In news which would cause even teetotalers to toast, the nascent Michigan wine industry is reporting exciting growth over the past few years, defying an otherwise sluggish economy.
Michigan might not have the romantic reputation of the great vineyards of France or even Napa in California, but fertile hillsides, the Great Lakes and cool weather are the perfect combination for some of the industry’s cool-weather varieties like riesling, pinot grigio and chardonnay.
Reaping the Benefits
Not yet in the same economic league as the Detroit car manufacturing industry (yet), the success of the burgeoning wine industry is making analysts sit up and take notice, especially since the rise of the industry has transpired during a serious economic slump which began in Michigan years before arriving in the rest of the country.
Linda Jones, executive director of the Michigan Grape and Wine Industry Council said that eleven wineries have already opened in the last year alone, with four more scheduled to start production soon. Jones further explained that in the past several decades the number of Michigan wineries using state grown grapes has risen from 18 to 89.
Dan Matthies is a real estate agent in Michigan who concentrates on dealing with land suited for vineyards. He says he has brokered the sale of five properties this year, and he admits to being flooded with inquiries from people who would like to get started in the wine-producing business.
“It is one of the brightest spots we have in the state of Michigan,” said Matthies, who also runs Chateau Fontaine in beautiful Leelanau County.
The success of this particular agricultural niche in Michigan is partly a reflection of the general health of the nation’s farm economy. The farm economy in general is doing well, with farm income reaching an historic high this year, and farmland value increasing in the double digits.
Drink to Success
The success of Michigan’s wine industry feeds itself. Its reputation for producing quality wine has skyrocketed, while simultaneously expanding the number of excellent varieties available. Michigan’s wineries are marketing highly regarded selections of merlot, pinot noir, pinot blanc, cabernet franc and ice wines, a dessert variety made with grapes which have been frozen before they are harvested.
“It’s been like an explosion the last couple of years. They’ve been winning medals left and right, competing across the U.S. and internationally,” said Yolanda Daly, director of the Pacific Rim Wine Competition in San Bernadino, California. “Beautiful wines are coming out of Michigan.”