Lake Michigan Shore Wine Trail: Sip, Savor, and Explore

Couple walking through a vineyard with glasses of wine

Lake Michigan Shore Wine Trail

Southwest Michigan is known for Lake Michigan’s beautiful beaches, but some visitors are unaware of the great vineyards in this area. Here you will find a long trail of vineyards and wine-tasting rooms that connect New Buffalo, Baroda, St Joseph, Benton Harbor, South Haven, and Saugatuck, all conveniently located to make a fun wine-tasting road trip. Check out this previous blog that includes Three Michigan Road Trips,  one of them titled- Taking it Slow on a Michigan  Harbor Road Trip.  It highlights Harbor County and includes all of these wonderful wineries on the Lake Michigan Shore Wine Trial.

Discovering Western Michigan’s Hidden Wine Scene

When it comes to wine, most of us think of Napa Valley or European vineyards. However, there’s a lesser-known treasure right here in the Midwest: the wine country around St. Joseph and South Haven in western Michigan. Here’s what makes the Lake Michigan Shore Wine Trail  special:

Lake-Effect Climate: Western Michigan benefits from a unique climate influenced by Lake Michigan. The lake effect extends the grape-growing season, resulting in flavorful wines.

Crisp Whites and Bold Reds: While known for refreshing whites, the region is increasingly producing robust reds that rival European counterparts.

Proximity to Major Cities: Just a few hours’ drive from cities like Chicago, Detroit, and Indianapolis, this wine scene is accessible for weekend getaways.

Here’s how to put together a weekend of wine, fine dining, art, and, of course, the beach.

The Lake Michigan Shore Wine Trail is a delightful collaboration of 15 quality-focused wineries nestled within the Lake Michigan Shore AVA (American Viticulture Area). You can download this special map for details. Here’s what makes this trail so special:

Location and Mesoclimate-The trail runs mostly along Lake Michigan’s shore and extends inland almost to Kalamazoo. This region lies at the 42nd parallel and at the southern end of Lake Michigan, where 90% of Michigan’s vineyards thrive. The massive freshwater body—up to 80 miles across and 600 feet deep—creates a benevolent mesoclimate for fruit growing. This unique climate protects against extreme cold in winter and spring and extends the growing season into fall. Abundant natural rainfall ensures the most flavorful grapes, which are then crafted into award-winning wines.

Wineries Along the Trail-  From the largest to the smallest, the member wineries are dedicated to using locally grown grapes. Notable wineries include St. Julian, Michigan’s oldest and largest winery, and Domain Berrien Cellars,  known for small-batch production and classic European-style wines,  and many more, each contributing to the trail’s rich tapestry of flavors.

Lake Michigan Shore AVA and Fennville AVA (American Viticulture Area)The trail traverses the Lake Michigan Shore AVA and the smaller Fennville AVA. These American Viticultural Areas define the unique terroir and grape-growing conditions in this corner of Michigan.

Scenic Beauty and Fruit Belt-  The trail meanders through endless Michigan vineyards, farms, and orchards. Known as Michigan’s Fruit Belt, this fertile soil stretches from St. Joseph to Traverse City. Imagine sipping wine amidst rolling vineyards, with glimpses of Lake Michigan’s azure waters.

Amazing Art Galleries- As you traverse this area,  you’ll be amazed at the many quaint shops and art galleries. Nearby Saugatuck is known as the Art Coast of Michigan and is filled with galleries, sometimes with the artist owning the shop. Check out this previous article for more information about Saugatuck and its art history.

Couple tasting wine with a wine barrel behind themLake Michigan Shore Wine Trail
Wine tasting

Wineries in Southwest Michigan

Southwest Michigan boasts numerous award-winning wineries that craft extraordinary wines. Whether you’re a seasoned wine enthusiast or a curious traveler, there’s something magical about sipping wine amidst picturesque vineyards. Here are some notable wineries in the region as you travel the Lake Michigan Shore Wine Trail:

  • 12 Corners Vineyards: Known for its scenic location and diverse wine offerings.
  • Baroda Founders Wine Cellar: A charming spot with a rich history.
  • Modales Wines: Famous for its crisp whites and elegant reds.
  • Lemon Creek Winery: A unique family-owned winery that also runs a large farm stand and U-Pick orchard in-season.
  • St. Julian Winery: One of Michigan’s oldest wineries, producing a wide range of wine and spirits.
  • Tabor Hill Winery & Restaurant: Known for its sparkling wines, restaurant, and beautiful vineyard views.
  • Vintage Inn at Veritas Estate: an up-and-coming winery in South Haven that is also a remarkable bed and breakfast.

