Return of the Grapes: A Tale of Triumph in the Great Lakes State

This year, Michigan’s wineries have seen a rebounded crop after a couple years of less-than-stellar growth. Read more below to learn about the industry and where to stop to sip wine during your fall color tour this season. 

For two years in a row, Michigan’s devastated vineyard managers looked out over rows of vines and confirmed the suspicions of the state’s thriving wine industry; Mother Nature had taketh away.

Extremely cold winter spells, better known by the dramatic moniker – Polar Vortex, paralyzed the majority of the state’s vines in 2014 and 2015. The grapes that did make it in 2015 were forced from the vines by a fluke August hailstorm, ripping a scab off of winemakers’ tenderly healing hearts.

Photo Courtesy of MI Grape & Wine Industry Council

Photo Courtesy of MI Grape & Wine Industry Council

Michigan winemakers treaded so carefully across March 2016 you could barely hear a whisper of “so good, so far.” Same thing with April, May and June. Reports came in from the Leelanau Peninsula that a June hail storm had damaged the entire region. Calls quickly went out to multiple wineries in the region to find out that they were mostly untouched. Phew.

Into late August, winery owners could be heard raising their voices just a little. The strong vines were producing an excellent crop and veraison was occurring from south to north.  A few photos began to surface on Instagram. Fingers crossed – but no boasting, no planning, no mention of harvest. Many Michigan winemakers consider themselves farmers first, with a no frills grit that carries them through each season.

September… beautiful September! The sun, the heat! Warm nights and gentle rains! Wineries across the state started posting their harvest events and festivals. Then finally last week, the glorious battle cry rang out across the state. From Berrien County, “Onward Merlot, Pinot Noir!” From Traverse City, “Vidal!” “Riesling!” “Chardonnay!” From Jackson, “Marquette – You glorious grape!” The harvest and pressing of Michigan fruit has put everyone in high gear and will keep them very busy with this for the next couple months.

Photo Courtesy of MI Grape & Wine Industry Council

Photo Courtesy of MI Grape & Wine Industry Council

Michigan wineries expect to bottle over 2.3 million gallons of wine this year, and welcome over 2 million thirsty visitors through their doors. As the industry has grown to welcome 124 wineries statewide, so has the reputation not only for stellar Rieslings – but also internationally awarded sparkling, elegant rosés and well-balanced red vinifera wines.

So 2016 will be known as the year that Michigan wineries rebounded – the great American story of triumph over tragedy. Farmers never take these abundant years for granted; rather they embrace humility and pour their energy into their trade. Michigan wine is the product of a patient art.

Michigan wines – like our people – are totally Midwestern. They are resilient, honest, hard-working, and authentic to their cool climate, Great Lakes terroir.  Happy Harvest Michigan – you deserve it.

Photo Courtesy of MI Grape & Wine Industry Council

Photo Courtesy of MI Grape & Wine Industry Council

Want to do a little treasure hunting on your Michigan fall color tour this year? Seek out these award winning gems:

Chateau Fontaine, 2015 Woodland WhiteLeelanau Peninsula– 100% Auxerrois grape, best of class winner multiple years at the Michigan Wine Competition. Captures the essence of northern Michigan’s summer sunlight – crisp, relaxed, buoyant and lovely.

Black Star Farms, Sirius RaspberryLeelanau and Old Mission Peninsulas – Looking for an ultimate dessert wine? This crowd pleaser expresses the very finest of this Michigan fruit. Buy an extra bottle to bring to your next dinner party!

L. Mawby, GraceLeelanau Peninsula – This Pinot Noir Brut sparkling wine is bottled in the traditional method. An elegant and inspiring wine from one of Michigan’s most notable winemakers.

Chateau Grand Traverse, 2012 Merlot ReserveOld Mission Peninsula – This red has depth of character, winning several awards from around the country. It has been described as clean, classy, well balanced and suave.

Fenn Valley Vineyards, 2015 TraminetteFennville – This wine captures you at the nose and takes you all the way through the finish. A distinct varietal spice is well balanced with the sweetness of the fruit. It will be a new favorite!

St Julian Winery, Sweet Nancie Peach SparklingPaw Paw - Vibrant & joyful, characteristic of your fondest Michigan memories. Peach essence in every little bubble, what could be better?

