Best Michigan Wineries to Visit

2 Lads Winery
Photo: Courtesy of 2 Lads Winery

Michigan has burst onto the American wine scene over the course of the past several decades. From a handful of producers in the 1970s, Michigan now hosts over 100 wineries drawing from 2,700 acres of vineyards, making it the fifth largest wine producing state in the U.S. Though the vineyards exist throughout the state, the vast majority are clustered along the contours of Lake Michigan, where the "lake effect" moderates the climate, extending the growing season and protecting the vines from severe cold in the winter. With additional vintages under their belts, Michigan's producers are becoming increasingly adept at growing European style vinifera grapes, and now they're replacing the old hybrids—like Seyval Blanc and Chambourcin, for example—with new stars like Riesling, Gewurztraminer and Cabernet Franc.Here, some of the most exciting places to experience the Michigan wine renaissance. —Richard Nalley

01 of 20

Best Michigan Wineries to Visit

Michigan is having a wine renaissance.

02 of 20

Black Star Farm

Black Star Farms
© John Robert Williams

Black Star Farms in Suttons Bay bills itself as a "wine and culinary destination," and for good reason: It operates two wineries and three tasting rooms, an eau-de-vie and grappa distillery, horse stables and trails, a café, and the stylish, upscale Inn at Black Star Farms. Stays at The Inn (rooms start at around $265) include a VIP tasting at the onsite barrel room, but check the schedule of events at the time of your visit, which may also include the monthly harvest dinners. Two of the tasting rooms are in Traverse City, including a wine bar at the Village at Traverse Commons. Though Riesling and Chardonnay are mainstays here, Black Star has scored notable successes with its reds as well. blackstarfarms.com

03 of 20

Bonobo Winery

Bonobo Winery
© Jory Little

This Old Mission Peninsula winery has a sprinkle of stardust: Owners are HGTV eco-carpenter Carter Oosterhouse and his wife, actress Amy Smart. The Oosterhouse-Smarts opened this stylish artisan winery in 2014, with his brother Todd, and named it for the endangered chimpanzee species (the winery's tagline: "Evolved Yet Primal"). The brothers collected three area barns to source the wood for their tasting room, which offers a further talking point: small dishes developed by celebrity chef Mario Batali, who has a vacation house nearby. Bonobos' small production wines—mostly white—are sustainably estate-grown and lean toward a sophisticated, crisp, food-loving style. bonobowinery.com

04 of 20

Brys Estate Vineyard and Winery

Brys Estate Vineyard
Courtesy of Brys Estate Vineyard & Winery

In just over a decade, Walt and Eileen Brys have managed to get their ambitious winery near the top of the quality pyramid for Michigan red wine. Their 91-acre Old Mission Peninsula estate is built on the bones of an architecturally refurbished cherry orchard operation, which lends the buildings a rustic chic vibe that would not seem out of place in Napa Valley that inspired them. A "bridge above the vines," which runs down to East Grand Traverse Bay, provides a unique photo op from the upper patio, where you can also bask, drink and sample charcuterie. Tastings in the handsome, mahogany-finished tasting room start at $5 for five wines (don't miss the ice wine). Check the website for hours and private tour opportunities. brysestate.com

05 of 20

Chateau Aeronautique Winery

Chateau Aeronautique Winery
© Sandy Brown

Land your plane (or you can drive) at this flying themed winery. Longtime commercial pilot Lorenzo Lizarralde is living two dreams at once with this personal-scale (2,500 case) Jackson operation. Located in an airpark (a "fly-in community"), it's surrounded by vintage airplanes, landings and take-offs—tours include a hangar and cellar tour. The mural-decorated tasting room offers a slew of bottlings, from the winery's dry, traditional Chardonnays and Rieslings, to a substantial roster of sweet whites and reds. A second location is opening in Onsted, in the Irish Hills. chateauaeronautiquewinery.com

06 of 20

Chateau Chantal Winery and Inn

Chateau Chantal
© Chateau Chantal

Chateau Chantal's founding couple, Robert and Nadine Begin, have a backstory a Hollywood screenwriter could appreciate: He is a former Catholic priest; she a former nun. Together they purchased this beautiful property on the Old Mission Peninsula with sweeping views of Grand Traverse Bay, vineyards and rolling hills. The well-appointed tasting room offers a range of tasting and touring options, wine dinners and a host of other events, including jazz concerts on Thursday evenings in the summer. The upscale bed & breakfast (from $165) makes a great home base for area wine visits. chateauchantal.com

