In Governor Rick Snyder’s declaration of April as Michigan Wine Month his official proclamation cites facts about the industry and supports “the ‘wine in moderation’ concept.”
Okay, dad, but I’m not sure how that jibes with the booming business reports that 11 new wineries opened in the last year, consumption of Michigan wines is up, and the wine and grape industries are worth $800 million a year to the state’s economy.
Michigan’s wine industry continues to grow in numbers and stature, with the commercial winery count now at 101 and medals heading this way—Chateau Fontaine of Lake Leelanau was just recognized for Best Riesling in the Finger Lakes International Wine Competition.
But winemaking in the Great Lakes State is nothing new. As French voyageurs in 1679 traveled the waterway that would be named the Detroit River they found wild grapes growing along the shores and noted making “a large quantity of wine” from them (don’t tell the Gov).
Soon after Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac established the fort at Detroit in 1701 the settlers planted grapevines, and by 1870 commercial winemaking was underway in Monroe. Prohibition brought legal wine production to a halt, but after 1933 the industry began to bounce back and spread to Paw Paw and the southwest part of the state.
By the 1970s winemakers had started planting grapes in the Traverse City region, and in 1985 the state established the Michigan Grape and Wine Industry Council to support, well, the Michigan grape and wine industry.
Both the website and the free publication carry maps of the state’s wine trails, winery information and event listings such as winemaker dinners, classes and self-drive tours including the Michigan Wine Celebration along the Southeast Pioneer Wine Trail April 20 and 21.
A premier event hosted by the council is its Michigan Wine Showcase, Monday, April 15 at The Rattlesnake Club, Detroit. It’s a strolling tasting of appetizers and wines from at least 25 wineries, with a chance to chat with winemakers and winery owners. Tickets are $38 until midnight, April 14; $45 at the door.
The setting at the Rattlesnake on the Detroit Riverfront ties nicely into Michigan’s wine history—it isn’t far from where Cadillac’s people settled Detroit and planted the first grapevines and, possibly, where wild grapes once grew.
Devine Facts from the Michigan Grape and Wine Industry Council:
- Over the last decade Michigan acreage dedicated to Concord and Niagara grapes (for juice, jams and jellies) has remained at about 12,000 acres, while wine grape acreage doubled from 1,300 to 2,650 acres
- In 2002 Michigan’s 32 commercial wineries produced 400,000 gallons of wine; today 101 wineries produce more than 1.3 million gallons from fruit grown in the state
- Michigan is fourth in the U.S. in grape production, behind California, Washington and New York
- More than 1 million visitors hit winery tasting rooms across the state last year
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