Last night I had dinner with a writer from England who is exploring vineyards in Leelanau by bicycle for a story. He was asking me some questions about how Michigan ranks nationally in grape & wine production. I didn’t have all the answers, but fortunately there’s the great Michigan Wines web site from the Michigan Grape & Wine Council.
From their fast facts page, I learned that Michigan has about 1,800 acres of wine vineyards, making Michigan the eighth largest in wine grape producer in the nation (if our juice grapes are factored in, we’re 4th largest). We’ve increased our vineyard area over 60% in the last 10 years. Michigan is 13th in wine production with 56 commercial wineries that produce over 425,000 cases of wine annually. The state’s wineries are also popular tourist destinations, attracting more than 800,000 visitors annually.
Most of Michigan’s quality wine grapes grow within 25 miles of Lake Michigan. Here, the “lake effect” protects the vines with snow in winter, retards bud break in spring helping avoid frost damage, and extends the growing season by up to four weeks.
Michigan has four federally approved viticultural areas (AVAs). In the northwest part of the state, near Traverse City, lie the Leelanau Peninsula and the Old Mission Peninsula. This area has a growing season averaging 145 days and an average heat accumulation of 2,350 growing degree days; 51% of Michigan’s wine grapes grow here. In the southwest part of the state lie the Lake Michigan Shore and Fennville appellations, where 45% of Michigan’s wine grapes are grown. This area has a growing season averaging 160 days and an average heat accumulation of 2,750 growing degree days.
You’ll also want to check out their history page for the very interesting story of Michigan’s winemaking history. Here’s the vineyard slideshow from the Absolute Michigan pool and you can get lots more features and links for Michigan wines from Absolute Michigan.