Michigan is becoming an important wine state with over forty wineries and four AVAs. There are around 14,000 acres planted with grapes, yet only 1/10 are wine grapes. The impressive thing is that almost all of the wine-production vineyards are planted with cool-climate vinifera varieties, with only a small percentage of hybrids like Vidal and Chambourcin. Because of the distinctly cool, the wines are typically clean and fresh, but the protective warmth provided by Lake Michigan results in attractively ripe flavors. Riesling, Pinot Gris and Chardonnay are particularly favored. Inevitably, Pinot Noir has been tried but it tends to lack structure and flavor. However, sparkling-wine producers like Larry Mawby have used Pinot Noir to great effect in their sparklers.
The state’s AVAs are split evenly between the south-western corner and the northwestern part of the state. In the southeast are the Lake Michigan Shore AVA, south of the city Saint Joseph, and Fennville AVA, around the town of Fennville. The northwestern AVAs demonstrate just how important lake-derived warmth can be at northern latitudes, as both Leelanau Peninsula AVA and Old Mission AVA stretch northward into the surrounding waters of Lake Michigan above Traverse City. Riesling from these two areas is particularly impressive, and Cabernet Franc shows great promise.