07 of 20

Chateau de Leelanau Vineyard and Winery

Chateau de Leelanau
Courtesy of Chateau de Leelanau

Located at the gateway to Leelanau wine country north of Traverse City, Chateau de Leelanau is co-owned by Matt Gregory—it's an extension of his family's two-generation farming and orchard operation—and former Cincinnati Bengal football player Kyle Cook. The tasting room in a converted barn is laid back (the patio features a tiki bar) and the offerings include such non-traditional drinks as a sparkling Chardonnay-and-peach blend (Peach Fizz), cherry wine and caramel apple hard cider. The flagship wine is a varietal white made from the Bianca grape, an obscure Hungarian cross between Bouvier and Villard Blanc. Check the website for seasonal hours. chateaudeleelanau.com

08 of 20

Chateau Fontaine

Chateau Fontaine
Courtesy of Chateau Fontaine

This operation is a family affair from Lucie and Dan Matthies, who put wine grapes into a south-facing cow pasture on the Leelanau Peninsula in the 1970s; their son Doug, who manages the 30 acres of wine grapes; and his aunt Sally, who painted the distinctive sunset labels on the label's wine bottles. The family atmosphere continues at the easy-going tasting room (check the website for seasonal hours), and on tours that may be hosted by family members themselves. While Fontaine may be best known for its whites, particularly Chardonnay, Riesling and Gewürztraminer, its multigrape blends like the Woodland Red are very popular as well. chateaufontaine.com

09 of 20

Chateau Grand Traverse

Chateau Grand Traverse
Courtesy of Chateau Grand Traverse

Chateau Grand Traverse and its owners, the O'Keefe family, deserve credit for helping to bring the Old Mission Peninsula—a strip of land jutting into Grand Traverse Bay—to prominence. Today Chateau Grand Traverse is the largest commercial winery in northern Michigan. The spacious, bustling, year-round tasting room offers two very affordable five-wine flights (the Signature for $3, and the Reserve for $5), and you can sample the wine with munchies on The Patio in all but the coldest months. Be sure to try the outstanding Rieslings. Guests can also stay at The Inn at Chateau Grand Traverse next door (from $140), which has six rooms with bay and vineyard views. gtwines.com

10 of 20

Fenn Valley Vineyards

Fenn Valley Vineyards
Courtesy of Fenn Valley Vineyards

Call ahead or visit the website to check the availability of Fenn Valley's hour and forty-five minute tours, one of the region's most extensive introductions to wine making, with time in the cellar and the vineyard and tasting along the way. In the western part of the state, on the shores of Lake Michigan, the winery also offers various events year-round—including the June festival of wine and local food. Sparkling wines and whites are the core, but there are also estimable reds, dessert wines and fruit wines. fennvalley.com

11 of 20

French Valley Vineyards

French Valley Vineyard
Courtesy of French Valley Vineyard

Stephen and Pam Kozelko are the entrepreneurial couple that opened the Vineyard Inn on Sutton's Bay (high season rates from $175), which includes both Corky's Wine Bar and the waterfront tasting room for their winery venture in the French Valley (an onsite tasting room is planned). The Inn is a comfortable base for exploring the Leelanau scene and does a thriving wedding business. The Kozelko's 75-acre farm is planted both to vines and cherries—along with their Rieslings and Cabernet Francs, the adventurous may want to sample the cherry wines. frenchvalleyvineyards.com

12 of 20

45 North Vineyard & Winery

45 North Vineyard & Winery
© Tom Balazs / tombalazs.com

"Wine on the Line," says the sign at this Leelanau Peninsula winery, located athwart the 45th parallel of latitude that also runs through wine regions like Bordeaux and Washington State. Steve and Lori Grossnickle's 100-acre farm is devoted to conservation and sustainable wine-growing. Whites are at the fore here, including Riesling and a unwooded Chardonnay, but 45 North bottles upwards of 20 different wines, fruit wines and ciders. The cozy barn-style tasting room has a fireplace for the winters. Check ahead for tour opportunities. fortyfivenorth.com

13 of 20

Lemon Creek Winery

Lemon Creek Winery
Courtesy of Lemon Creek Winery

The Lemon family established their first farm in Berrien County in 1834, and their descendants opened this winery here back in 1984, an eternity ago itself on the Michigan wine timeline. This is not a small farming operation—the Lemons tend 170 acres of grape vines plus extensive orchards (the farm market is open from June-October). The winery's two tasting rooms—at the winery in Berrien Springs and a new wine bar in Grand Haven—pour their array of gently priced wines. The Lemons are particularly proud of their success with Cabernet Sauvignon (including an unusual Cabernet Ice Wine). lemoncreekwinery.com

