Occasionally, I will ask friends of the Michigan By The Bottle Blog to write features about their recent Michigan wine experience. I am confident that everyone will enjoy Gwenne's experience on the Southwest Michigan Wine Trail.
My Michigan wine trip was inspired by Chicago Magazine’s April cover story on weekend getaways It seemed like the perfect opportunity to escape city life, and it was!
I welcome opportunities to discover new places. I had never been to Michigan, so it was a great weekend away from the hustle and bustle of Chicago. Our whirlwind wine tasting weekend concentrated on four wineries in Southwest Michigan: Round Barn Winery, Tabor Hill Winery, Lemon Creek Winery and Contessa Wine Cellars.
My Wine Background
I have had some wine tasting experiences in the past. Some time ago, I went to a wine tasting in France, and last winter as part of a holiday gift, I went to a port and sherry tasting held at the North Carolina-based gourmet specialty retailer Southern Season, where I fell in love with the cheeses rather than the wine. Then earlier this year, I attended a wine dinner in the Bucktown area of Atlanta.
I consider myself a beer connoisseur, and I love trying new things. As a recent college graduate, I am exploring wine as my budget allows. I will always be a sucker for Oak Creek Chardonnay and Trader Joe’s “Two Buck Chuck” varieties. Typically, I drink white wines, but I enjoy a good red that is not too dry or too sweet. Being used to the sweet Muscadine wines of North Carolina, I was excited to see what Michigan had to offer.
My Michigan Wine Experience
Our first stop was the Round Barn Winery in Baroda, Michigan, which offers a well-rounded selection of wine, beer and vodka made grapes. An old Amish barn serves as Round Barn’s wine tasting room. My favorite Round Barn wines include the Vineyard Demi Sec, the Gewurztraminer and the Vineyard Red. I really wanted to taste the Blanc de Blanc, but it had not been released at the time of our trip.
As part of my tasting, I also tried their DiVine Vodka, which was quite smooth. Although no tour was offered, we were free to explore the grounds after our tasting. The picturesque setting is perfect to enjoy a lovely outdoor picnic in the shade of the trees. We brought our own meats, cheeses and crackers for our serene vineyard picnic. Should you decide picnic last minute, the winery has crackers and a variety of summer sausages available for purchase. It is noteworthy to mention that Round Barn visitors can also sample wines at no cost at Free Run Cellars, the venture of the owner’s sons.
The second stop on our tour was Tabor Hill Winery , which has a long reputation for being served in the White House and for being a favorite of Bob Hope. The winery offers free tastings of more than 20 of their wines, as well as complimentary wine tours every half hour. I recommend that visitors take the tour first, as it gives you a better idea of what Tabor Hill is known for and what you would like to taste.
Back in the tasting room it was a bit cramped, but they had a tremendous sampling of wine. While Tabor Hill is known for their award-winning Classic Demi-Sec, their Lake Michigan Shore Red Arrow Red was more to my liking with its hints of pepper. However, I was disappointed that such a fine establishment did not offer crackers to cleanse the palate.
Lemon Creek Winery is a family-run operation that offers Michigan’s only Cabernet Sauvignon Ice Wine. While I appreciated the opportunity to taste their 2005 Moon Shadow Cabernet Sauvignon Ice Wine, I opted for the regular tasting. I was graciously allowed a small sip of my cohort’s ice wine, and it was pleasant enough – a super sweet, syrupy dessert wine. Lemon Creek also has U-pick fruit farm, which provides a nice break from the tastings. Again, this winery did not offer wafers or crackers.
Contessa Wine Cellars in Coloma, Michigan, was our last tasting stop. We arrived a bit early, so we dropped by Vineyards Gourmet, where we stocked up on gourmet chocolates and candies to accompany the wine. Our tasting at Contessa was low key and relaxing on a beautiful Sunday afternoon. My favorites here were, again, red wines: the smooth Rosa d’amore and the Lago Rosso with an ever-so-slight sweetness. We finished our Michigan tasting experience by enjoying a glass of wine on the terrace overlooking the vineyards.
Overall, I was a little disappointed that more of the wineries did not offer tours, although we were often told that we were free to explore the property. The staff were so helpful and friendly although some more versed in wine than others. Most of the tasting staff that we encountered appeared to be college students home for the summer. As a white wine drinker, I was very impressed by the red wines offered at our tastings, which surprised me. I would very much like to revisit to the Round Barn Winery. In the future, I hope to return to Michigan for a wine tasting trip to the Leelanau Peninsula.
You can follow more of Gwynne's experiences on twitter