Visiting Northern Michigan wine country is equal parts eco-tourism and immersion into Northern Michigan’s food and drink scene. While it’s certainly enjoyable to simply sip on a locally made wine at a Northern Michigan restaurant, a deeper appreciation for what goes down the hatch is easily gained with a quick visit to a winery—tasting room attendants and winery proprietors are enthusiastic and well-informed about bottlings and goings-on. Learn how to have the best time while on a Northern Michigan wine tour below.
Northern Michigan’s wineries are divided into three geographic areas: the Leelanau Peninsula, the Old Mission Peninsula, and Petoskey and Harbor Springs. While it’s feasible to travel to wineries within different regions, the proximity of multiple wineries within one place makes visiting more wineries in less time more attractive than driving across several counties to get from one winery to the next.
Self-Guided vs. Tour Company
The beauty of being behind the wheel during your tour of Northern Michigan wineries is that you control the pace and destinations during your oeno-odyssey. The downside is that somebody needs to drive, which consequently means somebody has to abstain from the tasting…sort of. Spitting is a nice—albeit borderline awkward—answer to the designated driver problem. The alcohol within the wine doesn’t get to your bloodstream, but the wine still gets to your palate. In any case, exercise extreme caution when it comes to driving while intoxicated.
There are many companies that provide touring services through Northern Michigan vineyards, and having an informed guide at the helm offers two distinct advantages. First, it allows all tourers to taste to their hearts’ content. And second, these guys are Northern Michigan wine experts: guides can arrange tasting room visits for larger parties (most wineries prefer a heads up if groups of 8 or more are visiting), recommend wineries based on preferred wine styles, and they won’t pass the driveway to the destination winery for the second time (or first, for that matter).
The answer to the self-guided or tour company dilemma comes down to the size of the party, familiarity with the area and anticipated time spent touring. If you’re a foursome that wants to visit one or two wineries, then you can probably fly solo. If you’re a group of 10 or—Heaven forbid!—a bachelorette party that wants to make a day of it, then a tour is your best bet.
Find tour options (some traditional, some more adventurous) with the following links:
The wineries on the Leelanau Peninsula (located west and northwest of Traverse City) are organized as the Leelanau Peninsula Wine Trail, and the trail’s 25 wineries are divided into 3 easily traversable loops: the Sleeping Bear Loop, the Grand Traverse Bay Loop and the Northern Loop. Discover all the wineries with brief descriptions at MyNorth.com, or visit the Leelanau Peninsula Wine Trail’s website for a detailed map of Leelanau Peninsula. Find more info about Leelanau Peninsula wine tasting with the following links:
- Where To Eat After Leelanau Peninsula Wine Tasting
- The Unique and Picturesque Towns in Leelanau County
- Visit 25 Wineries with the Leelanau Loop Adventure
- Download the Leelanau Peninsula Wine Trail’s iPhone App
- Leelanau Peninsula Wine Trail’s Recommended Tour Companies
- Find Events on the Leelanau Peninsula Wine Trail at MyNorthTickets.com:
Old Mission Peninsula
8 wineries (and soon to be more) comprise the well-named Wineries of Old Mission (WOMP), and all of them are located north of Traverse City on the thin, water-surrounded strip of land called the Old Mission Peninsula. Located within 5 miles of one another, and offering a diverse range of tasting rooms (from the Chateau Chantal’s traditional decor to 2Lads’ stainless-steel, urban vibe), the wineries on Old Mission Peninsula are a great wine escape from the relative bustle of Traverse City (where you’ll also find several tasting rooms—see below). Find info about Old Mission wine tasting and touring with the following links:
- Wineries in Traverse City and Old Mission Peninsula
- Take an Old Mission Tour, Including Northern Michigan Wineries
- Make It A Traverse City Day Trip: Old Mission Lighthouse and Beach
- Map of Old Mission Peninsula Wineries via WOMP
- WOMP’s Group and Bus Policies, with Recommended Tour Companies
- Find WOMP Events at MyNorthTickets.com:
Petoskey and Harbor Springs
Near Petoskey and Harbor Springs, a handful of relatively new wineries have coalesced to form the Bay View Wine Trail. Find info about these wineries, and what to do in and around the two charming Northern Michigan towns, with the following links:
- Wineries in Petoskey and Harbor Springs
- Plan Your Trip at the Bay View Wine Trail’s Home Page
- Beaches, Water and Snow Sports in Harbor Springs
- Beaches, Water and Snow Sports in Petoskey