Eight Answers to Your Michigan Wine FAQs

Cheers! April has been named Michigan Wine Month, and we’re ready to raise our glass. Michael Schafer Esq., The Wine Counselor, answers some of the most frequently asked questions about Michigan wineries

Photo courtesy of The Wine Counselor

Photo courtesy of The Wine Counselor

What are some of your favorite wine trails throughout Michigan?
There are so many great options to choose from. Each of the trails offer unique opportunities to enjoy Michigan’s world-class wines. While the most famous are the Leelanau Peninsula Wine Trail and the Old Mission Peninsula Trail, the Southeast Michigan Pioneer Trail, the Lake Michigan Shore area and the Bay View Trail are fascinating and fun as well.

Photo courtesy of The Wine Counselor

Photo courtesy of The Wine Counselor

When do think the best time of year for wine tasting in Michigan is?
The best time of year for tasting Michigan wines is all year round! Our wines are so varied and different, they’re delectable all the time. The prettiest time of year for visiting wineries is in the fall, but April is Michigan Wine Month and the Michigan Wine Showcase April 20, 2015 is a fantastic opportunity to sample wines from all over the state.

If someone had never been wine tasting in Michigan before, where would you recommend they go first?
I suggest they enjoy the area closest to them and then explore from there. If they’re on a quest to taste our wines and distance isn’t a factor, the Leelanau Peninsula would be my first choice.

What makes Michigan wines unique?
Three factors make Michigan wines unique. 1. Our locations, or terroir (a French word used to describe the grapes’ neighborhood) close to many lakes and rivers in addition to our proximity to the Great Lakes. 2. We’re between the 41st and 47th parallels of the earth. This is the same latitude as Bordeaux, the Rhone Valley and the Piedmont region. All of these areas are world-famous for producing great wines.3. The hardworking  Michiganders who grow the grapes for our creative Michigan winemakers to make the wine.

Photo courtesy of The Wine Counselor

Photo courtesy of The Wine Counselor

What would people be surprised to learn about Michigan wine or wineries?
The Michigan wine business originally started in the Monroe area, close to the Ohio border. It moved to the “fruit belt” of Western Michigan, now known as the lake Michigan Shore area.

What’s your favorite Michigan wine?
The one that’s currently in my glass!

Where can people go to taste & learn about Michigan wines?
The Michigan Wine Showcase on April 20 at the Rattlesnake Club in Detroit is a fantastic opportunity to learn about Michigan wines. More information can be found at www.michiganwines.com/showcase.

Where can people go to learn more?
A  wonderful resources are Michiganwines.com.  There is a plethora of information on this easy to use website.

Watch Michael tell us more about how Michigan wines are made below. 

Michael SchaferMichael Schafer Esq., The Wine Counselor®, is the charismatic speaker, educator, Sommelier, CSW, CCTP, writer and consultant who entertains while educating. His humorous and fun approach is reflected in his trademark phrase “I taste bad wine so you don’t have to”®. Whether training restaurant teams, conducting private tastings, or customizing a wine event, Michael demystifies wine and leaves his clients laughing and learning! WineCounselor.net

 

Four Pure Michigan Ways to Spoil Yourself For Singles Appreciation Day

Now’s your chance to spoil yourself! Our friends at The Awesome Mitten share four fun and delicious ways to celebrate Valentine’s Day’s counterpart –  Singles Appreciation Day.

Being single doesn’t mean you have to stay home on February 14th – Valentine’s Day can and should be celebrated by singles!

Photo courtesy of Aaron Murdick's Fudge

Photo courtesy of Aaron Murdick’s Fudge

Michigan provides many opportunities to enjoy single life. Of course, there are many Michigan winter outdoor activities such as skiing, snowshoeing, snowmobiling or ice fishing to occupy your time. If that’s your thing gather up your group of girlfriends or buddies, bundle yourself up and spend your day in the brisk Michigan winter. I am not what you would call “outdoorsy,” but I still can get a mad case of cabin fever and mid-February is often when that reaches its peak.  If you prefer the indoors, Michigan provides just as many opportunities to treat yourself.

