"Wine is sunlight, held together by water" - Galileo Galilei
Before you head out for a magical day to tour the lovely, yet expansive wine trail that ambles endlessly along the breathtaking countryside of the Leelanau Peninsula, it’s critical to ask yourself and your fellow trailblazers: what you want most from your day?
As unique and amazing as it is, a wine tour can be a vast undertaking. You’ll get the most from your experience with some pre-planning—even if it’s just the morning before you head out on your adventure.
Once you determine your top “wineorities,” enjoying what USA Today calls the No2 Wine Region in North America will feel much more doable. Otherwise, choosing among the area's top wineries is an ambitious undertaking, and we help you with some of our favorites.
Wine Goals to Consider
1. You want to do some serious tasting
Well, as serious as you can be with alcohol, that is. This might include really connecting to the wine you’re tasting so you can discover some new favorites, focusing on a certain Michigan varietal you’ve been hearing about (like Dry Riesling or Cabernet Franc), or building your vino collection back home.
Serious Tasting Tips:
- Do your homework and stick to five (or even fewer) wineries so you don’t overwhelm your taste buds with too many selections. They do become immune as the day develops!
- Stop for lunch to take a break, which helps with re-prime your taste buds.
- If it’s a certain varietal you’re after that isn’t terribly common, such as Vignoles or Blaufränkisch (also called Lemberger), do some research ahead of time. 45 North Vineyard & Winery, Shady Lane Cellars, Aurora Cellars, and Black Star Farms are all wineries that come to mind who branch beyond more common varietals.
- On the hunt for great Chardonnays, Gewürztraminers, Pinot Gris (Grigios), Rieslings, Pinot Noirs, Merlots, Rosés, Cabernet Francs, blends, dessert wines, or bubblies? You’ll find these and more nearly every winery on the trail.
2. You want to do some serious drinking
You’re set on a day of unforgettable fun with a great group of friends in tow. Or maybe you just need to completely unwind (aka: you’re prepared for a hangover tomorrow). No shame in that - and the more you own it, the better, and safer, of a time you’ll have.
Some Tips Before You Get Tipsy:
- Consider hiring a driver or jump on a tour bus so you aren’t drinking and driving.
- Please keep in mind that wineries are not bars: overly rowdy or inebriated people can and oftentimes will be asked to leave. You can certainly have a blast! Just keep it classy.
- Choose between a tasting or a full glass rather than opting for both, unless it’s your last stop. The tasting room staff will likely let you taste before pouring a full glass anyway. Plus, your head will thank you very much in a matter of hours.
- Hydrate in between stops. This seems like a no-brainer, but when you’re busy having fun, it happens! Bring along your favorite hydrating beverage in an insulated bottle so it stays at your preferred temperature, and you’re more likely to actually drink it.
- PS: Pack some wine-friendly snacks like cheese or pita chips for the road. Skip the chocolate, spicy foods, vinegar-flavored chips, or anything overly seasoned.
Extra fun wineries to check out: 45 North Vineyard & Winery, Two K Farms, and Blustone Vineyards.
3. You want an unforgettable tour of wine paired with romance
It’s all about the tasting room ambiance for you two, Other than the usual suspects with gorgeous water views there is no better place to cozy up and toast to love than one of the following charmers: Aurora Cellars, and Shady Lane Cellars.
4. You’re All About the Views
The bay views on the peninsula are just heavenly. But you are missing out on the true heart of Leelanau if you don’t enjoy the sweeping vineyard views at Blustone Vineyards or Mawby.