Certain states are being paid attention to for certain…well, reasons, this spring. But here’s a really good reason to pay some special attention to one of them: April is Michigan Wine Month.
No, you didn’t hear that wrong—Michigan produces wine. And April is its month to celebrate. In fact, not only does Michigan produce wine, they’re the fifth largest producer, by acreage, in the country. (And tenth by production.) And like many good things alcohol-related in this country, it all started (really) with Prohibition.
OK so not actually “with” Prohibition. More like the end of it. Plantings basically started in Michigan after the repeal of Prohibition in 1933. And if you remember that adorable Welch’s Grape Juice girl, you can thank her for at least some of the state’s productivity, as that company spearheaded much of the cultivation in the state. Not that she can take all the credit. At this point there are more than 120 wine producers in Michigan.
So…why is Michigan “wine country,” you’re wondering? The Great Lakes have a lot to do with it. Also some actually native (for serious) American grapes, Concord and Niagara. Although today much of what’s planted in Michigan wine country are grapes you’d probably read about on a wine label. Pinot Noir and Riesling rank as the most highly planted red and white wines, respectively, but you could also stumble upon a Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, or Cabernet Franc vine (in which case, obviously, dust off your shoes and apologize to the vine—good wine karma).
As for the Great Lakes—believe it or not they’re beneficial to wine production, despite being so productive of snow and general shoveling-related back issues. The Great Lake most relevant to Michigan wine country is, drum roll, Lake Michigan. Despite the havoc it wreaks on the interior of the state, Lake Michigan actually is a bit of a climactic bouncer for the four wine AVAs of Michigan (Fennville, Lake Michigan Shore, Leelanau Peninsula, and Old Mission Peninsula.) It absorbs and exhales heat and moisture in a way that’s beneficial coastally (same reason you rarely see a snowman on a seashore) and allows the grapes to grow in a milder climate than they might inland.
And, interestingly enough, that has the effect of creating fairly amiable growing conditions for grapes that can produce dry whites and reds, a heap of sweet wine, and sparklers as well. Which, for a state repped by Tim the Tool Man Taylor, seems fairly hefty.