Long overshadowed by the winemakers of California, Michigan’s wineries have in recent years found their way onto the connoisseur’s map. Most, however, are located along the western coast of the Lower Peninsula, with the highest concentration in the Grand Traverse Bay area. An even more recent development has been the emergence of wineries on the northern side of the Mackinac Bridge.
The region of the Upper Peninsula stretching from Menominee up toward Escanaba has been identified by vintners as the “banana belt,” an area that enjoys relatively mild winters as it is sheltered from the most severe cold coming off Lake Superior by the mountainous region to the northwest. In addition, the comparatively warm waters of nearby Green Bay further moderate winter temperatures.
Recent research done at the University of Minnesota has produced hardier grapes capable of flourishing at more northerly latitudes. These include Marquette, St. Pepin, Brianna, and Frontenac. The result is a variety of cabernets, chardonnays, and pinot grigios capable of pleasing even the most discriminating pallet.
Make a day of it and visit four of the best wineries north of the bridge. It takes about three hours to drive to each of these wineries, not including the stops. Be sure to go with a designated driver. Cheers!
Wineries on the Upper Peninsula
Threefold Vine Winery (S232 Menominee St., Stephenson, 906/753-6000): Located in a historic bank building in Stephenson, Threefold is currently selling wines from grapes grown on a vineyard on the Garden Peninsula. A new farm in Menominee County is currently in development to produce a greater variety of grapes. For now, the current stock is on sale at their tasting room and at many retailers throughout the Upper Peninsula.
Northern Sun Winery (983 10th Rd., Bark River, 906/399-9212): Known as an estate winery, Northern Sun, with over five picturesque acres, is an attraction itself as a setting for weddings and concerts. Carefully chosen grapes yield outstanding varieties of reds and whites. Try Marquette, a deep-red table wine that’s a great complement to red meat and poultry.
Leigh’s Garden Winery (904 Ludington St., Escanaba, 906/553-7799): Offering an extensive list of white, red, rosé, and seasonal varieties, Leigh’s can ship your selections anywhere in Michigan.
Mackinaw Trail Winery (103 W. Lakeshore Dr., Manistique, 906/341-2303): The vineyard is in the northern Lower Peninsula, but Mackinaw Trail operates a cozy little tasting room off U.S. 2 near where the Manistique River empties into Lake Michigan. Here you’ll find some unusual varieties, including Cranberry, White Ibis, and Traminette, a dry wine that’s very compatible with fish.