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Friday, April 19, 2013

Wine Industry Expands in Michigan

Wine consumption, wine making, and the resulting tourism in wine regions doesn't just happen in California (or WA, OR, and NY).  Michigan has a growing wine area in the NW part of the "mitten" near Traverse City. That part of the state has long been known for cherries and while we all like cherry pie that doesn't bring in many tourists--though Traverse City does host the National Cherry Festival! That brings the question, what kind of wine with cherry pie? I'm guessing Pinot Noir.

This may seem like a strange place for a growing wine industry. Fruit grows here because of the moderating effect of Lake Michigan and the 30 mile long Grand Traverse Bay. The water temperature changes more slowly that the air temp so spring is delayed, helping prevent frost issues, and fall is extended because the lake has not yet cooled off. This is all great for growing fruit in a narrow band near the water. Though it's got to be a hearty group of grape farmers as the last freeze is typically mid-May and the first of the autumn is mid-October.

Michigan wine sales rose six percent last year. The state has over 100 wineries now. Vineyard land has doubled in the last ten years. My only experience with MI wine was a very nice Pinot Gris.

According to there are one million tasting room visitors each year. Napa sees over four million. Still, that's a lot of folks eating in local restaurants and staying in local lodgings. In a state with a failing economy it's good to see a bright spot with tourism.

It's a beautiful area if you've never visited.

Image from