Tour Michigan’s Wine Country in 4 Days

In recent years, Michigan has gained a reputation for crafting award-winning wines. Wineries are scattered throughout the state, within Michigan’s two principal winemaking regions in the Lower Peninsula—along the Southwest Coast and around Grand Traverse Bay—and a few in the Upper Peninsula near Escanaba and Manistique. The American Viticultural Association recognizes four distinct growing regions that comprise Michigan’s wine country: the Old Mission Peninsula and the Leelanau Peninsula in the north plus Fennville and the Lake Michigan Shore in the south. Collectively, the Great Lake State is home to some 120 wineries and tasting rooms. In this region, the winter months produce lake-effect snow, which protects the vines and extends the growing season for up to a month.

Wine connoisseurs should take at least a week, preferably during summer or fall, to sample the state’s finest wineries. This four-day itinerary will get you started.

dusk settles over the landscape of Traverse City, Michigan
Traverse City is the center of Michigan’s wine country. Photo © KEdward/iStock.

Days 1 and 2: Leelanau and Old Mission Peninsulas

The area surrounding Traverse City is the epicenter of Michigan wineries. Here is where you’ll find the greatest density of established wineries, vineyards, and tasting rooms. Beginning at the northern tip of the Old Mission Peninsula, check out 2 Lads Winery, which offers a sleek, modern tasting room to sample their northern sparkling varieties. It also conducts tours of its facility for groups large and small. For a more immersive experience, consider spending a night at Chateau Chantal, a winery and inn where you can enjoy a luxurious stay with a stunning view of Grand Traverse Bay, sample their offerings, and even attend a winemaking seminar.

The larger Leelanau Peninsula hosts of bevy of wineries as well. Black Star Farms offers a comprehensive selection of white, sparkling, fruit, and dessert wines. A distillery on the premises even produces spirits. They also operate an exquisite inn with different dining options. Continue up Highway 22 until you arrive at Leelanau Cellars, where you’ll find a variety of creative wines, including Tall Ship Chardonnay and Witches Brew, a secret blend with cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg added to enhance the flavor. Stay the night at the inn at Black Star Farms—a truly unforgettable experience.

Day 3: Petoskey, Harbor Springs, and the Tunnel of Trees

Travel map of the state of Michigan.
Heading farther north, you’ll find an attractive cluster of wineries in the Petoskey-Harbor Springs area. Check out the Mackinaw Trail Winery in Petoskey, where you can imbibe in their exclusive Blanc de Noir or Blanc de Blanc, or choose from a number of pinot noirs, merlots, or cabernets. Enjoy lunch at their stylish bistro before continuing north toward Mackinaw City along Highway 119, the Tunnel of Trees, where you’ll enjoy one of the most scenic drives in America.

Day 4: Escanaba

Cross the Mackinac Bridge and head west toward Escanaba along U.S. 2. In Bark River, stop by the tasting room of the Northern Sun Winery, an out-of-the-way gem among Michigan’s wineries. Northern Sun needs to take special precautions to grow quality grapes at such a northern latitude, but the effort pays off handsomely. Featured wines include the Leon Millot, described as a “smooth, smoky round wine with velvety notes of raspberry, cherry, and a bit of chocolate,” and the LeCrescent, “an off-dry wine bursting with fruit aromas.”

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