The Best Michigan Wineries to Visit

Here are the can't-miss destinations for Michigan wine travel.

Chateau Chantal
Photo: © Chateau Chantal

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 18

Black Star Farm

Exterior shot of the tasting room at 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 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.

02 of 18

Bonobo Winery

A field of grape vines at 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, where they pair their wines with a three-course small plates menu that changes each month. Bonobos' small production wines — mostly white — are sustainably estate-grown and lean toward a sophisticated, crisp, food-loving style.

03 of 18

Brys Estate Vineyard and Winery

A shot of the tasting room bar at 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. 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. The handsome, mahogany-finished tasting room is the perfect setting for sampling their selection of reds, rosés, and whites (don't miss the ice wine). Check the website for hours and private tour opportunities.

04 of 18

Chateau Aeronautique Winery

A shot of the abundant spring flowers and foliage in a bed outside of Chateau Aeronautique Winery

Sandy Brown

Land your plane at this flying-themed winery (driving is, of course, also an option). 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. Tasting rooms have also opened in Irish Hills and Auburn Hills.

05 of 18

Chateau Chantal Winery and Inn

An aerial view of the winery at 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 is 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 makes a great home base for area wine visits.

06 of 18

Chateau Fontaine

The entrance to the tasting room at 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 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, blends like the Woodland Red are very popular as well.

07 of 18

Chateau Grand Traverse

Aerial view of the grounds and winery at 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, 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 $225), which has six rooms with bay and vineyard views.

08 of 18

Fenn Valley Vineyards

Guests taking an extensive tour of the fermentation tanks at Fenn Valley Vineyards
Courtesy of Fenn Valley Vineyards

Call ahead or visit the website to check the availability of Fenn Valley's one-hour and 45-minute tours, one of the region's most extensive introductions to winemaking, 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.

09 of 18

French Valley Vineyards

The waterfront seating area at French Valley Vineyard
Courtesy of French Valley Vineyard

Stephen and Pam Kozelko are the entrepreneurial couple that opened the Vineyard Inn on Suttons Bay, 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.

10 of 18

45 North Vineyard & Winery

Guests sampling wines in the tasting room at 45 North Vineyard & Winery

Tom Balazs

"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 an unoaked Chardonnay, among the upwards of 20 wines, fruit wines, and ciders that 45 North bottles. The cozy barn-style tasting room has a fireplace for the winters. Check ahead for tour opportunities or enjoy a self-guided stroll on the property's trail.

11 of 18

Lemon Creek Winery

A full bar of patrons in the tasting room at 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 through 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).

12 of 18

MAWBY Vineyards

Tasting glasses arrayed on a bar in the tasting room at 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 offers various flights of sparkling wine at several price points. The MAWBY wines — in 10-plus bottlings and sweetness levels — are made using the traditional French méthode champenoise. More affordable sparklers like their Detroit offering, a "Floral Hip-Hop Diva," are produced by the bulk-fermented Charmat method.

13 of 18

Peninsula Cellars

The winery and surrounding trees at Peninsula Cellars

Courtesy of Peninsula Cellars

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 in keeping with the schoolhouse atmosphere. The winery also partners with several others to pour at Michigan By The Bottle tasting rooms in metro Detroit. Look especially for the Rieslings and Cabernet Francs.

14 of 18

Round Barn Winery, Brewery, and Distillery

An outdoor event is held outside 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 online 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, sit down for a 45-minute guided tasting of seven wines inside the barn. The Union Pier tasting room offers a full lineup of wines as well. Contact them to reserve your place in Winemaking Camp and receive 24 bottles to craft yourself at the end.

15 of 18

St. Julian Winery

Hors d'ouevre platters and a vase of cut sunflowers at 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 products in every conceivable style, from crisp Riesling to Solera Cream Sherry to vodka. The standard tasting at the main Paw Paw winery is for six samples, but you can reserve ahead for various enhanced tastings which pair each wine with cheese or chocolate.

16 of 18

Shady Lane Cellars

A very large assortment of wines in all sorts of styles at 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.

17 of 18

Tabor Hill Winery & Restaurant

An assortment of medal-draped wine bottles at 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.

18 of 18

2 Lad's Winery

The distinctly modern winery and tasting room at 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 tasting flights of their exceptional reds (be sure to sample the Cabernet Franc), with small bites of food.

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