Lake Michigan Shore Wine Festival Makes its Move
Crowds drive event’s switch to larger grounds
Along-running southwestern Michigan wine festival gets new digs this year.
The Lake Michigan Shore Wine Festival, coming up Saturday, June 16, was previously held at Weko Beach in Bridgman. Now it’s moving about 3 miles down the road to Warren Dunes State Park in Sawyer.
Festival organizers say the driving factor behind the change is a good problem to have: Between the number of wineries involved and the crowds that attend, they simply outgrew Weko Beach.
“We’ve been growing each year,” says Kathy Sturm, executive administrator for the Lake Michigan Shore Wine Trail. “The wonderful people at Warren Dunes State Park came to us and said at any time, if we needed more space, to let them know.”
Sturm says they officially began discussing the change a year ago. She believes the new venue will be ideal.
“We have Lake Michigan, we have the dunes, and it’s just the perfect setting,” she says. “We could easily accommodate 6,000 to 7,000 people.”
Colleen Ryan of Traffic PR, who has been part of the event since its inception, says the festival has come a long way since the original idea arose in 2005.
“We recognized the amazing amenities and assets that we have here in Southwest Michigan — that being the wineries ... along with the beautiful shores of Lake Michigan,” says Ryan, who serves as one of the event’s producers. “We got together with the wine trail and came up with an idea to throw a big party, where people can come and taste all the amazing wines from the entire wine trail.”
At the time of the first festival in 2006, the Lake Michigan Shore Wine Trail had only 10 members. It has since doubled.
Organizers planned for 400 attendees at that 2006 festival. Instead, more than 3,000 turned out.
“It was quite a successful year for the inaugural, and crazy successful each year (since),” Ryan says.
Tickets for this year’s event, which runs from 1-9:30 p.m., are $10 in advance or $15 at the door and include admission and a souvenir wine glass. Tasting tickets are $1 apiece, with tastings starting at 1 ticket, but varying depending on the wine selected. Additional wine and food tickets will be sold. Cash or credit is accepted, and there will be an ATM on-site.
According to Sturm, each of the 20 Lake Michigan Shore Wine Trail wineries will be bringing several selections representing a diverse spectrum of wines — dry, semi-dry, sweet, red, white, rosé, and sparkling. Some hard ciders will be offered, along with beers from Round Barn Winery.
The format makes it simple to sample across the wine trail in a single location, says David Butkovich, co-owner and winemaker at Cody Kresta Vineyard & Winery.
“The wineries are pretty spread out geographically, so here we all are under one big tent on the beach of Lake Michigan — hard to get any better than that,” he says.
“We call the Lake Michigan Shore Wine Festival our ‘wine Christmas,’ ” says Melanie Owen, co-owner of Lazy Ballerina Winery. “It’s the only festival that has all of the Lake Michigan Shore wineries with their owners and winemakers in attendance.”
Besides the ability to taste from all of the LMS wineries, attractions include food trucks serving up a variety of cuisines and live entertainment from multiple bands throughout the day. On the musical lineup are The Hemispheres (soul/Motown/R&B); The Jamiah Rogers Band (blues/funk/R&B); Slim Gypsy Baggage (rock/country/Americana/roots/blues); Sean Wiggins (country); and Jake Mack and The Lesser Stags (rock/Americana).
Owen is also excited about the new backdrop.
“There is much more room for festivalgoers, and enough parking that people do not have to be shuttled in” as they did previously, she notes.
Because the venue is a state park, visitors will need to show a valid Michigan Recreation Passport to enter, or purchase a pass on-site for $16. While Warren Dunes does have more than 200 campsites, as of mid-May, they had already sold out for the festival date, Sturm says.
Dave Miller, owner and winemaker at White Pine Winery in St. Joseph, says many factors come together to make the Lake Michigan Shore Wine Festival a memorable event.
“The festival is on the beach at Lake Michigan, featuring locally grown wines,” he says. “There is no better place for a summer wine festival than here.”
For tickets or more information including a list of participating wineries, lodging suggestions, and volunteer opportunities, visit LakeMichiganWineFest.com. Most participating wineries are also selling tickets to the event at their tasting rooms.
Cortney Casey is a certified sommelier and co-founder of MichiganByTheBottle.com, a website and online community that promotes the entire Michigan wine industry. She’s also co-owner of Michigan By The Bottle Tasting Room, tasting rooms operated in partnership with multiple Michigan wineries, located in Shelby Township, Royal Oak, and Auburn Hills. Contact her at email@example.com.