Michigan vineyard The wine is fine in Michigan. And so are the tours, tastings and all the other facets that make the state’s wineries as appealing to visit as much as the wines are to drink. The agritourism aspect of the wine industry has had an impressive impact on Michigan’s economy for a number of years – and it shows no sign of stopping, says Karel Bush, program manager of the Michigan Grape and Wine Industry Council. “It is absolutely growing, and it is very important to the economic health of this state,” she says. “Over the last 15 years, the number of wineries promoted by the Council has gone from 25 to around 120. They are located all over the state. Most are in northwest and southwest Michigan, but they’re spreading to other areas of Michigan.”
Customers taste wines at Lemon Creek Winery in Berrien Springs.

Customers taste wines at Lemon Creek Winery in Berrien Springs.

Michigan Wine Country

More wineries statewide are discovering the benefits of opening their properties to wine enthusiasts. Many of the state’s ag producers are promoting a connection between agriculture and tourism, with many offering U-pick farms, pumpkin patches, corn mazes, farmers markets, farm stays and other attractions to entice tourists. Wineries have found their niche in agritourism as well.

The Grape and Wine Industry Council helps members with promoting their business and aids tourists by offering travel tips, which is exemplified by the establishment of Michigan’s wine trails. “Wine trails are great examples of wineries working together to bring people to their region,” Bush says. “The more reasons a person has to visit, the more they will visit. There are several wine trails around the state.” The economic impact is substantial. For example, a 2014 study by Michigan State University showed that, based on a two-person overnight stay for primarily visiting a winery, the money generated averages nearly $300 per visit. “Wineries promote themselves, but the hotels, restaurants and businesses surrounding the wineries also benefit from those tourists coming in to visit,” Bush says. Brys Estate Vineyard and Winery in Traverse City embraces agritourism.

Rich History, High Quality

The Lemon Creek Winery in Berrien Springs and the Brys Estate Vineyard and Winery in Traverse City may be on opposite ends of Lake Michigan, but they’re similar in how they embrace agritourism. “The wine tasting and the winery are an attraction now, and the wine experience and education that come along with it are really important,” says Jeff

Lemon, sixth-generation owner of the Lemon Creek farm that has been growing grapes and other fruits since the 1850s. “We’ve really noticed a big jump in the number of visitors in the past 10 years. People want to come out and get good-value wines, and it becomes a word-of-mouth thing. All of a sudden, people realize it’s a fun thing to do.” Lemon and his brother, Tim, are partners in the operation, which includes around 170 acres of grapes and 60 acres of other fruits. Lemon Creek has a tasting room in Grand Haven where wines can be sampled and purchased. The winery also hosts several events throughout the year, including an art and wine festival in May, a Father’s Day festival in June and a harvest fest in September. Walt and Eileen Brys aren’t from a family steeped in wine history, but their Brys Estate on Old Mission Peninsula is certainly popular with the tourists. They harvested their first grapes and began construction on their winery and tasting room in 2004, and the property now has a variety of amenities. Guests can stay overnight in a restored barn overlooking the vineyards and East Grand Traverse Bay, enjoy a gathering on the upper deck offering meals and spectacular views, or sample estate-grown wines in a brick and mahogany tasting room. With the variety of award- winning wines at fine destinations across the state – red, white, dry, sweet, sparkling and fruit – tourists are guaranteed to get their glasses filled to the brim with all that Michigan’s wineries have to offer. Two glasses of red and white wine decorated with grape leaves

See Also:  How Historical Farms Add Value to Michigan Agriculture

From Vine to Glass

Wine enthusiasts enjoy a variety of Michigan wines thanks to three types of grapes grown in the state: Vinifera Varieties These grapes makes up about 70 percent of the those grown in Michigan, and consist of classic European varieties, such as Chardonnay, Riesling, Pinot Noir, Pinot Grigio/Gris and Cabernet Franc. Hybrid Varieties Sometimes called French/American hybrids, hybrids are crosses between vinifera varieties and grapes native to North America. They make up about 27 percent of Michigan’s grape production, and include Vidal, Chambourcin, Marechal Foch and Vignoles. Native Varieties

These grapes are close relatives of true native species. In Michigan, that includes Concord and Niagara. About 3 percent of Michigan wine is made from these varieties.  

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