Michigan Wine Month is Officially Upon Us!

Governor Granholm has declared April Michigan Wine Month, and the opportunities to take part in wine related activities during the next few weeks are endless.

If you have the opportunity to do so, start your Michigan Wine Month off with a visit to any one of the 71 wineries – 7 more to be added by the end of the year – located throughout the state. If you aren’t able to make it to one of the wineries, there are still plenty of wine related activities to partake in around the Metro Detroit area.

Visit Michigan Wineries

Many of the wineries kicked off their season the first weekend in April and are beginning to offer tastings of their 2009 releases.  Visit the Pure Michigan site for a full list of all the wineries and a list of Michigan wine trails. I visit the wineries around the Traverse City area on a yearly basis – a relaxing weekend of wine tasting, beautiful views, and great food is a great way to welcome in Spring and say goodbye to Winter.

Wine Expo

This weekend, the Michigan Wine Expo kicks off. For wine novices who want to sip their way into the world of wine tasting, check out the Wine Tasting 101 seminar, while winos can skip the seminars and focus on the 300+ different wines being poured. I’ll be stopping by the Wine Expo on Friday, so be sure to say hi if you’re there!

Detroit Restaurant Week

On top of it being Michigan Wine Month, Detroit is holding its second Detroit Restaurant Week during the week of April 16-25, 2010 – for a fixed price of $27, diners can enjoy a three course meal at any one of the 17 DRW restaurants. Participating restaurants including The Whitney, Andiamo, Atlas Global Bistro, and Coach Insignia proudly serve a variety of Michigan wines; if you stop by one of the restaurants that hasn’t yet included Michigan wines as part of their offerings, you can always encourage them to do so in the future with a “Meal was fine” card.

Michigan Wine Flights

If you can’t make it up to one of the many wineries in Michigan during April, you can always try a Michigan Wine Flight at restaurants like Vinotecca in Royal Oak (they are currently featuring ‘Sex’ by Mawby, Shady Lane Cab Franc, and Bowers Harbor UnWooded Chardonnay).

If you’re looking to enjoy your Michigan wine in the comfort of your own home, you can purchase a few bottles at local stores and restaurants such as Joe’s Produce and Holiday Market. I always have a bottle of L. Mawby Fizz on hand, and you can’t go wrong with one of the many Michigan Cherry wines. Why not pick up a few bottles of Cherry Wine from each of the wineries that produce it, creating your own Michigan Cherry Wine flight, and plan a night in honing your wine tasting skills.

You can also join the online crowd in discussing Michigan wines by following the Wineries on Twitter list or participating in one of the Tweet & Taste Michigan (#TTMI on Twitter) wine tastings on Facebook and Twitter – Michigan wine lovers all around the world pick up a flight of the featured Michigan wine being tasted that session and compare tasting notes on Twitter.

Michigan Wine Council and Michigan Wine Country Magazine

On top of all the events planned around Michigan Wine Month, the Michigan Wine Council is also distributing the 2010 Michigan Wine Country magazine during the first few weeks of April. Anyone interested in receiving the latest issue can request a free copy.

Happy Sipping

I’ve only included a small sample of the Michigan Wine Month events occurring. For a full list of events, visit Michigan Wines. Know of an event that should be listed or were you one of the first visitors to one of the Michigan Wineries this month? Let us know below in the comments!

Rachel Kuptz writes about cocktails, wine, and dining experiences at Girly-Drinks.com. She can regularly be found online on twitter (@girlydrinks), scoping out the newest restaurants around the Metro Detroit area, and at wine and cocktail events throughout the state.

Food Finds along Lake Superior

On a recent UP scouting trip, Trevor Meers, Midwest Living’s executive editor, discovers there’s more than whitefish and pasties on the menu. Here’s a sampling of his experiences along Highway 28 between Munising and Marquette:

Pasties, a classic UP meal

Pasties, a classic UP meal

Falling Rock Café & Bookstore (Munising) A cool local sandwich shop, coffee shop and vendor of local art. I was here in 2004, but didn’t make it back on this trip. However, another group of people went there the day before I arrived and seemed to universally love it.

Brownstone Inn (Au Train) This is a lovely little stone cottage of a restaurant built in the 1940s. By the 1980s, it had closed and fallen into disrepair when Jeff Van Bremen and Deb Molitor came back from California, bought it, fixed it up and reopened it.

The interior is UP cozy: a full bar dominates the dining room, which features a stone fireplace. Deb and husband Jeff are real lovers of food and wine, so when they opened the Inn, they wanted to bring fine dining to the UP. “We’re still trying to teach people to drink wine,” she says. “People here see wine as a commitment.”

