Northern Michigan Wineries: There's no better time to hit the wine trails of Northern Michigan than the cusp of late summer and early fall. Green-gold clusters of riesling ripen in the late Northern Michigan summer sun while crisp air insinuates an approaching autumn. New vineyards are proliferating on both the Old Mission and Leelanau Peninsulas as well as in neighboring Antrim and Emmet Counties. Non-traditional European varietals like Grüner Veltliner, gamay noir and sauvignon blanc join the stable of classic cool-climate vinifera to add exciting range to the local Northern Michigan wine tasting room scene. Taste offerings from these new wineries now and check back as they evolve.
Mackinaw Trail Winery
Mackinaw Trail Winery launched its full-scale vineyard, tasting room and production facility south of Petoskey this summer. Look for varietal bottlings like pinot grigio, gewürztraminer and syrah sourced from Northern Michigan and the Lake Michigan shore, fruit wines and semi-sweet blends like the White Ibis or the porty bourbon-barrel aged North Shore Red.
Torch Lake, waterfirewine.com
Antrim County breaks the peninsular monopoly with the inaugural release of WaterFire Vineyards. The nine-acre hillside estate above Torch Lake is farmed by Chantal LeFebvre and Mike Newman, and their focused, linear sauvignon blanc and Grüner Veltliner are crafted by Left Foot Charley’s Brian Ulbrich. Find WaterFire on local retail shelves and restaurant wine lists.
Old Mission Peninsula, hawthornevineyards.com
Hawthorne’s pristine 80-acre ridge-top parcel produces 10 distinctive varietals including pinot blanc, pinot noir and lemberger. Meticulous winegrowing and an expansive barrel program produce wines with purity and concentration. Private tastings and tours are available by reservation.
Leelanau Peninsula, laurentidewinery.com
Former engineers Susan and Bill Braymer left California to get into the Leelanau County grape game with their new vineyard and tasting room near the north arm of Lake Leelanau. Laurentide bottles un-oaked chardonnay, dry riesling, and a citrusy sauvignon blanc alongside barrel-aged pinot noir and Emergence, an off-dry proprietary white blend.
French Valley Vineyards
Leelanau Peninsula, vininn.com/frenchvalleyvineyards
This 75-acre estate winery in Lake Leelanau just opened Northern Michigan’s only beachfront tasting bar: Corky’s Wine Bar and Beach Bistro in downtown Suttons Bay. Sip French Valley’s fresh and aromatically charged riesling while noshing on small plates and watching the waves roll in off West Bay. Private tastings and vineyard tours available by appointment.
Leland local and web development/marketing guru Andy McFarlane took over as director of the Leelanau Peninsula Vintners Association in 2006 and has overseen an new era of explosive growth in the local wine industry. This month we catch up with Andy to get some inside tips on where our wines are headed.
When hitting the tasting room circuit this fall what should we be excited about?
2012 was the third in a trifecta of great vintages for Northern Michigan. The reds being released this fall are some of the most concentrated and exciting we’ve ever seen, and a lot of people aren’t aware of how serious our red wines have become. With all the new wineries that have opened in the last year, I encourage people to mix it up; fold a few new tasting rooms into that tour of their favorites. There’s more great wine up here than ever before.
I have to believe you have a favorite late summer wine pairing?
I’m gonna go a little unconventional on this one. Pick up a ripe wheel of Camembert, some ripe local peaches and a bottle of 45 North’s Peach Crémant. Place the Camembert in a round baking dish, top with sliced peaches, two tablespoons of maple syrup and one-third of the Peach Crémant. Bake for 20 minutes at 325 degrees and enjoy with the remaining Crémant.