When most people think of American wine, their minds wander to the West Coast of our fair country. The green, sand-duned, Midwestern landscape of Michigan State’s lakeshore is not usually synonymous with great wine. What people may also not realize is that the climate of this region is prime for growing grapes. Healthy rainfalls, temperate climate fed by the lake, and rich soil allows for nearly 10 wineries to call this area home.
Personally, I take 3 or 4 trips to this part of Michigan every year. Nearly every trip I set aside an afternoon of wine (and beer) tasting. I have some favorites clustered around the towns of Baroda and Berrien Springs. Since visiting too many of these cheap and often free tasting rooms can make for dangerous driving, I like to hit up only 3 or 4 of these quaint (and potent) locales at a time. I’d like to share a few of my favs and provide some tips to make your experience as enjoyable and educational as possible!
Lemon Creek Winery
This century and half old family farm has bloomed into a popular winery. Come for their ice wine and stay for their U-pick fresh produce. This weekend, on July 24th, Lemon Creek will be host to the 3rd Annual Vintage Blues Fest, and in its honor will be releasing 4 new wines. They’re known for their dry reds as well as the above mentioned ice wines. Be sure to try both on your visit. For those venturing further north, Lemon Creek is constructing a new tasting room in Grand Haven, MI.
Domaine Berrien Cellars
Located on 80 acres of farm land, Domaine Berrien Cellars opened in 2001 and has enjoyed much success. Their small tasting room is quaint but boasts a plethora of local cheeses, sausages, and wine related gifts. My favorite thing about this place: the view. Their back deck looks out over acres and acres of lush, green grape vines. My suggestions for a great experience here is to try their wines (for free), pick your favorite and buy a glass of it, pick up some of those local cheeses to nosh on, and take your makeshift picnic out onto the deck to enjoy the view.
Round Barn Winery
This winery is by far my top pick! Consider this a twofer…or even a threefer…as this picturesque vinyard is home to a winery, brewery and distillery. The wines here reach far beyond just whites and reds. Dessert wines, sparkling wines, and fruit wines are on the tasting menu, as well. For a small fee (about $7), you get a wine or beer glass that is yours to take home and what you’ll be sipping a handful of different wines or beers out of. A vodka tasting is also included in the sampling. The grounds are beautiful. The three main buildings (yes, including a round barn) on the property are surrounded by well-landscaped gardens and patios. The backdrop, as with most Michigan wineries, are rows and rows of grape vines.
Tips for a Fun (and Safe) Winery Tour
- Limit your visit to 3 or 4 wineries to ensure safe driving. If possible, bring a designated driver.
- Eat before you go winery hopping or buy some snacks. Most wineries have snacks available for purchase. Who wants to drink on an empty stomach when there are yummy gourmet treats to consume?
- Don’t feel obligated to drink everything to the last drop. If you don’t like it or just plain don’t want any more, feel free to pour it out!
- Lots of newbies like to hit-up wineries. If you’re one, feel free to ask lots of questions. All the servers are knowledgeable and friendly.
- This is a great afternoon date option or just an alternative way to have some fun with friends while learning more about wine and wine making.
- All the wineries are family friendly. On nice days, the kids can play on the grounds while you imbibe liquid grapes.