This year, the vines will be a little greener and the temperatures a little warmer — at least, theoretically — when Michigan Wine Month rolls around.
In late 2016, the Michigan Grape & Wine Industry Council voted unanimously to shift Michigan Wine Month from April to May. Wineries, retailers, and the council itself uses Michigan Wine Month as a springboard for heavily promoting Michigan wines, with the goal of encouraging wine tourism, boosting sales, touting winery events, and increasing general awareness.
“As the number of wineries increases and their wines receive recognition at more and more national competitions, the popularity of Michigan Wine Month also keeps growing,” says Karel Bush, executive director of the Michigan Grape & Wine Industry Council. “Each year, we see an increase in the number of events with a wine-month theme — from wine dinners to retail promotions.”
Jenelle Jagmin, promotion specialist for the council, says May made the most sense to the Promo Committee responsible for providing a recommendation to the 11-member group as a whole.
“Many smaller wineries still had limited hours in April, and some were not open for the season yet at all,” she says. “In addition, from a media standpoint, it is a challenge to sell ‘wine touring’ in April, when all the photos you have of vineyards are either frozen or from a different season. At least it is green in May! May is a better month to promote events in Michigan and have a better chance of weather permitting attendance.
“Another comment we heard is that wineries are just starting to bottle in April, and some of their wines aren’t quite ready yet,” adds Bush. “Another month in the tank can make a big difference at that stage of the process.”
It’s not the first time the celebration has been rescheduled: It was originally in October, says Bush, but changed to April in 2006 for myriad reasons.
“October is a very busy time for the wineries, and they don’t need additional attention at that time,” she explains. “April is a ‘shoulder’ month for wineries and other tourism destinations — less busy — and they could use the additional promotion to drive traffic to their tasting rooms. Most white wines from the previous vintage are released in the spring.”
In addition, “Michigan Wine Country magazine is published in early April, as a kickoff to the touring season,” she says. “People are itching to get out and travel and are starting to think about traveling.”
While the annual magazine will continue to be released in April, other promotional events will shift to May to coincide with the new schedule. Those include the Michigan Wines Showcase, typically held at The Rattlesnake Club in downtown Detroit, says Bush.
The prospect of christening May as Michigan Wine Month was a topic floated in a recent survey, sent out to wineries and industry partners. Jagmin says more than 25 percent of recipients responded with feedback.
“One of the most common reasons that was given for any month chosen — other than April — was that Michigan Wine Month promotion needed a boost and a breath of fresh air,” says Jagmin. “We anticipate that the warm weather of May will influence people’s willingness to get out and travel, and will help provide that boost we’re looking for.”
Council Member Taylor Simpson, co-owner of Good Harbor Vineyards and Aurora Cellars on the Leelanau Peninsula, believes the change “will be a positive move for all sides of the wine industry.”
Simpson argues that the warmer weather often spurs visitors to reach for more whites and bubblies versus the heavier reds of winter, “which also allows retailers to increase their Michigan wine sections, as the majority of Michigan wine production is white and sparkling wine.”
With less likelihood of late-season snowstorms and frigid temperatures, tourists will probably be less hesitant to book trips, she adds. And May is prime time for residents all over the Midwest to begin planning their summer vacation destinations, keeping Michigan wine country forefront in their minds.
For more information on Michigan Wine Month, including upcoming festivities at wineries throughout the state, visit the council’s website at MichiganWines.com.
What do you think of the change? Comment below!
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.