Just Try It
Updated: Apr 10, 2019
One of the best ways to experience the fantastic wines of Michigan is to visit the different tasting rooms. The tasting rooms are where you can find out more about the wineries, the people that produce and share the wines, and the wines themselves. Many of the tasting rooms are located right alongside the vineyards, offering fantastic views of the vines. The best part, though, is that the wineries will let you try their wines, often charging a small tasting fee (usually from $5 to $12 for 4 to 6 small pours) to try several sample of wines they currently have for sale.
Wine tasting is a great way to find wines in styles you enjoy, to try new styles of wine, and to enjoy a fun outing with friends, family, or your significant other. I’ve been able to do some wine tasting at many wineries in Michigan, and in this post, I’m going to provide my best tips for getting the most out of a wine tasting experience at wineries all along the Fresh Coast.
Plan your trip
The best way to make sure you have a great time wine tasting is to make sure that you know where you’re going, how you’re getting there, and what you’ll find at the different wineries. Winery websites, area websites, and friends’ recommendations are a great place to start. Find wineries in the area you’re visiting whose wine lists match up with what you like. Different wineries excel at different styles, so some may have a large list of dry reds while others may lean more toward sweeter whites. Price points can also vary based on a number of different factors including crop load of the grapes, use of oak barrels, and other special techniques and equipment. Once you’ve found a few that interest you and the rest of your group, plan out the route. This will help you make sure that you’re able to get to the different stops in a timely manner. The other major consideration in planning your trip is making sure that you have a sober and safe driver. This could be someone in your group, or you can outsource that job to a company that specializes in wine tours. There are quite a few companies in the Traverse City area and in Southwest Michigan that offer special wine tour rates. This adds an expense, but also adds to the experience as you can be assured of a safe ride in a luxury vehicle or limousine!
Talk to the Staff
Tasting rooms are staffed with people that are excited about the wines and looking to help you make sure you find something you’ll love. They know the intricacies of the wines they offer and are experienced in giving recommendations based on the feedback you give them. Take a look through the wine list for wines that interest you, and if you have any questions relating to those wines, ask the staff. Sometimes the tasting rooms can get busy, limiting the time the staff has to help each and every customer in the tasting room, but during the less busy days or times of day, the staff often have great additional insights into the winery, the area, and even some of their favorite food pairings with their wines. One of my favorite questions to ask the staff is about their favorite wines from neighboring wineries. This might provide some great ideas for other wineries you need to try.
Take your time
Sometimes the wineries can get busy during summer and fall weekends. Wine is meant to be enjoyed, though, so take your time in tasting the different wines you decide to try. Smell the different aromas coming out of the glass before tasting it. Hold the wine in your mouth to soak up the different flavors. Look for layers of aromas and flavors from the start to the lingering finish. See if you can nail down different flavors you recognize or different facets of wine like the levels of tannin, acidity, body, and sweetness. And if you can’t pick out flavors like raspberry, Meyer lemon, or tobacco, don’t worry about it - just enjoy the experience you can get when you take your time in tasting the wines. Also be aware of if a winery sells wine by the glass on site. If you really enjoy a wine and want a little more time with that one, what better place is there to do that than on a beautiful tasting room patio or among the vines where those grapes were grown?
Try something new
While I definitely recommend seeking out your favorite styles of wine to see how Michigan wines compare to your favorites from elsewhere around the world, another great part of going wine tasting is trying wines you normally wouldn’t. The small sample you receive in a tasting is the perfect way to try something you have never heard of or something you’ve heard of but you don’t think you’ll like it. Maybe you like dry reds, but you’ve never tried or even heard of the Austrian red Blaufrankisch. Maybe you like sweeter whites, but haven’t given dry Riesling and its bright, refreshing acidity a chance. Or maybe you don’t think you like the floral and perfume scents of Gewurztraminer, but you want to make sure you’re giving it a fair chance. In any of these circumstances, trying them at a winery gives you a chance to move on if you don’t like it or perhaps even order a glass if the wine requires further inspection. As an added bonus, this will help to expand both your knowledge of different wines and your palate for the differences in varietals and styles.
Take some home
If you find a wine (or several) that really stands out as enjoyable to you, purchase a bottle or two on your way out the door. Some wineries will offer discounted wine purchases if you’ve done a tasting, providing even more incentive to enjoy your favorites again at home or share some with friends. Additionally, while some wineries have products that can be found in wine shops or grocery stores throughout the state, most of the wines you taste will only be available at the winery. Your best chance to get that Riesling, Cab Franc, or Sparkling wine you enjoyed will be when you’re at the winery.
I hope you find these suggestions helpful as you go on your next tasting trip. Wine tasting is tons of fun and is the best way to try your favorites again or find new favorites.