By Duane Pemberton
Michigan is known for a lot of things: cars, Lake Michigan, Detroit, “Motor City”, and more recently, its wine. Of all places, Michigan has a bustling wine scene that is strongest in its white wine quality with some red varietals gaining momentum such as Cab Franc and Pinot Noir – for my palate, the mainstream Bourdeaux varietals are still a ways off – if ever.
I took a 2012 Buick Regal GS for a trip up the Old Mission Peninsula to check out some of the local wine scene around Traverse City.
My first stop was at Black Star Farms winery which has locations on both the Old Mission Peninsula and Leelanau Peninsula – this is a winery which produces whites, reds and even some bubbly. The grapes they produce wines from are: Chardonnay, Riesling, Pinot Gris, Sirius, Merlot, Cab Franc and Pinot Noir. In addition, they also produce wines from fruit – Cherry, pear as well as an apple cider.
Next stop was Chateau Chantal – a family-owned winery which sits at the highest point on the Old Mission Peninsula – I had the opportunity to meet with their director of marketing and family daughter, Marie-Chantal Dalese, who gave me a complete tour of the winery and bed & breakfast Inn.
They produce a variety of white and red wines – both sweet and dry as well as a very good tart-cherry port wine. My favorite wine, however, that I had there was a Pinot Noir which frankly was hands-down the best red wine I’ve had from Michigan and shows a good promise of what this region is capable of.
Most of the lower area of Michigan has to deal with extreme cold winter temperatures but these Peninsula areas have water all around which help maintain slightly warmer temps in the winter.
As you can hear in the video above, this winery has a small, family-owned vibe and enthusiasm and at the same time maintains quite a bit of volume and quality.
A couple other wineries worth checking out if you make it up to the Old Mission are Chateau Grand Traverse and Peninsula Cellars – I didn’t have time to do much at either place but the locals have told me they produce good wines.
There were a few things I walked away from after my short time in Michigan:
- There are a LOT of wine-lovers in this state.
- The dry whites are very good and still have a long ways to becoming great on the world-stage.
- Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon don’t do so well here, however, Cabernet Franc is not bad.
- The reason so many people here prefer sweet wines is due in part to the crappy little tasting glasses the wineries serve – a dry wine in those things tastes horrible; it’s like a slightly larger shot-glass.
I mean, seriously, the stemware used in all four of the tasting rooms I checked out, all use this same piece of crap glass – it’s no wonder sweet wines are the largest-selling in the area.
If you get to the great state of Michigan and decide to check out many of the good wines it can offer, you’ll run into some of the nicest people, good wines, good food and stellar views from many of them – just make sure to bring your own glass.