While Michigan often garners attention for its breweries, it also has a number of exceptional wineries. The state is surrounded by four of the Great Lakes, which offer a unique climate for growing grapes and other fruit that make Michigan’s wines unique. The northern region near Traverse City is particularly notable for its exceptional wineries with beautiful views.
The following are two of the best wineries to visit in this region of the Great Lakes State.
One of the most well-known vineyards in the state, Chateau Chantal is situated on a hill on Old Mission Peninsula in the northern region. The long entrance takes visitors to a beautiful castle-like winery with beautiful views of Power Island and both the East and West Bays. Chateau Chantal’s red wines include the Laughing Winemaker Pinot Noir, a tribute to the founding winemaker, Mark Johnson. Aged in oak barrels for 10 months, this fruity red wine features fine tannins and notes of strawberry jam.
Another excellent red wine made by Chateau Chantal is the Malbec Reserve. The winner of the Silver Medal at the 2017 Tasters Guild International Wine Competition, this full-bodied wine has soft tannins and pairs well with pasta, red meat, and barbecue.
The winery also makes a wine called Naughty Red, which tempts white wine lovers to cross over to the world of reds. The founding winemaker designed this wine with them in mind after he realized that many white wine drinkers wanted to make a foray into the world of red wines. The result is a low-tannin red wine that pairs well with a variety of foods, including meat, grilled vegetables, and even fish.
Chateau Chantal’s award-winning white wines include the Pinot Grigio. The winner of the Gold Medal at the 2016 Tasters Guild International Wine Competition, this white wine pairs well with not only fish and chicken, but also various cheeses, such as gorgonzola and swiss. Another award-winning white wine is the Pinot Blanc, which took home the Gold Medal at the 2016 Michigan Wine Competition. Made with grapes from the Hawthorne Vineyard, this white wine features a fruit flavor and pairs well with sushi and seafood salads.
In addition to traditional red and white wines, Chateau Chantal produces a variety of sparkling wines and even some unique fruit wines, including the Bubbly Cherry. Made exclusively from Montmorency tart cherries, this sparkling wine pairs well with either fried or spicy foods, as well as with treats such as popcorn and salty appetizers.
Visitors can sample these and other wines during a tour of the winery’s cellar. The winery also hosts a number of events throughout the year, including tastings, wine dinners, and cooking classes. Chateau Chantal even has a bed and breakfast with rooms and suites that feature whirlpool tubs and balconies with beautiful views of the vineyard. To learn more, visit www.chateauchantal.com.
St. Ambrose Cellars
Located in Beulah, St. Ambrose Cellars has received a number of awards for its wines, but it actually began as a beekeeping business, which led to the production of mead, or honey wine. The winery continues this tradition and makes a diverse array of meads, including several draft meads. These include the Eat a Peach, which is a cyser, or a mead made with apple and honey. The winery’s draft meads also include the Grateful Head, the newest mead at the winery. A mango habanero cyser, this mead offers some spice, as well as honey and orange blossom flavors.
St. Ambrose Cellars also produces still meads, including Cherry Amore, which is made from cherries that are famous in this pocket of northern Michigan. The still meads also include the Royal Reserve, which is aged in bourbon barrels for 18 months. This port-style sac mead features bourbon, honey, and citrus flavors.
St. Ambrose Cellars’ traditional wines include the award-winning Merlot, the 2016 vintage of which won the Gold Medal at the 2018 Michigan Wine Competition. This red wine is made with grapes grown in the Lake Michigan shore area, where the Merlot grapes tend to have fresh acidity and ripe berry flavors.
The winery’s red wine selection also includes the 2016 Cabernet Franc. Also made with grapes from the Lake Michigan shore area, this full-bodied red wine features a bouquet of plum, clove, and blackberry and pairs well with steak and lamb.
St. Ambrose Cellars’ white wines include the award-winning 2017 Dry Riesling, which took home the Gold Medal at the 2018 Michigan Wine Competition. Made from grapes sourced from Daddy Long Legs Vineyard in Benzie Country, this excellent white wine features citrus, white peach, and green apple flavors. Another award-winning white wine is the Secret Beach, a semi-sweet blend of green apple, peach, and passion fruit flavors. This wine won the Double Gold Medal at the 2017 Finger Lakes International Wine Competition.
St. Ambrose offers samples of its wines and meads in its tasting room, which is open year-round, seven days a week. The winery also conducts tours to show visitors the art of mead production. To learn more about this unique Michigan meadery and winery, visit www.stambrose-mead-wine.com.