Michigan has been growing grape vines since well before it became a state in 1837. Today, there are more than 140 commercial wineries, five federally-recognized viticultural regions and 13,700 acres of vineyards, making it the fourth largest grape-growing state in the country. Michigan is also home to a new business, Truly Michigan Vines, producing locally grafted and grown vinifera grape vines.

Developed by the Copemish-based Campbell Milarch Vines, these cold hearty vines are now available not only to commercial grape growers around the state but also to hobby winemakers and those wishing to establish backyard vineyards which pay tribute to the state’s ongoing agricultural heritage. These vines make great gifts for people who love Northern Michigan and enjoy local wine.

Currently, chardonnay, pinot gris and pinot noir vines are available for purchase and pick-up at the Truly Michigan Vines greenhouse (17787 Nessen City Rd., Copemish). Prices start at $12.50 for single plants, with discounts for lots in increments of 35 and up ($10.50 per plant for flats of 35 and $6 per plant for two or more flats). Limited quantities of other varietals may be available; custom grafting is also offered upon request.

As a fourth-generation tree farmer and Certified Arborist with the International Society of Arboriculture, Jake Milarch has expanded on his years of propagating the world’s oldest and biggest trees into also grafting and growing a unique living vine specifically produced to grow in his home state of Michigan. After five years of research and development, Truly Michigan Vines were introduced into the market in 2012 at the Legacy Vineyard on Leelanau Peninsula and are now available to growers statewide.

To date, all wine grape vines being planted in Michigan are sourced from out-state suppliers. Sourced and grown from Michigan rootstock and custom-grafted with scion—the fruiting arm of the vine—Truly Michigan Vines are designed to thrive in Michigan soil and climate. They also allow growers to produce fruit up to one year earlier than out-state vines, since they are live instead of dormant plants, which also means they can be planted late into the season. Out-of-state vines require a full year to acclimatize to the soil and weather before they set roots and prepare to produce fruit.

“This project is important and timely for Michigan growers after two years (2014–2015) of devastating winter conditions that left them without fruit to harvest and with dead vines causing growers and wineries to order fruit and/or juice from outside of Michigan to meet the increased demand for Michigan wines,” Milarch says. “Truly Michigan Vines survived those harsh winters better than other vines sources from outside the state, even grown in the very same vineyard. These vines are ideal for growers wishing to establish a new vineyard or to replace vines that did not survive winter conditions.”

Milarch is innovative in his approach to developing his old growth champion vines, taking advantage of both unfavorable land and scrap materials to produce viable, local vines. He utilizes low-lying areas of the northern Michigan vineyard to grow rootstock only—areas which are not suitable for fruiting vines and sources scion (the fruiting part of the vine) from clippings that are normally composted.

Consumers and growers interested in purchasing Truly Michigan Vines should visit TrulyMiVines.com. Since these are living vines, they should be picked up in Copemish. Sales are limited to the state of Michigan only.

—Press release provided by Truly Michigan Vines

Northern Michigan Wine

Photo(s) by Kelly Rewa