Anything connected with produce in Michigan tends to do well almost by default. We grow so many things out here that it's easy to find fruits or vegetables to satisfy most any time of year. Grapes grow in a variety of places in Michigan, particularly near the lakeshores, and as such, Michigan has a wine country of its own that won't be embarrassed by even some of the world's greats. So, if you want to check out a Michigan winery, and take home a little of that fine Michigan vintage, check out the 10 best Michigan wineries to start your search for that perfect bottle.
Paw Paw's St. Julian Winery is not only Michigan's largest winery—it makes 1.5 million gallons of wine annually—but it's also one of the most famous. It's home to the state's first female winemaker, Nancie Oxley, and offers a complete tour alongside its tasting room, so visitors will be able to try an array of vintages to see what best fits. Founded in 1921, St. Julian will also offer hard cider and spirits for those who want something harder, and reports suggest the Reserve Meritage is one to make a special stop for.
Tabor Hill in Buchanan offers features beyond wine that make it great. Some have said that wine is fine and good by itself, but it can be even better when properly paired with food. That's a point Tabor Hill takes seriously, sufficiently so that it offers a restaurant on the same grounds. Each component works together. The winery offers some supply for the restaurant and the restaurant gives diners a view of the vineyard.
In the end, a winery alone is just grapes and brewing supplies, so any time a winery can step its game up a bit with new options, that's worth noting. Jackson's Sandhill Crane Vineyards represents a vineyard that's done just that. It offers a winery and café, complete with tasting room, but it's also gone the extra mile and added a performance stage. “Thirsty Thursdays” at Sandhill Crane Vineyards mean live music, and on your birthday, tasters get to keep the stemware as a gift.
Chateau Grand Traverse takes on a bit of an edge thanks to a recently-added patio which heavily features the area's breathtaking view. Throw in six tastes for $3 and a particular focus on Riesling, and Chateau Grand Traverse will offer up plenty of exciting tastes for the wine enthusiast.
While most anyone with a few basic components and a plastic bottle of Welch's can make wine, some of the greatest wines go beyond the grape. That's a point not lost on Grand Rapids' Robinette Apple Haus & Winery. Robinette, as the name suggests, focuses on the apple to bring out not only cider, but also an apple wine. Tasting samplers start at just $3 and boast a souvenir glass as well.
Remember how we said that picking a winery in Traverse City can be hard because there are so many? Nothing proves that point like Left Foot Charley in the downtown area. While the winery features just a tasting room and six tastes run $5, the location that really sells this one. Left Foot Charley is reportedly located in what used to be the laundry room of a former mental asylum, the Northern Michigan Asylum.
Founded by an international airline pilot named Lorenzo Lizarralde, Jackson's Chateau Aeronautique offers not only a unique set of wines, but also a unique tasting structure located in a unique setting. If that sounds like a lot of “unique” in one place, wait until you see why: Patrons can select from a dry or a sweet tasting flight for $5, and Chateau Aeronautique itself is built somewhat around an airport, complete with a grass runway and a 1956 Cessna 172 parked in a hangar that also serves as a cellar room.
For one of the greatest points in wine, check out Suttons Bay's Shady Lane Cellars. Not only does this winery boast humble beginnings—the tasting room used to be a chicken coop—but it's also an object lesson in surpassing these beginnings. Shady Lane Cellars offers a Merlot, a Blue Franc, and what it calls a Franc and Franc, which is a combination mix of Cabernet Franc and Blaufrankisch. Throw in an outdoor tasting bar and patio in an impressive setting and a five tastes for $5 menu and there's plenty to like on Shady Lane.
The centerpiece for Baroda's Round Barn Winery has to be its titular feature, an Amish round barn that dates back to 1911 and was imported from Indiana, where it was reassembled on the site. It's not just a way to check out turn-of-the-century Amish craft, though, it's also a great place to find beer, wine, and spirits all in the same place. It's not only a winery, but also a brewery and a distillery. In fact, Mlive.com recommended the Black Walnut Creme liqueur as a must-have choice, a drink that, given Michigan's abundance of black walnut trees, is all over pure Michigan.
MLive recently ranked this one on the top of its own list, and given that this is pretty much the closest thing Michigan seems to have to a celebrity in the wine world itself, it's not surprising. It not only boasts a winery, but also a distillery, a farm, a restaurant, and a hotel. What really sells this, however, is that its A Capella Ice Wine—an unusual breed of wine that requires very specific conditions to make—was twice served at the White House, including the George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations.