The Michigan Wine Industry Has a Lot to Toast

The number of wineries in Michigan is rapidly expanding…

The number of wineries in Michigan is rapidly expanding, topping the 100 mark in January when the Michigan Grape and Wine Industry Council approved three new wineries. Ten years ago, only about a third of these wineries existed.

“The Michigan wine industry has tremendous momentum right now,” says Linda Jones, program manager of the Michigan Grape and Wine Industry Council.

Wine production is has skyrocketed, reaching 1.3 million gallons, or 547,000 cases, annually. This is more than triple the production level of a decade ago, securing a spot for Michigan in the top 10 wine producing states in the country. From year to year, Michigan generally ranks between fifth and eighth, depending on climate conditions that can affect volumes.

As production increases, so does the number of award-winning wines. To name just a few recent achievements, Left Foot Charley of Traverse City won the prestigious Jefferson Cup for its 2011 Riesling. Also in Traverse City, Chateau Chantal earned 15 medals at the 2012 Tasters Guild International Wine Competition, including a double gold for 2011 Late Harvest Riesling and gold for the 2010 Proprietor’s Reserve Chardonnay.

Across the bay in Lake Leelanau, Blustone Vineyards opened its doors this year with several awards already achieved, including a gold medal at the Pacific Rim Wine Competition for its 2010 Unoaked Chardonnay. Down the road, Chateau Fontaine achieved the prestigious John Rose Award for best Riesling at the 13th Annual Finger Lakes International Wine Competition.  In southwest Michigan, St. Julian Wine Co. of Paw Paw won the Best Sweet Riesling award by the International Riesling Foundation at the Riverside International Wine Competition. Incidentally, the winery was also honored with a Chairman’s Award and won Best of Class for its 2011 Late Harvest Riesling at the same competition.

“We are seeing many prestigious awards for Michigan wine at competitions,” says Jones. “In addition, we are seeing jam-packed tasting rooms, expansion of markets beyond Michigan’s borders, significant interest from retailers, restaurants and distributors, and growing loyalty to Michigan wines from consumers.”

Jones notes that the expansion of the wine industry is happening all around state. Until more recently, the state’s wineries were primarily located in four counties: Berrien, Van Buren, Leelanau, and Grand Traverse. Today, new wineries are popping up all over the state and creating a solid presence for the wine industry in 14 counties.

As regions increase, so does the need for organized trails. The West Michigan Wine and Beer Trail is Michigan’s sixth and newest trail, located from Ludington to Holland and consisting of 10 wineries, 13 breweries, and three cider mills.

The Michigan wine industry celebrates these new achievements while two of Michigan’s more established wineries celebrate significant anniversaries for 2013. Warner Vineyards of Paw Paw is releasing an anniversary edition sparkling brut crafted from 85 percent Chardonnay and 15 percent Pinot Noir in honor of its 75 years of winemaking.

Meantime, Chateau Chantal is honoring 20 years in the business with 20 days of special 20-percent discounts on selected items. The promotions start June 17 and end July 6 with a festive celebration with complimentary wine tastings, treats, music, and enhanced tours.

There’s no doubt that it’s a very exciting time for Michigan wines. Grab a glass of your favorite Michigan wine and give a shout out to the Michigan wine industry and the hardworking people who are making it happen!

Lorri Hathaway is freelance writer who is passionate for Michigan wine. She is co-author of the award-winning From the Vine: Exploring Michigan Wineries and The History of Michigan Wines. Reach Lorri at