Cherry Creek Cellars - It was a hot, hot day in Michigan when we approached this winery in Albion. We noticed one family sitting outside having a picnic as we walked in the door. We were greeted by a friendly young man and he offered us a tasting. We looked at the wine list and started with some semi-dry wines. While we were tasting, we noticed a row of wine bottles sitting on the end of the counter displaying all of their wines. What caught our attention was the labels. Cherry Creek has some of the most beautiful and interesting labels I've seen. I collect labels from the wine that I drink. My mother has become quite the expert at removing them for me. I'm using them to paper a wall in my dining room (I got this idea from Fisher Ridge Winery in West Virginia...they have a whole bathroom done in wine labels). When I saw the labels at Cherry Creek, I knew I would need a few for myself.
Our host looked pretty young. Curiosity got the best of me and I asked him how old he was. He didn't look like he could possibly be old enough to drink wine. He told me he was 18. Not old enough to drink wine...but old enough to pour wine.
We were the only customers when we walked in, but after our first couple of samples, the tasting room was suddenly packed. What really impressed me was the way our young host handled the sudden crowd. He did a great job of making everyone feel welcome and taken care of. He had to ring-up a customer making a purchase and assured me he would be right back with another sample. I told him not to worry about us...we were in no hurry.
Beside having beautiful labels...Cherry Creek has some excellent wine. Gary bought several bottles to take home with him. I think he ended up purchasing more than me which is unusual. He doesn't drink as much wine at his house as I do at mine (he's more of a beer drinker in the evening...but I drink a glass of wine every night before bed). I'm usually the major wine purchaser, but Gary hasn't stopped telling people about their wonderful cherry wine since we returned home.
Cherry Creek Cellars does have a small tasting room, but they do offer wonderful service and excellent wine. If you are in the Albion area...you certainly won't want to pass up a visit to this charming winery. Favorites: Michigan Cherry and Apple.
Contessa Wine Cellars - Perched on a hill in Coloma, Michigan, this beautiful winery was one of our favorite stops in the area. The elegant tasting room, inspired by an Italian Villa, was absolutely gorgeous...plus their third-generation winemaker has certainly honed his craft and is producing some excellent wine. Offering free daily wine-tasting, this is one winery you shouldn't miss when visiting southwestern Michigan.
We entered the building and took a seat at the ornate tasting bar. One man was working behind the counter...and I believe he was the winemaker. Although there were a few other people tasting and a small group of people inquiring about the best place to have a vineyard wedding in southwest Michigan, he was still very attentive to us and made sure everyone had some of his attention during their tasting experience. The wine list was quite diverse offering several reds, whites, one blush and even a couple of fruit wines. I found all of the wines to be of high quality craftsmanship. One of my favorites was Bianco Bella...a semi-sweet French-American blend. The 3% residual sugar gave it just a touch of sweetness and I loved the floral aroma.
Although we couldn't stay any longer than our tasting, it certainly would be a nice place to stay and enjoy a bottle of wine. We noticed a nice seating area outside, and with their hilltop location the view was lovely. We also saw a sign letting visitors know that the deli at the bottom of the hill would deliver food for those staying to enjoy the surroundings.
Domaine Berrien Cellars - This unique winery in Berrien Springs, Michigan was a memorable stop for us. It was a chilly, windy day and rain was lightly falling, but we still tried to take in the entire Domaine Berrien experience. We were the only visitors there when we arrived at the winery...but that all changed very soon as other tasters started coming in the door. We were treated to a relaxed sampling at the long tasting counter while tiny fruit flies swarmed around us...but that common in many wineries during autumn. Domain Berrien has an extensive wine list of all types of wines and it was tough to choose which varieties to sample. I was very pleased with the quality of everything I sampled, and even though they offer a nice selection of sweeter wines I mainly stuck to mostly dry reds and a few dry whites.
One of the most interesting things from this stop was the bridge overlooking the winemaking area. After our tasting we got a glass of wine and headed through the door to the bridge to watch what was happening below. A nice man was working that day and as he was cleaning tanks he took the time to answer all of our questions. This is a great way for visitors to interact with the winery and get a first-hand look at how wine is made...and I'm sure something different will always be happening depending on the day and time of year.
We then headed outside in the drizzling rain to check out the vineyard. Jackets with hoods were in order while we sipped wine in the soggy vineyards. The other visitors must have thought we were insane, but we wanted to get a closer look at the large ripe grapes growing on the vines. It's always a site to see the juicy fruit that eventually fills our glasses.
If you can't visit all the wineries is this area, Domaine Berrien is definitely worth choosing as one of your stops. The large selection of wines, access to the winemaking room and extensive vineyards make this a must-see winery.
