The Napa Valley of the Midwest
You may have heard of Grand Rapids, Michigan—or, Beer City USA. Yet it's not all craft beer in The Mitten State. Wine Enthusiast recently named Michigan one of six global wine regions on the rise. In fact, the region is heralded as the "Napa Valley of the Midwest."
(What? With all that snow and ice?)
Michigan, a land of "lake effect" snow, is famous for its ice wines. Ice wine grapes are harvested at 18 degrees Fahrenheit, while the grapes are partially frozen on the vine. Other grape-growing regions of the United States just don't get cold enough.
In addition to its ice wines, however, Wine Enthusiast notes that critics are increasingly praising the quality of Michigan's other diverse outputs, including Cabernet Franc, Riesling, Merlot and Pinot Blanc.
That's because there's more to "lake effect" than the snow.
Most of Michigan's quality wine grapes grow within 25 miles of Lake Michigan, which has a moderating effect on the climate and benefits wine production by protecting the vines with snow in winter, slowing bud break in spring to avoid frost damage, and extending the growing season by up to four weeks.
Michigan has four wine grape-growing regions: Fennville, Lake Michigan Shore, Leelanau Peninsula and Old Mission Peninsula. The regions' 121 commercial wineries bottle more than 2.3 million gallons of wine annually, and their three distinct wine trails offer fine wine and Pure Michigan experiences.
Lake Michigan Shore
The rolling hills of Southwest Michigan are home to more than a dozen wineries and tasting rooms—all within a short drive of one another, and each offering a different experience. If you're looking for a wine trail that covers a lot of ground, consider the Lake Michigan Shore Wine Trail as your guide. Of Michigan's wine regions, Lake Michigan Shore is the largest—in part because it completely contains the Fennville region's 75,000 acres.
The largest and oldest wine trail in Michigan boasts 24 wineries located within diverse microclimates uniquely suited for a variety of wine grapes. Three mini trails—Sleeping Bear, Northern and Grand Traverse Bay Loops—make touring easy.
Old Mission Peninsula
The nine distinct wineries of the Old Mission Peninsula are located on the 45th parallel, which also threads through some of the world's greatest wine regions, including Italy's Piedmont region. Stretching 19 miles in Lake Michigan's Grand Traverse Bay, the area is nearly surrounded by turquoise waters and offers opportunities for breezy beach days.
Written by Cassie Westrate, staff writer for Groups Today.
Photo courtesy of Lake Michigan Shore Wine Trail.