Lemon Creek Winery, 2012 Shiraz Berrien Springs – You’ve found rubies!  Balanced acidity and fine-grained tannins integrate with oak — delivering complex fruit flavors through an extended finish.

For more information on Michigan wines, visit this page.

Jenelle Jagmin is promotion specialist for the Michigan Grape and Wine Industry Council. Founded in 1985, the council was established within the Michigan Department of Agriculture & Rural Development. For more information, and plan your trip to Michigan wine country, visit michiganwines.com.

Where are your favorite spots to sip Michigan wine? Share in the comments!

9 of the Best Golf Destinations for Leaf Peeping in Pure Michigan

Soon, Michigan will transform itself into one of the best fall golf destinations in the country, blending immaculate courses with brilliant fall color. What better time to hit the links than with a view of scarlet, rust, gold and orange?

The Great Lakes state boasts fantastic fall views, and golf destinations, in every region. Read more on a few of our favorites and visit michigan.org/golf for ideas and packages.

1. The Hills Course at Boyne HighlandsHarbor Springs, MI

Boyne Highlands has plenty of options for fall golf, but nothing tops the view from the 13th tee on the Hills course, which is one of the best sights looking out over 40-miles of northern hardwoods. In addition to the immaculate golf scene, the resort offers deluxe hotel rooms, condos, and cottages perfect for a weekend getaway meaning you’ll have more time to play and explore the many acres surrounding the area.

Boyne Falls, Photo Courtesy of Kevin Frisch

Photo Courtesy of Kevin Frisch

2. The Legend at Shanty Creek ResortBellaire, MI

Named one of the top four resort courses in the United States by Golf Magazine readers, this Arnold Palmer-designed beauty was built with all levels of golfers in mind. “If you’re a 12 in Detroit, you shouldn’t be a 20 here,” Arnie stressed. Located at Shanty Creek Resort, this course offers unbeatable views from the 3rd tee and 4th green overlooking beautiful Lake Bellaire. Golf Digest gives The Legend an enviable four-stars, and a trip in the fall allows for more flexible tee times.

3. Greywalls at Marquette Golf ClubMarquette, MI

If you’re aching to see fall colors, make your escape to Greywalls soon. This spectacular course, located high above Lake Superior, offers some of the best fall color and lake views from the 1st and 7th tee boxes and the 9th green. This dramatic course had a banner year in 2005 (the same year it opened!), as it collected several highly acclaimed national awards from publications such as Golf Magazine, Golf Digest, and most recently, Travel + Leisure Golf and Golfweek. With the course being located in Marquette, the fall colors will begin to change during the first week of October.

Photo Courtesy of Kevin Frisch

Photo Courtesy of Kevin Frisch

4. Jones Masterpiece at TreetopsGaylord, MI

The Masterpiece course offers several spectacular views that stretch for 40-miles overlooking the Pigeon River Forest. The 6th hole, from which Treetops was named, and the 15th tee, offer great backdrops for tee-shots. With numerous courses in the area receiving national rankings and hotels and resorts offering spectacular packages, Gaylord is known as America’s Summer Golf Mecca – and it only gets better in the fall.

5. Shepherds Hollow Golf ClubClarkston, MI

Located just north of bustling Detroit, this Art Hills course, on its massive rolling land, looks like it could be set in northern Michigan. With 27 tour-caliber holes to challenge you and 350 rolling acres to inspire you, Shepherd’s Hollow golf course is truly a thing of beauty during the autumn season. Designed by Arthur Hills, this course has full practice bunkers, full service locker room with showers, and dining facility.

Photo Courtesy of Kevin Frisch

Photo Courtesy of Kevin Frisch

6. Elk Ridge Golf Club – Atlanta, MI

Located just east of Atlanta, Elk Ridge offers stunning views throughout the tree-lined course. The best spots are on the 10th tee with its spectacular view in the distance and along the 16th hole as the fall foliage wraps around the short risk reward par 4. Elk Ridge was selected by Golf Digest as “one of America’s top 75 upscale public courses” and selected as the 2nd best public course opening in 1991

 7. Stone Hedge Courses at Gull LakeAugusta, MI

Located between Kalamazoo and Battle Creek, both the north and south Stone Hedge courses at Gull Lake offers a variety of great fall color views. The new Stoatin Brae course also offers several spectacular views. These courses, situated near the coast of Lake Michigan, make for perfect autumn days as crisp fall temperatures keep you feeling refreshed while on the greens.