Fenn Valley Vineyard - The owners of the bed and breakfast where we were staying on this trip said that Fenn Valley Vineyard was their favorite area winery...so I was quite excited to make the trip to Fennville to see for myself. It was our first stop of the day and we arrived near opening time. Only a few people had ventured out that morning to start drinking wine so the large tasting room was quite empty. The woman behind the counter invited us over and introduced us to the wine list. There were many to choose from, so we took our time pouring over the list to make the best decision on what to sample.
I always try to choose a variety of different wines to try, and this day was no exception. Fenn Valley offers everything from dry reds and whites, sweet wines, fruit wines and even port. There were many to choose from but I finally made a decision on the handful of wines I should try. Our hostess seemed to still be getting things set up behind the counter and didn't spend much time with us explaining the wines. Although I did enjoy all that I sampled very much, her distraction did take away from the experience a bit. With so few people at the tasting counter I was hoping to get more of a description of each wine we were sampling.
After the tasting we immediately bought a couple of bottles to take home and went on to our next stop. I must say that I was expecting great things and I was slightly disappointed with our experience. I have a feeling we may have simply been there on the wrong day...or maybe at the wrong time. I think there is much more to experience at this winery and I plan to revisit next time we are in the area.
Karma Vista Vineyards - I was anxious to see what this Coloma, Michigan winery was all about. With wine names such as Gunzan Rose', Pink Side of the Moon and Stone Temple Pinot I was sure there was something interesting going on here. Being a rock music lover, I couldn't wait to arrive to find out exactly what it was.
What I ended up finding was one of my favorite wineries in the area. I realize that some of the wine names are a bit kitschy, but everything else about this winery is quite elegant. Karma Vista has a large, gorgeous tasting room and beautiful views of vineyards in all directions. It's the kind of place you don't want to leave.
We arrived on a dreary, rainy day in southwestern Michigan. Evidently the weather was keeping people at home, because we were the only visitors at Karma Vista the entire time we were there. We entered the building and were immediately greeted by the woman behind the counter. She invited us for a tasting and we began looking over the wine list. There were approximately 18 wines on the list ranging from dry to sweet - and we were asked to choose six for sampling. I normally stick to the dry wines, but I couldn't resist choosing some of the more interesting names on the list just for fun. My favorite was actually a dry rose' - Gunzan Rose' - which is made from the Pinot Noir grape. A good dry blush is always a great find and I really enjoyed this one.
It was our last stop of the day and we were in no hurry...so we stayed for a glass of wine. We sipped on our wine while browsing all the wine-related and gourmet food items in the gift area, then found a comfy place to sit and look over the vineyard. Before leaving we purchased several bottles of wine and some dip mixes. I would love to revisit Karma Vista on a sunny day when I am sure the views are much more spectacular.
Lone Oak Vineyard Estate - This small winery is located in Grass Lake, Michigan. When we drove up, there were many cars there, but we soon noticed that there was a party taking place on the grounds. We walked in the door to the tasting room and there were several people inside. I found it odd that some of them were drinking beer...but we later found out that the owner's daughter had graduated from high school and the party was for her. Family and friends had gathered in the tasting room...but soon cleared out and went back out to join the party once we arrived.
We took a seat at the counter and we were greeted by the owner. I wasn't sure what wines we would be able to try. I visited the Lone Oak website before our visit and noticed that many of their wines were labeled as "sold out". We were informed that their website hadn't been updated in awhile and they had several for us to choose from. We started out with some semi-dry wines and worked our way through. Many of the wines they had in stock were not to our liking, but they did have one gem. A red raspberry dessert wine. It was absolutely incredible. The wonderful flavor bursts in your mouth and awakens your senses. I usually won't purchase dessert wines. I have a hard time paying so much for such small bottles, but I knew this one had to come home with me.
We purchased a couple of bottles of the red raspberry and took a look around the tasting room. They must have a hunter in the family. A large bear rug hanging on the wall was for sale, along with a wolverine and a few other animals. (I did notice on this trip to Michigan that hunting must be pretty huge in the area...you don't see much of this kind of thing in southern Ohio).
Looking back...we actually hurried through this tasting. We were the only customers on the premises and party-goers kept coming in and out to use the restroom. We normally like to relax a little more and talk to the winemaker...getting more information on the wines and the history of the winery. We did feel a little out of place and didn't stay as long as we normally would. Maybe on a different day we would have had a more enjoyable experience. Favorite: Red Raspberry.
Pentamere Winery - This boutique winery is located in downtown Tecumseh, Michigan. When I walked inside, I was impressed with the marvelous renovations that had taken place in this older building. I could tell great care had been taken in designing every square inch - it was immaculate. Within seconds of our arrival, our host emerged from the back of the building and greeted us. He invited us to step up to the tasting counter and sample the wines.
We started out with some dry reds...which Pentamere does very well. Their Chambourcin is out-of-this world. We moved through our tasting into the semi-sweet wines, which weren't quite as sweet as I would have liked. They did offer one fruit wine in the semi-sweet range that I enjoyed. Just enough sweetness to make it a great sipping wine.
