It’s great to get away with friends or a significant other for a few days of relaxation and fun. I recently had a chance to do just that. I hired a babysitter and my husband and I met a few friends in southwest Michigan for a weekend of wine tasting and touring.
When you think of taking a weekend wine tour, southwest Michigan might not be the first place to pop into your mind. (It wasn’t mine.) However, southwest Michigan has something unique about it. It may be the lack of rush or the genuinely friendly “hello” that appealed to me most – and reminded me of life in the 1950’s. Either way, the weekend trip was filled with memorable experiences.
Of course, when you go on a wine tour you expect to taste some wine. I am happy to report that southwest Michigan is in full supply of vineyards, cellars and wine tasting rooms. In fact, several of them are within only a quick mile of each other making getting from one to the next quick and easy. But please remember to bring a responsible driver with you or sign up with a wine tour company who provides transportation because some travel in needed between the vineyards. You can read all about the specifics of my favorite vineyard locations.
2. Taste the Chocolate
Did you know that some wines pair perfectly with chocolate? Oh, who am I kidding, chocolate goes with everything (at least in my mind)! Along the wine tour route in southwest Michigan is a boutique style truffle tasting room. These handmade truffles at The Chocolate Garden are made in house, or I should say “in barn”, and have been featured on The Food Network, Fine Living TV and The Travel Channel. What makes these truffles different from any other truffle is their soft coated shell and their impeccable taste. My favorite? The salt and pepper caramel.
TIP: They also serve a truffle coffee where they flavor hot or cold coffee with a melted hazelnut truffle. Crazy good.
Within an area filled with vineyards, beautiful beaches and low population, it isn’t hard to reach a level of relaxation. At each wine tasting room, my husband and I were able to sit outside on the deck and enjoy the breathtaking view of the vineyards, some of which stretched out for as far as the eye could see. Many of the wineries would even allow us to buy a glass of wine and sit outside to enjoy it in the sunshine.
Another way to relax on a southwest Michigan wine tour is by spending the night at the Harbor Grand Hotel in New Buffalo. This getaway style hotel features breakfast in bed, a view of the harbor and spa services.
4. Meet New Friends
I always seem to have a problem with this. Everywhere I go, I tend to strike up a conversation with whoever is nearest to me. Take note: don’t want to talk? Don’t stand next to me. However, meeting new people is inevitable on a wine tour. Many of the tasting rooms are set up in a conversational manner and let’s just face it, people on wine tours are usually pretty happy and ready to meet and great.
5. Try Something New
Wine tasting is all about trying something new. I, myself, enjoy sweeter wines, but having the chance to sip different types of wines actually opened me up to new flavors and styles. Plus, at one of the vineyards they actually mix wines to create a whole new level of flavor! This was definitely a new concept to me, but extremely well receipted.
6. Listen to and Learn From Vineyard Stories
Going into this weekend, I didn’t realize all of the work and craft that goes into making a good wine. When we took this wine tour, I was given the opportunity to meet the people behind the wines. Since some of the wineries in southwest Michigan are smaller and family run, I was able to sit down with the owners, ask them my questions and hear all about their backgrounds and their hopes for the future of their vineyards. I was pleasantly surprised to find out how knowledgeable and passionate these folks are about their liveliness. Being able to put a face behind the wines that I tried was undoubtedly my favorite aspect of this trip.
Wine pairing was another topic that I was interested in learning about while on this tour and there were several places that were happy to help me learn. The Terrace Room at the Harbor Grand was one of those places. This Italian themed room with a waterfront view is actually located on the lower level of the Harbor Grand hotel and offers handmade pastas and regional dishes inspired by the season, as well as a carefully curated wine list. I found that the staff here was attentive and ready to offer knowledgeable advice on the options available. There are also several other fun dining options peppered around the small downtown areas of New Buffalo, Coloma and Benton Harbor.
Southwest Michigan is not only a great place to take a wine tasting tour, but also another beautiful Michigan landscape to experience. Looking for other great Michigan locations to visit? Check out a 1950s diner at Dearborn’s Henry Ford Museum, check out craft beer in Kalamazoo or find 5 fun things to do with your girlfriends in Ann Arbor.