Wine: We're No. 5!

A decade-long growth spurt in Michigan wine grape production — and wineries — shows no sign of slowing


Published:

A U.S. Department of Agriculture report released in November says wine production doubled in the last decade in many areas of Michigan and tripled in others, making this the fifth largest winemaking state in the country — and growing.

The surprise in the report is that pinot noir has vaulted into second place in Michigan, behind chardonnay. For decades, it was believed that Michigan could not grow reds because of the sharp climate. But pinot production is now second to riesling, the state’s decades-long leader.

The Michigan Grape and Wine Industry Council says Michigan now has more than 100 fully operating wineries, up from 32 a decade ago.

Overall, Michigan now follows California, New York, and Washington for the tonnage of grapes grown, and sits just behind Oregon for overall amount of wine bottled. That disparity is because a large volume of Michigan grapes are grown for use in jams and jellies, which are made with Concord and Niagara grapes. Even with that, our wine volume has more than doubled in the last decade, from 400,000 to 1.3 million gallons. The numbers come from the 2011 Michigan Fruit Survey, which collected information from the state’s grape growers.

According to the USDA, Michigan’s acreage of wine grapes planted also doubled over the past decade, from 1,300 acres to 2,600; the jam and juice sector of grapes remained where it was a decade ago, at about 12,000 acres.

The growth in acres and volume bottled is all in the fine wine category. Very little of Michigan’s wine-grape harvest goes into so-called jug wines. Almost all wines here are small-batch, cold climate, fine-wine reds and whites, grown in Michigan’s four official federally designated wine regions: Berrien, Van Buren, Grand Traverse, and Leelanau counties.

The reputation of Michigan wines also has spread in the last decade through national and international wine competitions, where both whites and reds are taking top prizes every year. Michigan wines are, in many ways, more highly respected and recognized outside Michigan than at home.

“This [USDA] data confirms the steady growth of the wine industry,” says Gordon Wenk, deputy director of Michigan’s Department of Agriculture & Rural Development.

It’s no surprise that riesling still leads the way here, as it has for decades, with nearly 600 acres planted — more than double the acreage planted with the grape in 2002.

The surprise, however, is in pinot noir, which vaulted past chardonnay into second place. Pinot noir is one of the fastest-growing reds elsewhere in the country, and cold-climate versions from lesser-known regions and small producers, often called “boutique” wines, have led the fine red-wine upsurge in the $20-to-$50 range.

Chadonnay, which still doubled in acreage in Michigan during the decade, despite losing its second-place ranking, is now followed by pinot gris and cabernet franc in the number of acres planted. Those are up threefold.

The USDA report notes that the expansion of the industry now includes many small, almost experimental-sized wine properties of 10 acres or fewer in Allegan, Antrim, Benzie, Cass, Charlevoix, Jackson, Lenawee, Oceana, Sanilac, and Washtenaw counties. And to think it wasn’t all that long ago that Michigan’s bigger winery counties were considered experimental.

Edit Module
Edit Module

Hour Detroit Magazine

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Archive »Related Content

Michigan's Wine Industry is Adding $5 Billion to the Local Economy

There are more than 130 wineries statewide

Making Bad Wine Extinct

Better education and new technologies are improving nearly everyone’s output

DIY Home Vineyard

Become a home vintner with just a fraction of an acre

Keep Calm and Drink Rosé

Exploring a little local flavor in the heart of Provence

How Soil Shapes the Flavor of Michigan Wines

A northern Michigan winemaker has begun unraveling the mysteries of his vineyard's 'terroir.'
Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Most Popular

  1. Why Abdul El-Sayed's Run for Governor Is for Real
    Can a political rookie from Michigan become America's first Muslim governor?
  2. Female Entrepreneurs Are Staking Their Claim in Detroit
    These three women-owned businesses are unstacking the deck
  3. Michigan’s Craft Distilleries Are Setting Their Sights on Bourbon
    Proof that the best things require patience
  4. Inside the Resurrected Takoi
    The restaurant has survived arson and controversy to claim a top spot in Detroit's culinary scene
  5. The Era of Autonomous Vehicles May Be Here Sooner than Expected
    What does that mean for Detroit's legacy automakers?
  6. The Faces of Michigan Wine: Josh Morgan
    To say that 2017 was a pivotal year for Josh Morgan would be putting it mildly.
  7. Meet the Makers: Pingree Detroit
    The brand is employing veterans to craft upcycled leather totes and journals
  8. Introducing the Nordin Brothers: The Duo Behind the Detroit Design Center
    You may not know their names, but chances are, you've seen their art
  9. It's Game On for Detroit's 'Bar Arcade' Scene
    M-Brew, Pop + Offworld, and Ready Player One pair microbrews with retro video games
  10. What You Need to Know About Oil and Gas Drilling in the Suburbs
    Energy companies are staking out new territory in metro Detroit