Wine Tasting Michigan Style

The Girls at a Winery in Northern Michigan

Born and raised in Michigan, I have spent many a time “Up North”. My parents have owned a condo in the Leelanau Peninsula of Michigan since I was little and, as an adult, I’ve visited a lot of the wineries up there.  Some of you may be surprised to know Michigan actually has a lot of wineries, and the Leelanau Peninsula has almost two dozen of them. Over Memorial Day weekend, I was very excited to introduce Lissette to some Michigan wines and catch up with some of my friends from home while we spent some time at my parent’s condo in beautiful Glen Arbor.

Unless you buy a lot of wine, wine tasting can be a fun and inexpensive way to spend a weekend, and Michigan, just like any wine region, has some really good wines and some not so good wines to try. I think the first time people go wine tasting in Michigan there is a little skepticism. A lot of people assume all the wines will be sweet or that Michigan knows nothing about how to make a nice wine, but these are false assumptions.

Here’s what you can expect when you are tasting in the Leelanau Peninsula. At almost any vineyard you visit you are going to find Rieslings and Pinot Noirs. It’s also common to find a cherry wine or two and some Cab Francs. There tends to be a lot more white wines made up this way than red, but almost every winery will have a least some red to try. There is usually a good mix of dry wines and slightly sweeter wines. A lot of the wineries list their wines in order of sweetness and even provide the percentage of residual sugar to help patrons choose the right wines to try. You will also find that a lot of the wines are made in small quantities and may be hard to find outside the area (especially outside  Michigan) and some may not be sold anywhere but at the winery.

Tasting can be a little confusing here because every winery does it slightly differently. At some wineries it is free to taste and you can go right down the list and try anything you want. Other places may offer one or two tastings for free and then charge a small fee for additional tastings —  $3-$5 usually allows you to taste 5 wines total.  Other place charge a fee for a glass (usually $5) and you are then able to try 4-5 wines. If you bring the glass back on your next visit you taste for free.

On this trip we hit about 10 wineries, most of which I had been to before and a few of which I had not.  Some of the wineries we visited are listed below.

45 North

I had not been to 45 North before and I have to say I was impressed with them. They had some good wines, a beautiful tasting room and beautiful grounds. They had both traditional wines as well as some cider and fruit wines. This will definately have to be a stop on my next trip Up North.

Circa Estate

This is one of my favorite wineries in the area. When you step out of the car, you feel like you are in Tuscany rather then Northern Michigan. They have a great back patio that overlooks the vineyard and if you go on a Saturday evening, you can often enjoy small plates with a glass of wine while you listen to live music. If you like white wine, I recommend Improvisations.

L. Mawby

Another one of my favorite wineries, L. Mawby is strictly sparkling wine, so if you are not into bubbly,  this is not the place for you. This winery is lots of fun. Their wines have funny names like Fizz, Wet and Sex. Yes, I said Sex and I must say the Sex is amazing! It’s a pretty dry Sparkling Rose and by far one of my favorite sparkling wines.

Black Star Farms

This is probably the most well known winery in the area. They have a multitude of wines and there really is something for everyone. I bought a nice rose here and my friends Chrissy and Jill each bought a bottle of Red.


This winery is owned by Madonna’s dad and yes, I’m talking about the famous singer, Madonna.  While none of the wines we tasted here stood out to me, it was still nice to stop in and see what they had to offer. Plus we already had glasses for this vineyard, so why not?

Cherry Republic

Cherry Republic is a staple in Glen Arbor. They only sell cherry products and the compound consists of a deli/ice cream shop, a food/ apparel store and beverage tasting room.  It’s a pretty cool place to visit, even if you don’t want to taste cherry wines. I think immediately when people hear cherry wine they think of really sweet wine, but they have both dry and sweet wines here. In my opinion, some of the dry reds would make good summer red wines.   The Liberty Sparkling was also pretty good and downright delicious as a mimosa!

Good Neighbor Organic

 I was not a fan of this place. It was the first time I came here and I didn’t really like the atmosphere or the wines (although most of what they had would be considered cider not wine).   My friends liked a couple of the fruity ciders, but the only thing I liked was their ice wine. The tasting here was completely free though, so if you’re interested in some sweet fruity ciders, it’s worth trying.

Chateau de Leelanau

This winery mainly had white wines to sample. If you’re into reds this might be a good one to skip because there was only one red on their tasting list. They did have amazing sangria though, and we were able to take home the recipe for free. Also if you follow them on twitter, you will get a free button when you stop by the winery.

Please check out Lissette’s post “Michigan’s Best Kept Secret”, to read about the other wineries we visited and get a non-Michigander’s take on Michigan wines.

Northern Michigan is beautiful in the summer and I think the wineries are worth a visit. If you get a chance to try any of these wineries, I would love to hear your take on them!


Posted on June 3, 2011, in Pinot Noir, Recommendations, Reviews, Riesling, Wine Tasting, Wine Tours and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. Black Star Farms has always been my favorite up there. Most everything else I’ve tasted has been too sweet for my taste. Plus, Black Star sells local cheese and has a farm stand in the summer. YUM!

    • I can’t remember did we go to any of the wineries last time you were at the condo?
      It seems like there is more dry wine up there then there used to be. I got a red from Gill’s Pier I think you might like.

  2. Galen from $10 Tuesday's

    Good to read your reviews! Jon taught you well!!
    Next time you may want to try Left Foot Charley. Yes, kind of a wacky name, and it is not in a pictuesque location. Instead it is in the former mental hospital/commercial development in downtown Traverse City. They do have great wine though.
    Another you may want to try is Raftscholl. Especially his Raftscholl Red. Kind of a kooky place (he is kind of grumpy), but again, good wines.

    • Galen,
      Thank you so much for checking out the blog. Glad you are enjoying it. I hope to make it Up North at least once more this summer maybe I can try those wineries when I’m there. Thanks for the recommendation! I miss $10 Tuesdays with you guys. I haven’t found anything here in Chicago that quite compares.

  1. Pingback: Michigan’s Best Kept Secret « Wine With Me

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