Rich soil and Lake Michigan breezes help vineyards flourish on northwest Michigan's Leelanau Peninsula. Follow a looping wine trail to tasting rooms where crisp Chardonnays complement gorgeous views.
Advertisement
Blustone Vineyards on the Leelanau Peninsula in Michigan
Credit: Tony Demin

On the outside of a white barn near Suttons Bay, Michigan, Tandem Ciders' namesake bike hangs above the green door. Red and slightly abused, it's a reminder of the bike tour of England that transformed Nikki and Dan Young from beer fans to hard cider fans-and producers.

Inside the white barn, a different sort of alchemy takes place. Humble apples become hard ciders: the sweet-tasting Smackintosh or dry Idyll Days. Rhubarb and ginger become bubbly sodas. Strangers at the long wood bar of the tasting room become friends.

Tandem Ciders is one of seven wine and cider tasting rooms on the Leelanau Peninsula Wine Trail's Northern Loop, a 38-mile drive passing a lighthouse to reach villages with cozy inns. It's one of three interconnected wine trails in the Leelanau Peninsula: Eight wineries dot the Sleeping Bear Loop, and eight more line the Grand Traverse Bay Loop.

Lake Michigan insulates the peninsula from weather extremes, which results in ideal growing conditions for grapes rarely encountered in the Midwest, such as Chardonnay, Riesling and Pinot Noir. That said, sweet fruit wines, like cherry, also abound, providing options for any palate.

And all those tasting rooms scatter throughout one of the Midwest's most beautiful vacation areas-just outside Traverse City.

A drive on virtually any road through the peninsula provides a steady stream of huge views encompassing vineyards, orchards and hills rolling out to the blue waters of Lake Leelanau, Grand Traverse Bay and Lake Michigan proper.

Many of the wineries use the scenery to their advantage. Leelanau Cellars' perch on the shore of Lake Michigan affords horizon views from the second-floor tasting room, and when the sun sets, the lake's red-hue shimmer echoes the shade of the winery's ruby-red port.

To plan your trip, the Leelanau Peninsula Wine Trail has printed and online maps,. Guided tours and festivals are good introductions, too.

Four more on the trail

Black Star Farms on the Grand Traverse Bay Loop on Michigan's Leelanau Peninsula.
Credit: Tony Demin

Black Star Farms

Stroll the vineyard of this Grand Traverse Bay Loop farm, then sip wines and spirits in the tasting room, nosh on wood-fired pizza, and spend the night at the luxe inn. (

Drink Wine in Michigan at Bel Lago Vineyards and Winery.
Credit: Tony Demin

Bel Lago Vineyards and Winery

Lake Leelanau and fields of trellised Pinot Grigio grapes form the backdrop for a tasting room on the Sleeping Bear Loop. Sip on crisp whites, laid-back reds and two cherry wines.

Good Harbor Vineyards

Take a self-guided tour of the cellar and bottling room before sampling, reds or whites at this Sleeping Bear Loop winery.

Willow Vineyards

This vineyard on the Grand Traverse Bay Loop was sold in 2021. The new owners plan to celebrate the winery's 25th anniversary in 2022 with events such as private and group VIP tours. Enjoy a cheese plate and hillside views—plus shop at the new Cherry Boutique—as the new ownership continue to work on finalizing the liquor license process.