tourism industry in 1997, I really didn’t understand the reach of Michigan wine. I knew of a few places near where I grew up – mostly St. Julian Winery in Paw Paw (Michigan’s oldest and longest-running winery, dating back to 1921). At that time, there were about 25 wineries operating in the state – mostly in the Traverse City area and in southwest Michigan.
Today, Michigan is home to five federally-recognized American Viticultural Areas (AVA)—designated wine grape-growing region in the United States that are distinguishable by geographic features, with boundaries defined by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) of the United States Department of the Treasury. At the end of 2016, there were 238 recognized AVAs in the United States—several of which are shared by two or more states.
Most of Michigan’s wine grapes are grown within 25 miles of Lake Michigan where the “lake effect” protects the vines with snow in winter and protects against an early spring bud break and damage due to late spring frosts. Lake effect also extends the growing season by up to four weeks.
Michigan AVAs include:
- Fennville AVA (Established in 1981) – 75,000 acres
- Leelanau Peninsula AVA (Established in 1982) – 75,000 acres
- Lake Michigan Shore AVA (Established in 1983, Amended in 1987) – 1,280,000 acres
- Old Mission Peninsula AVA (Established in 1987) – 19,200 acres
- Tip of the Mitt AVA (Established in August, 2016)
Within these regions, Michigan also operates a half dozen wine trails—which host events and serve as a promotional association for locals and visitors alike. Each year, these tasting rooms attract nearly two million visitors annually, contributing to local and state tourism economies to the tune of more than $253 million dollars. These regional trails include:
- Lake Michigan Shore Wine Trail
- Southeast Michigan Pioneer Wine Trail
- Leelanau Peninsula Wine Trail
- Wineries of Old Mission
- Traverse Wine Coast
- Bay View Wine Trail
Of course, the Michigan Wine Council (MWC) is the statewide organization which represents the interests of nearly 140 wineries from coast to coast to coast. According to the MWC, Michigan has 13,100 acres of vines, making Michigan the fourth-largest grape producing state in the nation. Of that, 3,050 acres are devoted to wine grapes, ranking Michigan in the top ten wine grape producing states in the country. This brochure provides additional facts, maps and charts which provide insight into the impact the grape and wine industry has in Pure Michigan.
If you’d like to learn more about Michigan wines, you’re invited to attend the Michigan Wine & Cider Festival on Thursday, May 24 (5-8:30pm) at Eastern Market in downtown Detroit. This outdoor festival provides attendees the opportunity to meet the makers and sample product from four dozen Michigan wineries and cideries (under Michigan law, cider is made under a winemaker’s license). In addition, Detroit-based food trucks will be selling with a selection of mouth-watering fare. Tickets are $35 in advance and includes 15 sampling tickets and a souvenir tasting glass. Attendees must be 21 to enter, with a valid ID.
Of course, the 11th Annual Grand Rapids International Wine, Beer & Food Festival (November 15-17, 2018) will also feature Michigan wineries and dozens of their award-winning wines so save the date and plan on joining us at DeVos Place in downtown Grand Rapids for this popular pre-holiday celebration of all things food and beverage.
For more information, pick up a complimentary copy of Michigan Wine Country magazine at any Michigan winery or Travel Michigan Welcome Center. To request a copy, visit www.michiganwines.com/request-magazine or contact the Michigan Grape and Wine Industry Council at 517-284-5736. You can also view the publication online by clicking the title above.
Dianna Stampfler has been the publicist for the Grand Rapids International Wine, Beer & Food Festival since the very first year. She also represents countless other food and beverage organizations around her home state as the president of Promote Michigan.