With 14,600 acres of vineyards, Michigan ranks fourth among grape-growing states in the US. Most of that land is planted with Niagara, Concord and other juice grapes. About 2,000 acres are dedicated to wine grapes, with 80 commercial wineries producing one million gallons of wine annually. That makes Michigan number 13 in wine production in the US. New wineries open each year, and as the volume of wine produced goes up and as the industry grows and matures, Michigan wines are increasingly being recognized for their quality. Vineyard area has increased more than 60% in the last 10 years.
According to a survey by the Travel Industry of America, Michigan ranks 10th on the list of states noted for wine-related travel and Coastal Living magazine has recognized The Inn at Chateau Grand Traverse in the Old Mission Peninsula in its Top 10 Wine Vacations in North America.
Most of the state’s quality wine grapes thrive in the sandy soil of the rolling terrain along the Lower Peninsula’s west coast, within 25 miles of Lake Michigan. That large body of water produces a “lake effect” which aids in three important ways: it protects the vines with winter snow, slows the bud break in spring to minimize frost damage and extends the growing season by up to four weeks.
While the majority of vineyards are near Lake Michigan, there are several wineries in Southeast Michigan and a handful in the upper regions. In recent years vintners have experimented with grape varieties that thrive in cooler climes with shorter growing seasons. There are now wineries on the Lake Huron side of the state, at Alpena and Cheboygan, and three in the Upper Peninsula.