While many wine enthusiasts might think of Michigan as a relative newcomer to the winemaking process, the region’s viticultural veins actually run deep, reaching back through the centuries while also holding promise for the future.
Michigan’s history of winemaking stretches back centuries, as early explorers brought a taste for familiar beverages, as well as the yearning for the fruits familiar to their European homes. Voyageurs like Rene-Robert Cavelier, sieur de La Salle and Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac reported wild grapes growing in the Michigan region, and Cadillac even planted grape vines inside the walls of Fort Pontchartrain du Detroit as early as 1702 for wine making.
Fast forward through the early part of the 20th century, from Prohibition to World War 2, and winemaking in Michigan moved forward too, with much of the state’s production then located in the southwest, with places like Paw Paw providing the majority of the production.
In the mid-1960s, though, Bernie Rink earned credit for planting varietal grapes on the Leelanau Peninsula, launching the industry in the northwest region of the state as well. Wines from Black Star Farms or Good Harbor Vineyards now offer some of the region’s best bets.
The Tip of the Mitt American Viticultural Area, stretching nearly 3,000 miles from Charlevoix County up and over the top of the Lower Peninsula to Presque Isle County, joined the steady development of winemaking in Michigan, becoming the first new AVA in the state in nearly three decades, earning approval from the federal Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau in 2017 after several years of waiting. Michigan now boasts five AVA regions.
Several Emmet County wineries are part of the new AVA, such as Mackinaw Trail Winery, founded in 2004, and boasting more than 500 medals for wine excellence, produced on its 30 acres of vines located south of Petoskey. Among the others is also Crooked Vine Vineyard and Winery, situated on 38 acres north of Petoskey, and opened in 2014. Both are also part of the smaller Bayview Wine Trail, that covers a portion of the Tip of the Mitt AVA.
The dozen Tip of the Mitt wineries meet all the requirements for a designated AVA, including an area with a name regionally or nationally recognized, historically legitimate boundaries, as well as distinctive regional growing conditions.
To maintain the designation, vintners must produce wines that include at least 85 percent of the grapes from the region, which here are likely to include newer vinifera varieties such as Marquette and frontenac gris due to the area’s cold winter temperatures, and the region’s shorter growing season.
The recent addition of the Tip of the Mitt AVA designation, including the Bayview Wine Trail, certainly proves winemaking continues to grow in Michigan, while the longer history shows how much this is a part of what makes the Great Lakes State notable.
Learn more about Mackinaw Trail Winery, Crooked Vine Vineyard, and other Bay View Wine Trail wineries at https://www.bayviewwinetrail.com