What Wine to Buy? Go Taste It!


One of my favorite ways to spend a vacation is wine tasting, so I have made a point to visit three major wine producing areas of the U.S.: Sonoma, California; the Finger Lakes of Upstate New York; and Northern Lower Michigan (both Leelanau Peninsula and Old Mission Peninsula). No matter what region I buy wine from, I tend to gravitate toward the wines I know because I’ve tasted them.

Living in Michigan, it’s easy to buy Michigan wines. I love supporting our local producers and Michigan’s economy. Some of my favorites from Leelanau are Good Harbor Red and L. Mawby Blanc de Blancs. Our closest vineyard, Fenn Valley, makes a Capriccio that serves as one of our favorite red table wines. During my birthday weekend in Traverse City last fall, Bill and I enjoyed a yummy bottle of Pinot Noir that really suited our palates from Brys Estate on Old Mission Peninsula.

When I stand in the Michigan Wines section of our local wine retailers I find I’m always grabbing the same bottles, when there are many more to choose from. That’s partly because I had never been to the wineries in Southwest Michigan, along the Lake Michigan Shore Wine Trail. Bill and I finally had the chance to go this weekend.

We started at Contessa Wine Cellars because it was close to the Chocolate Garden, a truffle shop I had heard about for years. (It reminds me of growing up in New Jersey and never going to the Statue of Liberty until I moved to Michigan—so close, yet so far.) I really enjoyed both the Tre Tenores and Lago Rosso. The latter was also an ingredient in the truffles I bought at the Chocolate Garden. And, the winery has a spacious deck with a beautiful view of the vineyard.

Contessa Wine Cellars

The Chocolate Garden

From there we zipped down to Tabor Hill, since the winery also has a restaurant on the premises and we were already hungry for lunch.

Tabor Hill Winery

Tabor Hill Winery

We each started off our meal with a glass of Blanc de Blanc sparkling wine. Blanc de Blanc at Tabor Hill

After a light lunch overlooking the vineyards, we tasted several reds and I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed the Syrah, since it’s not one of my usual varietals.

Next on the itinerary was Round Barn Winery, which I knew I just had to see because it’s in a round barn. Not only did we love the wines there, but they also distill spirits and brew beer. Bill and I found another Pinot Noir that we really enjoyed, plus a Nouveau Noir—made in steel barrels. It was also surprisingly tasty. Round Barn is hip and fun, and a unique setting. I hope to go back for some winery events this summer.

Round Barn Winery

The next closest stop was Domaine Berrien Cellars. Don’t let their modest tasting room fool you. We really enjoyed their Cabernet Franc as well as the Vignoles, a sweet white that is pretty tasty in summertime weather.

Domaine Berrien Cellars

There are 14 wineries on the Lake Michigan Shore Wine Trail and we only made it to four in one day. That means I’ll need to plan another outing soon to try the others, but at least now I’ve expanded my list of Michigan wines to know what to buy from local retailers.

Oh, and if you’re a beer drinker, you must visit our state. Grand Rapids was chosen as this year’s Beer City USA. Craft breweries abound in Michigan!

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