One of the great things about traveling the US in search of great wine trails is that there is an incredible variety to choose from. There are those that like to go down the road most traveled, with the likes of Napa Valley high on the list. Then there are wine lovers who much prefer the smaller wine trails that almost feel like undiscovered country when you pay them a visit. If small is what you are after, then a trip to Michigan and the Leelanau Peninsula Wine Trail is something that should most certainly be added to your ‘to do’ list.
The Leelanau region started out small, and has pretty much stayed that way ever since. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that small means forgettable, though, as each of the 25 wineries in Leelanau are well worth paying a visit to. The history of the region dates back to the early 1980’s, when 4 wineries banded together to form the Leelanau Peninsula Vintners Association (LPVA). Each of the winemakers go together to discuss the possibility of linking all the tasting rooms to create a trail that would be easy for visitors to follow. The whole plan went great for 6 years, but then one of the founding members opted out of the trail. The LPVA formed again in 1998 and continues to this very day.
One of the great things about the trail is that there are a number of different microclimates at work in the region. What that means is that Leelanau wine tastings mean getting to sample a pretty wide selection of varietals. Those that have achieved that highest level of acclaim on an international scale include the Leelanau produced Riesling, Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay, and Pinot Noir. While those may be the varieties that get all the headlines, there are plenty of other great wines available for sampling on your wine trail journey.
If you do plan on taking a trip to this region, you will find that it is one of the easiest to navigate. This is not just because it is smaller in scale than many of the others in the US, but also because the region has been split into 3 very specific mini-trails: the Sleeping Bear Loop, the Northern Loop, and the Grand Traverse Bay Loop. All three may be in the same region, but the Leelanau wineries in each offer something a little different and unique.
When planning your trip to the Leelanau wine trail, you may want to take a look at the events that take place there throughout the year. There always seems to be something going on, with the wines of the region paired with food, art, and music. It’s a truly wonderful part of the country to visit, with great scenery, and even better people all waiting to welcome you with open arms. This may well be a wine region that has not yet made it on to your radar. If that is the case, you owe it to yourself to take a look at all that Leelanau has to offer.