After our tasting, we purchased a few bottles and headed on our way. Pentamere's downtown location is beautiful and interesting...but with no vineyards or scenery...there's not much of a reason to stay very long. Favorites: Chambourcin and Mystic Apple.
Round Barn Winery - Our visit to this Baroda, Michigan winery was our first stop of the day. We arrived just after their 11:00 a.m. opening time and we were the first visitors to get there. Unfortunately the door was locked. We could see a woman inside so we knocked, but she was vacuuming and couldn't hear us. It was drizzling a bit outside, but we decided to wait- out her vacuuming session and try knocking again. A few minutes later she spotted us outside and opened the door...apologizing because she didn't realize what time it was. She invited us to the counter and started setting up for our tasting.
As she was explaining the tasting procedure, I realized that Round Barn was not only a winery, but also a brewery and distillery. We sampled through their nice selection of wines, then moved on to tasting their unique selection of beer. After that we were given a premium vodka tasting. Just when I thought we were done, our hostess poured a sample of the "martini of the day", made with their own vodka. The whole tasting process took almost an hour. I was a bit shocked that it wasn't even noon yet and I was feeling a bit tipsy, which I try to avoid at all costs. Sheryl Crowe may like a good beer buzz early in the morning - but I do not.
I really did enjoy the entire experience - I just wish it had been later in the day. I would like to revisit this winery at some point and spend a bit more time there. For a change of pace, maybe even enjoying the martini of the day on the patio outside. Gary, who has always been more of a beer drinker anyway, bought several jugs of beer to take home with him. It doesn't matter if you like wine, beer or spirits - Round Barn Winery is definitely worth a stop. They have so many nice samplings to offer you are bound to love something!
Sandhill Crane Vineyards - WOW! Who can resist sipping wine in a gorgeous tasting room where every detail has been attended to - from the beautiful decor, to the intricate lighting and the copper top tasting bar? That's what you find when you walk into this winery located in Jackson, Michigan.
We were impressed from the moment we walked in the door of Sandhill Crane...and remained impressed throughout our visit. We were immediately welcomed and treated to a personal tasting by the very friendly woman behind the counter. We took our time sampling many of the wines and taking in the immaculate surroundings of the tasting room. Every time I turned around, there was something new and interesting to look at that I hadn't noticed before. This winery has a wide selection of wines that is sure to please anyone.
Gary and I agreed on one bottle to purchase and share on the premises. We took our wine and glasses outdoors and found a nice table beneath a shade tree. The setting is rural and very relaxing. We sat outside for awhile, took in the view of the vineyards and watched a few visitors come and go from the winery. The winery dog, Rosie, even stopped by to say hello while we were finishing up the wine. After a short stroll in the vineyards, we returned to the tasting room to purchase a few bottles to take home with us.
Our visit to Sandhill Crane Vineyards was most enjoyable. I would love to return sometime with friends to show them how great a winery visit can be. Their wines are a bit more expensive than other wineries in the area...but it's well worth it. They have fabulous wine, the friendliest people, and gorgeous, relaxing surroundings. Favorites: Blushing Crane and Rhapsody in Red.
St. Julian Winery - When we found ourselves in southwestern Michigan we knew we just had to visit this winery, which is one of Michigan's largest producers. Although they have several tasting rooms, we visited the main winery in downtown Paw Paw, Michigan. As we approached the front entrance workers were busy jack hammering away at the concrete leading into the building. For a minute I thought we were going to be unable to get inside, but I was happy when they stopped their work to let us through. Once we were inside, they continued their work. It was a bit noisy, but it really didn't distract us from our experience.
We proceeded to the tasting counter to look over the list of wines being offered. St. Julian produces many, many wines and the list was long. Thinking we may be new to wine tasting, the young lady behind the counter was very nice and tried to offer suggestions. I hated to dismiss some of her suggestions, but since we were limited to the amount of samples we could try I wanted to make my picks carefully. I stuck to mainly dry wines because I can actually purchase the sweet St. Julian varieties at my local grocery store. My favorite by far was a Rose of Pinot Noir. Unfortunately I found out this wine was being discontinued and only a limited number of bottles were available. The good new was they were on sale for approximately $5.00 per bottle, so I was able to purchase several.
I didn't see any seating so I figured St. Julian was more of a tasting room with wine shop, which is the case with many Michigan wineries. Since we couldn't stay for a glass of wine I purchased several bottle of the Rose of Pinot Noir and we headed on our way. Wine lovers certainly can't visit this area without stopping at St. Julian. It's a well-known brand available in many states and most people are familiar with the wine. They offer a wide variety of wine and stopping into the actual winery gives visitors a chance to taste many styles that are not available to purchase at other outlets. Everyone is sure to find something they enjoy and the prices are very reasonable also!