Spoil Yourself with Michigan Chocolates
If you are going to stay in, invite your friends over and treat yourselves to some classic Valentine’s Day Michigan chocolates. My personal favorite is Jackson’s Gilbert’s Chocolates  (mmm I could really go for some chocolate covered potato chips right now.)

The Chocolate Garden is another Michigan favorite that beckons travelers along I-94. With billboards featuring accolades from the likes of the Food Network, I had to stop. When I tasted those delicious truffles, I was amazed at the quality of this seemingly roadside attraction (They sell online too!)

Another popular Valentine activity is to drown our single sorrows in some Mackinaw Island Fudge Ice Cream.  Make it a true Michigan sundae with a little Sander’s Hot Fudge on your Hudsonville Ice Cream.

Photo by Rebecca Calkins

Photo by Rebecca Calkins

Chocolate also pairs well with Michigan wine! Mindo Chocolate does wine pairing events including wine festivals which is where I first tasted these delicious dark specialties, including a few varieties with Michigan fruit. They do not have a storefront, but they are distributed in great little shops around Michigan. I know in my neighborhood they are available at Lone Oak Vineyard Estate.  Speaking of alcohol…

Go Out for a Drink…
Choose your favorite Michigan wine or beer, of course! A tour on a Michigan wine or beer trail is just what a group of single girls or guys needs to have a good time this Valentine’s Day.

I’ve taken several tours along the Southeast Michigan Pioneer Wine Trail both with friends and with family. Pro Tip: pack some bread and cheese or stop at your local farmers market on the way and snack between stops. It’s a great way to soak up some alcohol and make your trip a little more delicious. Weaving your way from Adrian in the south to Haslett in the North is at least a two day activity in order to hit them all, but my personal favorites are Sandhill Crane Vineyards and J. Trees Cellars.

I just went on a mini beer tour in Grand Rapids a few weeks ago with a stop at Brewery Vivant and Arcadia. Of course, Founders is usually a requisite stop for me. Near my home, I’ve also made a mini tour right along I-94 with Dark Horse, Grand River and Chelsea Alehouse.

Sandhill Crane - Photo courtesy of Experience Jackson

Sandhill Crane – Photo courtesy of Experience Jackson

Eat Your Way through Michigan
Although restaurants maybe booked up for dinner, that doesn’t mean a nice singles awareness lunch tour couldn’t satisfy a friends’ trip. Most of my favorites are around my hometown of Jackson, including a few award winning Jackson restaurants  including Michigan’s Best Barbeque at West Texas BBQ.

Work Off the Food with a Dance Party
Since I’m not the outdoorsy type, I have to find some way to work off all of that chocolate, beer, wine and food. There are many great Michigan nightlife hotspots to choose from all over the state. If shaking your booty on the dance floor isn’t your thing, there is always an evening at the casinos or another of my personal favorites, karaoke!

Whether single or taken, we love our fans! Have a Happy Valentine’s Day!

Headshot 1 originalRebecca Calkins is the Communications Director for Experience Jackson. She grew up in Jackson and returned after attending college at Ball State University in Muncie, Ind. When not working, Rebecca enjoys cooking and traveling, always looking for the next culinary or cultural adventure.

Seven Spots in Michigan to Sip and Savor Mother Nature

Today, guest blogger Joanna Dueweke from The Awesome Mitten shares some of her favorite places around the state to drink Pure Michigan wine or craft beer and enjoy her scenic surroundings. 

Photo courtesy of Cortney Casey - MichiganByTheBottle.com

Photo courtesy of Cortney Casey – MichiganByTheBottle.com

Increasingly, Michigan is home to more and more brilliant breweries and vibrant vineyards with views of rolling hills, gentle waves, and urban streets. The libations are as varied as the locations; not only do you have ample opportunity to explore the tasty treats being concocted at each locale, but each has something different to offer up as far as gazing is concerned. One of the things we celebrate most as Michiganders is how absolutely beautiful our surroundings are (even when it means glistening snow resting on pine tree branches) all year round. To really celebrate this grandeur, a glass of riesling or a succulent saison helps to take in the views at these establishments around the state with a smile:

Jamesport Brewing Company – Ludington, West Michigan

Nestled on the shores of Lake Michigan, this Ludington gem is a great way to take in views of the harbor while satiating the need for delicious food paired with a craft beer. People rave about the food and the relaxed atmosphere as much as they talk about this lesser known brewery’s beer. Who can complain about a breeze off Lake Michigan with the West Michigan sun on a lazy afternoon with a beer in hand?

