Between Old Mission and Leelanau Peninsula you can visit more than 30 wineries
Located next to Canada and surrounded by the Great Lakes, Michigan is a state with pristine forests, coast, and wine. With its acres of endless lakes, orchards, and vineyards, the state certainly lives up to its motto “Pure Michigan”.
In Northern Michigan you will find Traverse City, a town bordered by crystalline waters and surrounded by the largest wine region in the state. There are over 190 independent wineries in Michigan, many of which are located in this beautiful area.
Though it experiences extremely low temperatures, especially in winter, Michigan has been able to achieve its impressive wine region status thanks to the enormous lakes that surround it. First off, the fresh water and glacial soil are important factors in the production of grapes. Additionally, the microclimate created by the lake effect protects the vines from early blooms and frosts. Finally, the large quantities of snow that the area receives help to insulate the vines from the winter cold.
Because of the climate, the most commonly produced wine in Northern Michigan is white wine, above all the varieties of Pinot Blanc, Pinot Grigio y Riesling. However, you can also find many cold climate red grapes, like Pinot Noir and Zweigelt.
The first Northern Michigan grapes were cultivated about 60 years ago, but now Michigan is the sixth largest wine producing state in the country and the ninth in terms of number of wineries. Traverse City is the largest city in the region, but the surrounding areas house the majority of vineyards. Old Mission and Leelanau Peninsula have more than 30 wineries, each one with their distinct values and styles.
The list of quality wineries that can be found around Traverse City is extensive, but these two peninsula wine routes stand out in terms of quality, variety, and accessibility.
Old Mission Peninsula Wineries
At less than 10 miles long and with 10 wineries, Old Mission Peninsula has an impressive concentration of quality locales.
Nowadays, the largest commercial winery in Northern Michigan is Chateau Grand Traverse, which has some of the oldest vines in the region. Its founder was the pioneer in wine production on the peninsula, growing his first grapes in 1974.
Another very important establishment in the area, Chateau Chantal offers a wide variety of activities and even has a bed and breakfast. You can try wines by the glass, attend special dinners that highlight their wine offering, or enjoy live music while watching the sunset.
Bry’s Estate is one of the most important wineries on the peninsula, a true gem with picturesque views. It has been open for 15 years and has become an obligatory stop on the Old Mission Peninsula wine route. Don’t miss the secret lavender gardens or the “frosé”, a refreshing frozen rosé slush drink.
The area also offers some more alternative options. 2 Lads Winery specializes in sparkling wines and cold climate reds. They have the most modern facility on the peninsula and use a gravity flow process for their wine production.
Bonobo Winery is one of the newest locations on the peninsula, with less than a decade under its belt, but its founders, a pair of Traverse City native brothers, focus on lower quantity and higher quality wines. Their artisan products include varieties like Chardonnay, Riesling, and Pinot Noir, among others.
Leelanau Peninsula Wine Route
To the northeast of Traverse City, you will find Leelanau Peninsula, a 30-mile-long stretch with 25 wineries. To begin, this is where you fill find the original Black Star Farms winery (they also have a location on Old Mission), which has been open for over two decades.
Black Star Farms in Suttons Bay doesn’t just offer high-quality wines but also a unique and diverse experience. Aside from the winery, the locale offers lodging, equestrian facilities, hiking routes, a distillery, and a farm to table restaurant.
About 3 miles from Black Star Farms you will find one of the first wineries on the peninsula, MAWBY Vineyards, which specializes in sparkling wines and ciders. It was founded in 1973 and in the ‘90s began to produce exclusively sparkling beverages. They always employ a double fermentation process, yielding optimal results.
One of the newest wineries on the peninsula is Brengman Brothers, which had its first harvest in 2007 and now offers almost 40 excellent wines (don’t leave without trying their Pinot Noir). They are big proponents of sustainability in each step of the production process, and Brengman Brothers is the first winery in Michigan that is 100% powered by solar energy.
Farther north on the peninsula you will find Bluestone Vineyards and 45 North Vineyard & Winery. Bluestone Vineyards is known for its wide variety of grapes, and they always adapt their fermentation and aging processes to the unique circumstances that each year presents. 45 North Vineyard & Winery is located right on the 45thparallel, the middle point between the equator and the North Pole and is another establishment that prioritizes sustainability.
Where to Stay
Given that it is the middle point between Old Mission and Leelanau, Traverse City is the perfect place to stay when planning a Northern Michigan wine getaway. Aside from being the largest city in the area, it also has an up-and-coming restaurant scene and plenty of hotels, some of the most popular being the Park Place Hotel and Hotel Indigo.
When to Go
Without a doubt, the best time to plan a Northern Michigan winery trip is in summer, given that the season presents the best climate and cultural offering. Aside from the beaches and lakes that surround the region, to the west of the Leelanau wineries you will find the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park, with almost 40 miles of coast and unmatched views of Lake Michigan.
Additionally, the city organizes various summer festivals in July and August. The Cherry Festival takes place each year at the beginning of July and celebrates the harvest of the state’s most important fruit. At the end of July and into the beginning of August you can attend the Traverse City Film Festival, where the Traverse City State Theatre shows films by world renown directors.
How to Get There
You will find the Cherry Capital Airport in Traverse City, which receives domestic flights from Detroit (Michigan), Chicago (Illinois), Dallas (Texas), Charlotte (North Carolina), Denver (Colorado), and Minneapolis (Minnesota).
For another excellent food and wine tour, check out this culinary route around Graz, Austria.