Warm Up With Winter Wine Tasting

As winter comes to an end in Michigan, it’s the perfect time to enjoy wine tasting on one of the last cold days of the year. Today, Trisha Verma, co-founder of Drink Michigan, shares some tips on winter wine tasting.

Whether you’re exploring Old Mission peninsula or hanging out in southwest Michigan, wine tasting is a great way to spend a cold winter afternoon. The tasting rooms are less crowded, there are many labels to choose from, and you often get extra attention from the tasting room manager, allowing you to ask questions and learn more about the wine, winery, and the region.

There are a couple things to keep in mind when you’re winter wine tasting:

  • Make sure your designated driver can handle the snow – the hills and winding roads of Michigan’s wine trails are part of what makes the experience so beautiful. But in the winter, they can cause quite a headache as you’re trying to make your way from winery to winery. You know you need a designated driver when you wine taste, but be sure that driver is an experienced winter driver. Even if it isn’t snowing, the dirt roads can be slick, and getting up those hills (and controlling yourself going down them) can be tricky.
  • Dress appropriately – be sure to dress for the weather and the environment. Many wineries don’t have paved parking and sidewalks, so boots are a good idea. You also want to make sure to bring hats and gloves – you never know when that lake-effect snow machine is going to kick in!

One of the best parts of tasting in the winter is all the variety that’s often in stock. This is the time to be adventurous and expand your palate. Talk to the tasting room manager, and let them guide you in experimenting with new varietals.  A lot of the wines we’ve discovered as our favorites over the last few years have been things we never would have tried if we had stuck to what we thought we liked.

Here are a few of our favorite winter wines:

    • Forty Five North Unwooded Chardonnay – clean, crisp white with great acidity
    • Black Star Farms Arcturos Cabernet Franc – a bold, full-bodied red wine that heats you up from the inside out.
    • L. Mawby Blanc de Noir – there’s never a wrong time for sparkling wine.
    • Fenn Valley Capriccio – a softer red, but full of great flavor.
    • Peninsula Cellars Merlot Reserve – full-bodied, and will age well (if you can wait that long!)

    With just a few weeks left before the masses storm the tasting rooms for spring releases, now is the perfect time to strap on your boots and go exploring on the Michigan wine trails. Be adventurous, and make sure you have a little extra money on you to buy a few bottles of your favorites. Many of the wineries don’t have state-wide distribution, so the tasting rooms are often the only place to get your hands on a bottle – don’t miss out on your chance to take some home!

Have any questions about wine tasting in the winter (or any other season), or want to share your favorite Michigan wines? Leave a comment, and let me know!

Trisha Verma is a passionate Michigander and the co-founder of Drink Michigan – a site dedicated to promoting and celebrating Michigan-made beer, wine, and spirits. Drink Michigan holds events to introduce others to Michigan products, travels across the state to try new and interesting offerings, and is always looking for new ways to incorporate Michigan beer, wine, and liquor into interesting recipes.

Winter Surfing in Pure Michigan

Photo credit: Mike Killion

Since 2005, Third Coast Surf Shop has been the premiere source for everything freshwater surfing. Products include surfboards and accessories, wetsuits, swimwear, beach gear, clothing, sandals, and sunglasses. Available services include lessons and rentals (surfboards, stand-up paddleboards, sandboards), kayak tours, and kids’ beach day camps. Third Coast Surf Shop has been featured in such national media as The Today Show, The New York Times, and Conde Nast Traveler.  

Ryan Gerard, Proprietor of Third Coast Surf Shop, was kind enough to answer a few of our questions.

Q: How is winter surfing different than any other kind of surfing?

Photo credit: Mike Killion

A: Surfing in Michigan in the winter takes a dedicated approach; the air and water are both very cold, it is often windy, and it is not easy to find the best waves for surfing. With the right gear and time spent on learning where to go and when to be there, great waves can be found. Dealing with the cold and often brutal weather elements (snow, ice) is well worth it when you are surfing fun waves with a small handful of friends.

Q: Where in Michigan can you surf in the winter?          

A: Anywhere there are waves, which would be on any beach exposed to open water on Lakes Michigan, Superior, and Huron. The challenge lies in finding the best spots to surf, which requires time and dedication. You must learn how to forecast when there will be waves, where, and the best time to surf them.

Q: Do you need any special equipment?

Photo credit: Mike Killion

A: Yes. To surf in Michigan (or anywhere with a cold climate), you must have the proper wetsuit and wetsuit accessories (boots and gloves or mittens). We wear 6/5/4mm hooded wetsuits and 7mm boots and mittens made specifically for cold water surfing. To use improper gear could be dangerous. The surfboards we use are the same as what are used to surf anywhere else in the world. However, many surfers use boards that  are a little bigger (longer, wider, and/or thicker) than what might be used on an ocean coast. The surfer’s ability and wave conditions have a lot to do with that.

Q: Where can people go to learn more information?

A: Third Coast Surf Shop has been teaching surfing lessons continually longer than anyone else in the Great Lakes region. Since 2005, we have taught thousands of people learn to surf. Outside Magazine recognized our shop and southwestern Michigan as one of the best places to learn how to surf in North America. You can visit us at www.thirdcoastsurfshop.com for details.