Blog: Sharon Kegerreis & Lorri Hathaway

With wine grape harvest well underway and snow soon to drape Michigan's vineyards, let's hope for a rosé forecast for vintage 2010. Wine writers Lorri Hathaway and Sharon Kegerreis, co-authors of The History of Michigan Wines, will cover the state's trial-and-error wine industry and toast its status as a world-class wine and food destination.

Post 3 - Destination Michigan: World Class Wine and Agricultural Experiences

In our quest to write two Michigan wine country books, we've discovered that there is still a strong belief that Michigan produces only sweet whites and that the industry is fairly new. Quite the contrary, Michigan produces world class wines, from sweet to very dry, that are beating renowned wine regions, nationally and internationally, year after year.

Wine critic and writer Tom Stevenson writes in his book, The New Sotheby’s Encyclopedia of Wine, that he is "impressed by Michigan Pinot Noirs because of their naturally elegant weight and structure; and by the Pinot Grigios, which typically exceed in quality their Italian namesakes; and by the Merlots, Rieslings, Chardonnays and sparkling wines."

Michigan's 73 wineries consist largely of boutique operations that focus on smaller productions of wine. For some, the focus is on producing single-vineyard wines, which means harvesting grapes from one vineyard rather than multiple sources. This approach aids the winemaker in crafting wine that uniquely expresses a locality – literally, a specific place on earth. A wine that states a region's identity or specific vineyard on its label truly represents the region in which it was grown.

Michigan Wine and Agritourism

Diverse wine grapes and other fruits thrive here due to unique growing conditions created by lake effect from prevailing westerly winds from Lake Michigan. The massive freshwater lake moderates seasonal temperatures, cooling the air in the summer and warming the air in the fall. This buffer on the climate extends the growing season for pockets of regions around Michigan and for areas, in particular, located near the state's west coast.

As most Michiganders know, agriculture and tourism drive an enormous portion of the state's economy. Remarkably, Michigan agriculture is currently a $71.3 billion industry, and our Great Lakes state is the second most agriculturally-diverse state in the country, next to California.

One thing is certain as you explore Michigan wine country – the journey and destinations represent Michigan agriculture at its most refined. The trend to be a locavore is sending consumers directly to the farms, fields, and orchards, creating an increased demand for agricultural experiences. For winery visitors, this means interacting with the winemaker, touring the vineyards and facilities, sampling wines, and participating in wine and food pairing dinners. Today, wineries are Michigan’s top agritourism industry, contributing $790 million to the state's economy.

"Agricultural tourism operations, like wineries, are increasingly important to the future of Michigan agriculture and the state economy," states Don Koivisto, director of the Michigan Department of Agriculture. "Agriculture and tourism, the state's second and third leading industries, support economic stability and development, strengthen Michigan's family farms, improve the quality of life for our citizens in both rural and urban areas, and preserve the state's rich and diverse farmland and agricultural heritage."

Michigan wines offer a lively connection to the land in which they are grown and are an essential aspect to the state's vibrant future.

As Eddie O'Keefe, III, of Chateau Grand Traverse shares, "Wineries give credibility to a region. They give a region soul."

So, when you're enjoying your next meal prepared with locally-grown food, pair it with a locally-grown, Michigan wine. And when you think of wine country travel, plan a visit to Michigan wine country. Just think, drinking Michigan wine and traveling to Michigan wine country boosts our state's economy. Now that's something to celebrate!