In Michigan, it’s known as “the other west coast.” And it’s home to more than 10,000 acres of winegrapes.
This expanse of land runs roughly from New Buffalo in the south to Saugatuck in the north, and as far east as Paw Paw. Its western border is Lake Michigan.
Because the area shares a common climate and light, beach-like soils, it has been made an official American Viticultural Area. The AVA’s name is Lake Michigan Shore.
Cabernet Franc, a minor blending grape in Bordeaux and California, is among the region’s star varieties. In fact, several vintners point to it as their signature wine.
Lake Michigan Shore also is home to some stunning renditions of Gewurztraminer, Riesling, Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio. Of course, you’ll find most of the “usual suspects” – Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, et al – at area wineries, but Lake Michigan Shore is building its reputation on “under-the-radar” varieties.
The wineries are a mix of relatively new ventures and venerable estates. The oldest is also the best known: St. Julian. It was founded in 1921 by Mariano Meconi, and today is operated by his grandson, David Braganini. Another third-generation operation is Warner Vineyards, an officially recognized Michigan Historic Site.
Round Barn Winery may be the region’s most eclectic: It produces wine as well as Vodka, Brandy and microbrews.