How to Create an Unforgettable Pure Michigan Holiday Gathering

The stockings were hung by the chimney with care… Surely it’s the little details that add up to unforgettable gatherings, is it not? And as we’re entering the season of St. Nicholas, we’re also prepping for holiday gatherings where the magic and merriment happen! From family sit-downs to seasonal soirees, read on for our #GoGreat tips to give your holiday gatherings that something special this year.

Prost Dinner Setting with wine glasses

Prost! Wine Bar & Charcuterie, Photo Courtesy of Go Great Lakes Bay

Discover priceless know-how toward memorable dishes, tips and ideas for unique hosting gifts and even wine pairing considerations. Go Great Lakes Bay this season, and enjoy discovering “how-to” create unforgettable holiday gatherings!

Warm and Cozy

Board of Artigiano Cheeses

Cheeses from Artigiano, Photo Courtesy of Go Great Lakes Bay

Nestled together around a warm pot of melty fondue, friends and family won’t soon forget how cozy your gathering felt. Nor will they ever forget the pleasure of dipping into the fondue you served: melted Gruyère, aged in the natural Kaltbach caves from the canton of Lucerne in Switzerland, and that hearty charcuterie platter…

Have this evening this season, and learn “how-to” at Artigiano, Bay City’s artisan cheese shoppe. Artigiano (ar-TEE-giano) offers not only small batch, handmade cheeses (and artisan crackers, premium extra virgin olive oils and balsamic vinegars), but also free, drop-in events including fondue demonstrations and “Cheese 101″.

The Talk of the Town

Zehnder's, Photo Courtesy of Go Great Lakes Bay

Zehnder’s, Photo Courtesy of Go Great Lakes Bay

When you serve authentic Lebkuchen Cookies or luscious German Chocolate Coffeecake around your Giant Santa Cupcake Cake centerpiece, guests will ooh and ahh-and ask where you learned how! The truth: at Zehnder’s Holiday How To’s.

• November 8 – 10, 2016, times and prices vary.

• Choose from 10 enjoyable classes, including “Hosting a Holiday Party” (think wine, hors d’oeuvres, hands-on fun and a special discount coupon for Zehnder’s Retail Marketplace) and “Decorating Holiday Cookies”.

• Call to reserve your place, and don’t delay. Some classes are SOLD OUT already!

Wine Makes Everything Fine

Charcuterie board of cheeses, meats and olives

Charcuterie Board from Prost! Wine Bar, Photo Courtesy of Go Great Lakes Bay

Looking to serve a perfectly-paired wine this holiday? (Good thinking.) But red or white, and what complements the menu? Or perhaps you’re gifting wine? (Good thinking, too.) Visit Go Great Lakes Bay restaurants and wineries for tasty research, and learn “how-to” pair wines perfectly with holiday flavors.

Whine Bar, Inc.: Walk in anytime for a flight (a sampling of three wines; price depends on selection), or on Whine Wednesdays to purchase select labels at $15 per bottle.

Prost! Wine Bar & Charcuterie: Study over 60 wine selections with Prost’s exceptionally trained staff, and sample wine served on tap for a fresh perspective; daily specials.

• Eastman Party Store: Stop into the Eastman Party Store anytime for expert pairing advice and a massive selection of fine wines, beers, spirits, cheeses, fresh breads, olive oils, and vinegars. Or head into Ideal Party Store in Bay City, featuring over 3,000 wines, 700 beers and a large liquor selection, too!

Crews & Brews

Inside of Frankenmuth Brewery

Frankenmuth Brewery, Photo Courtesy of Go Great Lakes Bay

Gathered together with your closest friends, frosty mugs in-hand, good times and holiday memories are in the making. Before deciding on the selections you’ll offer, try flights, flavors and talk micro-brew “how-to”.

• Time-honored Flavors: Offer guests frothy goodness from the oldest brewery in the state of Michigan: Frankenmuth Brewery. The Christmas Town Ale is seasonal-don’t miss out! And, should wee celebrators be in attendance, don’t forget to nab some Frankie’s Root Bier!

Oppermann’s Cork ‘N’ Ale (locations in Saginaw and Midland): Touting over 600 beers, 4,000 wines and 2,000 liquors to choose from, consider New Belgium Brewing Co.’s “Pumpkick” ale for the holidays, with hints of pumpkin spice and cranberry.

Make it Matter

Want to know “how-to” truly create unforgettable holiday gatherings?  Have fun! Decorate your home joyfully, and give gifts with sentiment whether as host or guest. Pick up priceless “how-to” (and where-at) toward decorating, gifting and creating heartfelt holiday gatherings this season.