14 of 20

L. Mawby Vineyards

L. Mawby Vineyards
© EE Berger

"Welcome Bubbleheads," reads the sign at the self-proclaimed "Michigan's Sparkling Winery." Owner/winemaker Larry Mawby heads his Leelanau Peninsula establishment with zest and a certain irreverent élan. (He wasn't the first person to associate sparkling wine and sex, but he was probably the first to feature the word on his labels, as in the Sex Brut Rosé). The tasting room (check the website for seasonal hours) always has two wines open for free tasting and offers various flights of others for between $7 and $15. The L. Mawby wines—in 10-plus bottlings and sweetness levels—are made using the traditional French méthode champenoise. The more affordable M. Lawrence sparklers—including the Detroit, a "Floral Hip-Hop Diva"—are produced by the bulk-fermented Charmat method. lmawby.com

15 of 20

Peninsula Cellars

Peninsula Cellars
© Peninsula Cellars, Old Mission Peninsula, Traverse City, Michigan

This well-known Old Mission Peninsula winery— set in a charming whitewashed, red-roofed former schoolhouse—has a few lessons of its own to impart. It's all about the wine here at the Kroupa family's establishment, and a style of eco-conscious winemaking designed to let the flavors of the Peninsula's vineyards shine through. The winery's tasting room outside Traverse City puts the day's offerings on chalkboards ($4 for six samples) in keeping with the schoolhouse atmosphere. The winery also partners with several others to pour at Michigan By The Bottle (mbtbtasting.com) tasting rooms in metro Detroit. Look especially for the Rieslings and for the Cabernet Francs. peninsulacellars.com

16 of 20

Round Barn Winery, Brewery and Distillery

Round Barn Winery
Courtesy of Round Barn Winery

An exuberant, multi-faceted project based out of a striking, 1912 Amish round barn in Baroda, this operation, including sister venture Free Run, deserves an on-line perusal to see what's open and hopping—like the main tasting room, with 24 wines, six spirits and seven beers, or the Public House, with local food and a sprawling roster of beverages including 20 Round Barn beers on tap. At the winery itself, sit down for a 45-minute guided tasting inside the barn with seven glasses for $15. The Union Pier tasting room offers full lineup of wines, with six tastes for $12. Contact them to reserve your place in Winemaking Camp and receive 24 bottles you craft yourself at the end. drinkmichigan.com/round-barn

17 of 20

St. Julian Winery

St. Julian Winery
Courtesy of St. Julian Winery

This southwestern Michigan winery, the state's oldest and largest, has a colorful history. Founder Mariano Meconi flourished as a winemaker in Prohibition-era Ontario, Canada, but he moved his operation to Detroit after repeal. Named for the patron saint of Meconi's home village in Italy, (the winery's motto: "Italian roots, Michigan soil"), St. Julian continues to grow and innovate, producing over 60 different products in every conceivable style, from crisp Riesling to Solera Cream Sherry to vodka. The standard tasting at the main Paw Paw winery is $5 person for six samples, but reserve ahead for various Enhanced Tastings (cheese or chocolate pairings?) for $20 each. stjulian.com.

18 of 20

Shady Lane Cellars

Shady Lane Cellars
Courtesy of Shady Lane Cellars

An ambitious, all-estate-grown, boutique winery on the Leelanau Peninsula, Shady Lane has been under new ownership since 2013, and under new winemaking direction since Napa Valley veteran Kasey Wierzba took the helm in 2016. Shady Lane turns out only about 5,000 cases a year, but like many other Michigan wineries, those cases are divided between numerous, something-for-everyone bottlings, with particular emphasis on Rieslings—both still and sparkling, dry and sweet. The lovely fieldstone and beam tasting room is actually a former chicken coop, much refurbished, and there is an outdoor bar pavilion and patio for the warm months. shadylanecellars.com

19 of 20

Tabor Hill Winery & Restaurant

Tabor Hill Winery
Courtesy of Tabor Hill / King Media

Tabor Hill was a Michigan pioneer. Back in 1970 it became the first new commercial winery in Michigan since right after Prohibition, and it paved the way for the modern era by planting European vinifera grapes. Today it is one of the leading wineries in the state and also one of the most-visited, operating three tasting rooms in southwest Michigan: Tabor Hill Winery & Restaurant in Buchanan; Tabor Hill Champagne Cellar in Bridgman; and Tabor Hill Wine Port in Saugatuck. The main winery in Buchanan offers walking tours of the cellars and vineyards, and concerts in the summer. taborhill.com

20 of 20

2 Lad's Winery

2 Lads Winery
Courtesy of 2 Lads Winery

Sleek contemporary design marks this stylish outfit in Traverse City with its impressive winery and eye-catching labels. The brainchild of South African born Cornel Olivier and local son Chris Baldyga, 2 Lads is the opposite of the farmhouse wine experience: Its hilltop, industrial-chic tasting room would be at home in Napa Valley, but then you'd miss the glass-walled views of East Traverse Bay. There are several by-appointment tasting and touring experiences available, but you can drop in for $5 tasting flights of their exceptional reds (be sure to sample the Cabernet Franc), with small bites of food. 2lwinery.com

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