Sweet Water Café (Marquette) College towns beget some good food, and this is one example. It focuses on local and organic foods, but it’s not just for vegetarians. Great coffee and the best orange juice I’ve ever had. People were actually telling others to order it after they tried it. It tasted incredibly fresh, and had a frothy quality almost like milk for a cappuccino. Odd description, but trust me, it was great.

Vierling Restaurant in Marquette

Vierling Restaurant in Marquette

Vierling Restaurant (Marquette) A chophouse and brewery in an old brick building. The downtown location is outstanding with huge windows that look out on Lake Superior. The menu sticks to pretty straightforward chicken/beef/fish entrees, but they mix in a few others like ravioli and stir fry. It’s a welcome change from the usual suspects found on UP menus: whitefish, a pasty or a burger.

Upfront & Company (Marquette) This eatery in the basement of a brick building downtown had the most ambitious menu I’ve seen in the UP. Lots of variations on chicken (including chicken rubbed with ginger)/beef/fish (including coconut shrimp and Cajun salmon)/whitefish, plus they offer wood-fired pizzas, calzones, etc. Bands play many evenings and weekends. Good food, but slow service the night I was there.

Jean Kay’s Pasties & Subs (Marquette) When I asked about where to get the best pasties in town, a local outdoor guide steered me to this no-frills, deli-style location across the street from the University of Northern Michigan’s “Da Yooper Dome.” Owner Brian Harsch says they sell far more veggie pasties in winter because the students at UNM like them, but tourists want the straight-up meat-and-rutabaga classic.

Jasper Ridge Brewery (Ishpeming) I discovered a new ethnic sandwich, cudighi. It’s a hamburger-like concoction of spicy sausage served with pizza sauce and mozzarella on a hamburger bun. It’s of Italian descent and local to the Marquette/Munising area. The restaurant manager said local restaurants are judged on the quality of their cudighis. My vote: His were outstanding, save room for seconds, even thirds.

Trevor MeersTrevor Meers, executive editor of Midwest Living magazine, is an avid outdoorsman with a special passion for Lake Superior and the UP. His adventures on Superior have included snorkeling on shipwrecks, kayaking, fishing for lake trout, snowshoeing the shoreline, picnicking with woodland caribou and driving the Superior Circle Tour. He considers Escanaba in Da Moonlight a work of pure genius.  

Little Bavaria

In Michigan’s “Little Bavaria,” Christmas isn’t just a one-day celebration. From its warehouse-sized Christmas store to its tiny replica chapel, Frankenmuth takes the joy of the holidays into the winter months and throughout the year.

Trimmed in ribbons and pine rope, Frankenmuth’s Bavarian Inn towers over this onetime mill town along the Cass River like a castle straight from the pages of a Christmas fairy tale.

I love the storybook atmosphere that enfolds this Thumb community, from alpine-style buildings that line the business district to the covered bridge and peak-roofed cottages converted to shops along Main Street. The sidewalks and doorsteps look freshly scrubbed, and everyone says “hello.”

Bronners CHRISTmas Wonderland

Bronners CHRISTmas Wonderland

Above the gingerbread-trimmed inn, the clock tower’s 35-bell carillon peals twice daily, and the Pied Piper and other storybook characters pop out from behind a bronze door at the top. I can’t say I knew this when I arrived. I just followed the shoppers gathering at its base despite a cold wind carrying snowflakes.  The swirling white seems like part of the show!

We’re all glad to put down bags stuffed with parcels from dozens of stores lining the surrounding streets. One store sells Christmas sweaters. In another, I watched cooks shaping huge slabs of gooey fudge. Local crafters’ works fill Schnitzelbank Woodcarving Studio, and comforters crowd Zeilinger Wool Company.

The Bavarian Inn and the sprawling white-frame Zehnder’s of Frankenmuth serve the family-style chicken dinners that have brought travelers to town for generations. By mid-morning, the aroma of the fried chicken and trademark stuffing has me thinking about lunch, but there’s more to see first.

Lighted displays lead the way to Bronner’s CHRISTmas Wonderland, Frankenmuth’s landmark giant year-round Christmas store that’s the size of four football fields. Inside, 350 trees sparkle with miles of lights amid more than 50,000 kinds of ornaments, trimmings and gifts.

I purposely end my visit at the non-denominational Silent Night Chapel, a replica of a historic church near Salzburg, Austria, where the carol first was performed. Founder Wally Bronner built the chapel on the grounds so that the spirit of the holidays would live on in his complex and the town. It does, especially at this quiet little shrine.


Barbara MorrowBarbara Morrow has written and edited travel articles for Midwest Living since 1989, including articles about every part of Michigan. Barbara also directs the editorial content and direction of Michigan Travel Ideas, the official Pure Michigan Travel Guide.