Photo Courtesy of Kevin Frisch

Photo Courtesy of Kevin Frisch

 8. Thoroughbred Golf Club at Double JJ ResortRothbury, MI

This Art Hills designed course meanders in and out of wetland and bog areas with spectacular color spots, such as the 2nd tee, as well as some great sports on the back nine along holes 15 and 18. Here, four sets of forward tees (forward tee at 4,851 yards) allow you to choose the test that best suits your game. This quiet west Michigan region is perfect for a relaxing weekend as you take in the brilliant scenes around you.

9. Pinecroft Golf CourseBenzonia, MI

Pinecroft might not get the attention some of the bigger courses do in the region, but it is a fun golf course with views that rival any place in northern Michigan overlooking Crystal Lake. An 18-hole championship course situated just 30 miles southwest of Traverse City, Pinecroft is nestled in the gently rolling hills perfect for an interesting game of golf.

Check out michigan.org/golf for more ideas, locations and packages.

 Why do you love to play golf? Let us know in the comments!

ArtPrize Made Easy: 5 Steps to Enhance Your Visit

Whether you’re an ArtPrize regular or this will be your first trip to the world’s most radical art competition, you can follow these simple steps to make your experience more efficient, pleasant and fun.

The Art Newspaper has officially recognized ArtPrize as the most-attended public art event on the planet – about 400,000 people stream into downtown Grand Rapids during the 19-day festivities. That number is likely to swell this year, as the New York Times highlighted ArtPrize in naming Grand Rapids #20 on its list of 52 Places to Go Worldwide in 2016.

Photo Courtesy of Experience Grand Rapids

Photo Courtesy of Experience Grand Rapids

A little advance planning will help you manage the crowds and get the most out of your ArtPrize visit. Here are a few tips:

1. Ride the ArtPrize Shuttle

With nearly 1,500 works of art spread across three square miles of downtown Grand Rapids, it’s flat-out impossible to see everything in a day. Extend your stay with a special ArtPrize Hotel Package that offers such perks as a free shuttle to downtown. Guests at 30 suburban hotels can make their way to the Park & Ride location within 10 minutes of their hotel and board the shuttle to avoid traffic and parking hassles. That gives you more time to focus on art!

2. Visit the Neighborhood HUBs

For the first time, you’ll find eight Neighborhood HUBs throughout the ArtPrize district. Located at major venues, each HUB serves as a great entry point to the event – providing you with the opportunity to register to vote, pick up an event guide and map, get information about neighborhood-specific events, browse ArtPrize merchandise and purchase a Metro Pass.

3. Pick up a Passport (or Two)

You can also pick up an ArtPrize Passport at any of the HUBs. Collect stamps from any five of the eight HUBs and you’ll be entered to win prizes from ArtPrize and Founders Brewing Co. Collect stamps from all eight HUBs plus the exclusive ArtPrize Medallion sticker available only at the Founders Brewing Co. tent at the October 7 ArtPrize Awards public viewing party at Rosa Parks Circle – and you’ll be entered to win a grand prize package. (While you’re here, you can also pick up a Beer City Passport and collect stamps at participating breweries to earn a collectible Brewsader t-shirt.)

4. Whet Your Appetite

You’re going to work up a hunger during your ArtPrize adventure – and you’ll save time by evaluating your dining options in advance. Visit ExperienceGR.com to search for restaurants by region and/or cuisine.

5. Explore All Your Options

Every day of ArtPrize is packed with fun, fascinating, art-focused events – but ArtPrize isn’t the only excitement on the Grand Rapids agenda during these 19 days. From a touring Broadway production of Cinderella, to concerts by Kanye West and Aretha Franklin, to a family-friendly Oktoberfest celebration, you’ll find plenty of ArtPrize “add-ons” to enhance your stay. Search the Events Calendar at ExperienceGR.com to find events that coincide with your stay dates.

Photo Courtesy of Experience Grand Rapids

Photo Courtesy of Experience Grand Rapids

What other tips do you have for attending this fun event? Let us know in the comments!