Hawthorne Vineyards – Traverse City, Northwest Michigan (East and West Bay)

Northwest Michigan is often praised for its many wineries (and increasing number of breweries) and their views of the Grand Traverse Bays, Lake Leelanau, and Lake Michigan. When you take a seat at Hawthorne Vineyards, you’re surrounded by all the majesty that is the rolling hills of vineyards and views of both East and West Grand Traverse Bay. Since we can’t have those “perfectly warm with a touch of a cool breeze” summer nights all the time in Northern Michigan, their porch comes suited with a fieldstone fireplace to warm the mood.

Brewery Vivant – Grand Rapids, West Michigan

Although water is beautiful and it is one of the biggest allures of living in Michigan, the urban areas around the state have just as much to offer. Brewery Vivant is the first LEED Certified brewery in the United States and is located inside an old church; sitting in their tasting room is truly a religious experience for folks that are fans of Belgian-style beers. When you venture outside, Cherry Street in Grand Rapids offers people watching and excitement that only a city street can offer.

Sandhill Crane Vineyards – Jackson, Mid Michigan

Cortney Casey Michigan by the bottle

Photo courtesy of Cortney Casey – MichiganByTheBottle.com

With a bountiful wine menu using only fruits grown in Michigan, folks are hard pressed to find something to complain about at Sandhill Crane Vineyards. It often takes some convincing to explain what an amazing experience the Pioneer Wine Trail can be in and around Jackson. That’s fine because when you’re seated outside the winery on the wraparound porch that overlooks the countryside, you’re most likely hooked. You never know, maybe you’ll glimpse a crane out in the vineyards.

Frankenmuth Brewery – Frankenmuth, East Michigan

As one of Michigan’s oldest brewing operations, Frankenmuth Brewery offers a host of award-winning brews.  For those looking to linger a while, the brewery boasts expansive outdoor space, and walls of windows, from which folks can enjoy views of the calm Cass River, the river walk, and the town’s famous covered bridge in the distance.  As the proprietors say, “Come for the food, stay for the beer, and find out why Frankenmuth Brewery is a favorite Michigan tradition.”

Round Barn Winery, Distillery and Brewery – Baroda, Southwest Michigan

Photo courtesy of Rebecca Calkins

Photo courtesy of Rebecca Calkins

Winery, distillery and brewery in a giant white, round barn? Of course! Round Barn is snuggled the middle of fields and forest in Southwest Michigan. The space is conducive to all sorts of revelry with vast porches and constant planned activities. Community is a real focus here and the folks at Round Barn try to make sure the people coming up that side of the state know what kind of hospitality to expect in the rest of Michigan.

Keweenaw Brewing Company – Houghton, Upper Peninsula

Everything about the Upper Peninsula screams beautiful views, but put a beer in your hand, and that screaming just won’t be silenced. Sitting at the Keweenaw Brewing Company with a Widow Maker in hand (that’s a beer, promise) is pure perfection with a look at the Portage Canal. In true UP fashion, the beer is affordable, the atmosphere is overwhelmingly comfortable, and the people are friendly.

This list is no where near exhaustive because there are breweries and wineries all over with amazing views of Michigan, but choices had to be made. Where are your favorite places around Michigan to sip something delightful and savor all the beauty Michigan has to offer?

JoDuewekeJoanna Dueweke writes for The Awesome Mitten and is the Interactive Marketing Coordinator for the Detroit Regional Chamber. Born and raised in Traverse City, she is enjoying new adventures in the Detroit area, but also values her roots in Northern Michigan. Exploring the outdoors, sailing, travel, and enjoying the Mitten’s beer industry consume her time when she is not pursuing her Master’s in Library and Information Science at Wayne State University.