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

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  & 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

Follow Michigan Wines on Instagram: @michiganwines

The Must-Try Local Flavors of Traverse City

Traverse City, located in the Northwest Region of the Lower Peninsula, is famous for pristine beaches, friendly community and of course, cherries. But besides the delectable fruits (honored with their own annual festival) this city is a mecca for local and fresh fair available year-round.

Read more on the bountiful food scene in Traverse City, courtesy of guest blogger Tricia Phelps from Taste the Local Difference.

Fresh, Northern Michigan Fruits and Vegetables 

Plan your day on either the Leelanau or Old Mission Peninsula to take in the sights and attractions, including the u-pick farms and community farmers markets. Late-summer into fall is the most abundant growing season in Northern Michigan, and there’s always a delicious variety of farm-fresh produce at your fingertips! Have fun with the kids and fill a bucket of blueberries, add some fresh apples to your picnic basket, or enjoy flavorful heirloom tomatoes fresh off the vine.

Enjoy delectable local fare with Traverse City's many u-pick farms and eatery options

Photo Courtesy of Traverse City Tourism


See where your favorite brews start - right from the vine!

Photo Courtesy of Gary Howe

Northern Michigan is becoming well known not only for its breweries but for the number of quality producing hop farms that line our county roads. Drive by the 200+ acre hop farm at MI Local Hops in Williamsburg, or cruise through Leelanau County to catch sight of various farms constructed by Empire Hops. And up in Omena you’ll find the home of New Mission Organics and the Michigan Hop Alliance. It’s the perfect time to see local hops growing tall, so be sure to include a drive out to one of these northern Michigan hop farms before you visit the Traverse City breweries. Then keep your eye out for the locally grown hops on the ingredient list, or ask the bartenders to help you pick the best one!

Goodwill’s Farm to Freezer Products

Goodwill Industries of Northern Michigan started their Farm to Freezer program in 2013. The program empowers community members through hands-on workforce development training, while simultaneously supporting local Michigan farms and creating a flash-frozen local product that can be enjoyed year-round. Get a taste of their frozen fruit line in a delicious smoothie at the Daily Blend, one of nine independently owned food trucks parked at The Little Fleet in Traverse City. Daily Blend specializes in fast, healthy food and uses local whenever possible.


Enjoy the many wineries in and around Traverse City

Photo Courtesy of Traverse City Tourism

Locally Grown & Milled Flour

Have you tried the croissants from 9 Bean Rows, or how about the fresh-baked bread from Blue Heron 2? One bite and you’ll know these delicious baked goods are made with only the highest quality ingredients, including locally grown and milled flour from Bill Koucky of Grand Traverse Culinary. Head to the Sara Hardy Farmers Market to grab a bag of flour for home and a 9 Bean Rows treat, or stop into Blue Heron 2 and grab lunch before hitting the scenic route up M-22.

Local Wine & Cheese

One of my favorite pairings is wine and cheese. With over 50 different wineries in Northern Michigan there are hundreds of local wines to choose from — and it’s easy to put together a delicious cheese plate to accompany them! Look for a selection of unique cheeses at The Cheese Lady in Downtown Traverse City. Locally-made recommendations include Boss Mouse artisan cheeses made by hand with local Moomer’s milk, or the French-style Leelanau Cheese made in Suttons Bay and of course Idyll Farms Cheese, the mostly soft, spreadable cheeses made from goats milk.

Guest blogger Tricia Phelps enjoying some time in downtown Traverse City

Photo Courtesy of Gary Howe

Tricia Phelps is a local food & farming advocate in northwest Michigan. She is the Operations Director for Taste the Local Difference® — a company specializing in the marketing and promotion of local food. Visit their website at for more information.