Michigan Wine

Wine Regions of Michigan MapDid you know that April is Michigan Wine Month? In honor, we are dedicating this week’s ‘ask a wine pro’ post to all things Michigan wine. We’ve got the facts, the grapes, the AVAs and great places to drink for your next trip to Michigan. Have any additional questions? Feel free to send them our way and we will amend this post with their answer.

Michigan Wine Facts

  • Michigan is the 4th largest grape-growing region in the U.S.
    • Most of this is dedicated to juice grapes, not wine grapes
    • Michigan is the 5th largest state in terms of wine grape production in the U.S.
  • Michigan is 13th (U.S.) in total wine production with over 121 wineries producing more than 2.3 million gallons of wine annually
  • All four of Michigan AVAs (American Viticultural Areas) are located in proximity to Lake Michigan with the lake effect providing an environment conducive to wine grape growing
    • Lake effect snow protects vines in the winter by providing insulation to the soil keeping the roots from freezing
    • Temperate climate protects the buds from breaking in the spring and helps the grapes ripen in the summer

Michigan Wine Grapes

Michigan has evolved from sweet wines made from native North American varieties to a more modern style made via vinifera varieties. ‘70% of Michigan’s wine grapes are now vinifera and since 1997, 90% of the new plantings in Michigan have been vinifera varieties.’

The following wine grapes are popular in Michigan:

  • Riesling (the most widely planted white)
  • Chardonnay
  • Pinot Gris
  • Cabernet Franc
  • Merlot
  • Pinot Noir (the most widely panted red)
  • Gewurtztraminer
  • Pinot Blanc
  • Also planted: Cabernet Sauvignon, Gruner Veltliner, Marsanne, Muscat Ottonel, Pinot Meunier, Rousanne, Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah and Viognier

You can still find wines made from Michigan’s original, sweet past. Some popular French / American Hybrids used in Michigan:

  • Vignoles
  • Chambourcin
  • Seyval Blanc
  • Vidal Blanc
  • Chancellor
  • Marechal Foch
  • Chardonel
  • Traminette

Michigan American Viticultural Areas (AVA)


Fennville MI Wine Grape
Image via Rachel Kramer
  • Michigan’s 1st AVA (Sept 18, 1981)
  • The United State’s 3rd AVA
  • Fenn Valley Vineyards is the only commercial winery located within the AVA
  • 75,000 acres
  • Located entirely within the Lake Michigan Shore AVA

Leelanau Peninsula

Leelanau Peninsula MI Wine
Image via Rachel Kramer
  • Michigan’s 2nd largest AVA (March 30, 1982)
  • 75,000 acres
  • Traverse City is located at the base of the peninsula

Lake Michigan Shore

St. Julian Winery Michigan
Image via St. Julian Winery
  • Michigan’s 3rd AVA, gaining status October 13, 1983
  • Southwest Michigan
  • Home to the oldest modern commercial grape region in the state, dating back to 1867
  • Home to the majority of Michigan vineyards and half of the state’s wine grape production (1,280,000 acres)
  • Glacial Moraine soils
  • Warmer growing season than the other MI AVAs

Old Mission Peninsula

Chateau Grand Traverse MI Wine
Image via Chateau Grand Traverse
  • June 8, 1987
  • Michigan’s smallest AVA with 19,200 acres
  • Known for well regarded MI wine
  • Just 20 miles from end to end

Our Experience

I’ve had the pleasure of visiting Old Mission Peninsula and Leelanau Peninsula in northern Michigan. It wasn’t a wine specific trip, so I only visited two wineries; Jolly Pumpkin Traverse City and Chateau Grand Traverse. The white wines were enjoyable, and I ended up purchasing three from Jolly Pumpkin, specifically the Dry Riesling, the white blend and the Pinot Grigio. At Chateau Grand Traverse we were impressed by the Port-style wines being made from cherries, and purchased the Cherry Reserve dessert style wine.

In an attempt to paint the broader picture, we found this list of Michigan’s Best Winery Top 10 for you. Let us know if there are any great wineries in Michigan that you love, cheers!






2 thoughts

  1. Great piece. I’ve explored Fenville and Lake Michigan Shore AVAs quite a bit…. love visiting the winemakers there.

    Didn’t know it was Michigan Wine Month! Need to celebrate with a bottle or three.

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