Decorative Gourd Workshop: Enjoy the surroundings of Chippewa Nature Center, and the know-how to create beautiful containers from gourds (think seriously cool and unique gifts) on November 19, 9 a.m. – noon (must register by November 15).

• Get to Creative 360 Stage, Studios & Gallery from 2 – 4 p.m. on Saturday, December 3 to discover Candy Making for Christmas! Who doesn’t love a sweet treat? Not to mention that the perfect gift is also a lot of fun in the making! Pre-registration is required; don’t delay.

One last “how-to”: Handmade gifts take time to create … but shopping on Saturday, December 3 at Chippewa Nature Center’s Nature Art Show & Sale and Creative 360′s Second Hand Picasso Art & Collectible Sale, December 3 – 19th, will result in quick, easy and absolutely unique gifts.

Cheers! To holiday how-to’s and to getting help with your unforgettable holiday gatherings when you Go Great Lakes Bay!

Meet the Blogger

Guest Blogger - Jen W. O'Deay

Jen W. O’Deay is a freelance writer in Bridgeport, Mich.  She specializes in writing that connects, delivered through feature articles, branded content and marketing copy.  You can find Jen reading, always, camping with her family, or at: www.feelthesewords.com

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!

4 Ways to Celebrate a Bountiful Harvest at Michigan Wineries

Fall is a magical season in Michigan. Our autumnal activities are so beloved that they often become tradition as we return to the same sights and sounds that fill us with joy each year. Are you ready to embark on your next fall tradition? Michigan wineries across the state provide a number of ways to celebrate harvest.

Read more on four ways to enjoy the fall season at Michigan wineries courtesy of guest blogger Jenelle Jagmin of the Michigan Grape and Wine Industry Council.

Grape Stomping

Yes, grape stomping is still part of wine making! If you are in northern Michigan, check out Harvest Festival taking place at Chateau Chantal on October 1. In addition to grape stompin’, the festival also offers a Slurpin’ Seminar as well as a Distillation Seminar.  Marie-Chantal Dalese describes it like this, “Our annual harvest fest is a terrific way to experience the grape harvest and fall colors on Old Mission Peninsula.  We open our cellar doors and let guests see how we make wine while providing some fun and free experiences for visitors.”

Harvest season on Old Mission Peninsula

Photo Courtesy of Chateau Chantal

Do you want to show off your stomping skills in southwest Michigan? Check out Pappy’s Harvest Festival at Vineyard 2121 in Benton Harbor. In addition to grape stomping, the festival features wine slushies, hayrides, live music and a hog roast. Guests under 21 are free with an adult. The Festival takes place on September 17 & 18.

Take a 'step' back in time as you stomp grape similar to the old days

Photo Courtesy of Vineyard 2121

 Harvesting Grapes

Have you ever wondered what it is like to actually harvest the grapes from the vines? Sandhill Crane Vineyards in Jackson offers you the opportunity to do just that. Since the exact time of harvest is unpredictable, it is best to contact the winery to provide your contact information. They will reach out to you with the harvest date with a few days’ notice. If interested, contact Carolanne at 517-764-0679.

Volunteers harvest grapes at Sandhill Crane Vineyards

Photo Courtesy of Sandhill Crane Vineyards

Race Through Vines

Leelanau Peninsula Wine Trail will host The Harvest Stompede on September 10 & 11, which gives participants the opportunity to run, walk or watch the race in beautiful Leelanau wine country. The race is paired with a self-guided wine tour and includes a souvenir glass.

“The Harvest Stompede is such a fun and festive way to kick-off the fall harvest season.  And if they don’t want to run or walk, they can just come for the tasting tour,” said Lorri Hathaway, executive director of the wine trail.

Runners love the Harvest Stompede

Photo Courtesy of Leelanau Peninsula Wine Trail

Find a Winery Near You

From the far reaches of the U.P. to the southern border counties of Michigan, wineries dapple our gorgeous fall landscape. Each one celebrates the harvest in its unique way! Find your local wineries at michiganwines.com  & check out more events taking place around the state.

Harvest Festival at Lemon Creek Winery

Photo Courtesy of the Lemon Creek Winery

When you step into the vineyard this fall, you may notice an increased burst of elation. That is because Michigan is enjoying an abundant harvest – following two devastating seasons of crop loss. Support your local winery and join in the celebration!

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.

Follow Michigan Wines on Instagram: @michiganwines