Indian Trails Blog

Looking for Group Trip Ideas, Check out Michigan’s Wine Country

Posted by Chad Cushman

Apr 19, 2014 8:01:00 AM


Wine tours, winery, wine tastingLooking for group trip ideas this fall?  How about a wine tour? 

If you thought that Napa Valley and Sonoma had a corner on the wine market, you really owe it to yourself to explore Michigan’s wine country.

Facts about Michigan Wines

Did you know?

  • Michigan has 2,000 acres of vineyards devoted to wine grapes, most of them within 25 miles of Lake Michigan.
  • Michigan is home to 101 commercial wineries.
  • Michigan wineries produce one million gallons of wine each year.
  • Michigan wineries attract 800,000 tourists annually.
  • Michigan wineries make many styles of wine, from dry to sweet to sparkling, including ice wine, fortified wine, and brandy.

Michigan wines have the characteristics of "cool climate" wines: well-balanced, complex, and food-friendly. This is because grapes grown in a cool climate (such as Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Riesling, Pinot Grigio, and Cabernet Franc) take a long time to ripen and develop their unique flavors, allowing the particular character of each varietal to shine through. So a bottle of Michigan Chardonnay has the distinctive taste of the Chardonnay grape. These characteristics enhance and complement the flavors in food.

What to Expect on a Wine Tour

If you charter a bus for your wine tour, you may decide to visit several wineries in any one of the state’s four primary wine regions: Fennville, Lake Michigan Shore, Leelanau Peninsula, or Old Mission Peninsula.  Fennville and Lake Michigan Shore, located in the southwest corner of the state, produce 45 percent of Michigan’s commercial wines; Leelanau and Old Mission Peninsula, located in the Greater Traverse City area up north, produce 51 percent of the state’s wine. Select three to five wineries in any of these regions for an unforgettable day of touring and tasting. 

Wineries often give guided educational tours of the vineyards and wine cellars. For example, Fenn Valley Vineyards operates the Grape Train: a tractor-drawn wagon that takes guests into the vineyards to learn the basics of grape growing and wine making.On the tour, visitors sample various wine and food combinations to glean the theory behind pairing. Other wineries offer self-guided tours. Some give lectures and demonstrations.

Almost every winery has a tasting room, where you will be invited to sample a variety of wines (from dry to sweet) and/or buy a glass of wine. Some wineries charge a fee for the tasting (typically $5.00); some apply the tasting fee to any purchase you make; others offer samples free of charge.  Some wineries feature a lunch or snack menu, picnic grounds, and special events throughout the year.  Some offer gourmet dining or even overnight accommodations (at an inn or bed & breakfast). Plan your wine tour accordingly.

Good to Know

Winemakers are passionate about what they do, and they are typically enthusiastic, friendly people who are eager to share their knowledge.  If you can meet the actual winemaker, it will enhance your experience.

There is no obligation to buy a bottle of wine.  Buy only what you like and want.

Keep in mind that small vineyards may not be able to accommodate a large group.  Read up on the winery’s reservations policy, group size limit, and other things you need to know.

Why it Makes Sense to Charter a Bus

Wine country is beautiful, with lush vineyards, picturesque properties, and breathtaking vistas.  Chartering a bus for your wine tour allows you to relax and enjoy the scenery. 

Wineries are frequently off the beaten path and can be a little tricky to find.  You’ll notice that many of them list their precise GPS coordinates on their websites to help visitors get there.  When you charter a bus, the driver will get you where you’re going. 

Finally, keep in mind that when you go on a wine tour, you will be drinking wine.  It’s nice to know that someone else will be doing the driving.  To be clear: This is not a booze cruise. (That’s a whole different outing.) But still. You will be drinking wine.

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Topics: Traverse City