Vintage Inn at Veritas Estates - two wine glasses beautiful back lighting.

Lake Michigan Shore Wine Trail

Collectively, these southwest Michigan wineries make up the Lake Michigan Shore Wine Trail. The trail extends from New Buffalo along the Lake Michigan shoreline to South Haven and inland to the Kalamazoo area1. It’s a delightful journey through vineyards, farms, orchards, and quaint bed and breakfasts.

Favorite Farm-to-table Dining Spots in Southwest Michigan

Southwest Michigan is a delightful region for farm-to-table dining, where fresh ingredients meet culinary creativity. Here are some fantastic farm-to-table restaurants in the area that you’ll want to explore:

  1. Salt of the Earth  -Fennville  Rustic American eatery that celebrates the bounty of Michigan’s farms, beverages, and roots music community. Their farm-to-table approach ensures fresh, flavorful dishes that change with the seasons.
  2. Granor Farm– Three Oaks  Not many James Beard semi-finalists (so far) have a restaurant consisting of special dinners in a barn or greenhouse right on the farm. Chef Abra Berens loves paving the way for new ways to present a region’s flavors on the table, sometimes after a tour of the farm and great conversations on how food is grown.  The bright greenhouse dining space, also housing the farm kitchen, has a full view of farm fields just 100 feet away.
  3. Timothy’s Restaurant Union Pier  Timothy’s is a world-renowned, yet locally grown, Asian-inspired seafood restaurant. Upscale New American fare at a quaint cottage inn.

The farm-to-table dining in Michigan is not just about food—it’s an experience that connects you to the land, the seasons, and the local community. After your day of Sipping, Savoring, and Exploring the Lake Michigan Shore Wine Trail, you’ll need a comfortable place to stay. We recently had the pleasure of getting a tour of the Vintage Inn at Veritas Estate in South Haven and can highly recommend a stay here. What makes the Vintage extra special is that one innkeeper is a sommelier and the other a professional chef. Follow along as we highlight this extraordinary bed and breakfast in southwest Michigan.

Front view of the Veritas Inn in South Haven
Entrance to the Vintage Inn at the Veritas Estate

A Perfect Place to Stay-The Vintage Inn at Veritas Estate

Here’s what makes it special:

  • Location: Situated in South Haven, the Vintage Inn offers boutique accommodations in a beautifully renovated 1904 farmhouse.
Grey Fabric Headboard with white duvet and map picture above
Bourgogne Guest Room- Vintage Inn
  • Five Bedrooms: With five cozy bedrooms, guests can escape the rush of modern life and unwind in peace.

  • Farm-to-Table Dining: Chef Tim creates gourmet farm-fresh breakfasts and private dinners using local ingredients.
  • Veritas Estate Winery: The 5-acre estate includes a small vineyard with newly planted vines and most recently, a winery where Veritas Estate Wines are currently being produced with Michigan grapes.
Two gazebos with gardens at the Vintage Inn
Outdoor space at the Vintage Inn
  • Extensive Gardens: Guests can explore the gardens, sip wine, and enjoy the serene surroundings.
Emerald Blue Sofa with a half moon window behind at the Vintage Inn
Champagne Suite at the Vintage
  • Luxurious Champagne Suite: Imagine staying in the spacious Champagne Suite with its clawfoot tub and huge shower. This beautiful emerald blue velvet sofa is also a sleeper bed allowing friends to travel together.

Brown and white chickens at the Vintage Inn

  • Resident Chickens:  We would be remiss not to mention the Vintage Chickens. They greeted us upon arrival, and Tim gave us a tour of their new chicken coop. You are assured of fresh eggs each morning at this amazing farm-to-table bed and breakfast.

Vintage Inn hosts sitting in front of a modern poster

  • Amazing Hosts- We always like to say that “Fine Lodging is in the Details” and this aptly applies to the hospitality, and bed and breakfast lodging at the Vintage Inn. Every detail of your stay has been thoughtfully curated.  And the best part- you’ll enjoy remarkable food and wine during your stay.

Guest Reviews:

  • Sher Strode: “Absolutely amazing! Tim’s grits rivaled those of some of the best chefs in the south.”
  • Leslie Shear: “Exceptional food and entertaining chickens!”

Book your stay today for an enchanting getaway to experience the Michigan Lake Shore Wine Trail and be sure to stay at this hidden gem in Southwest Michigan- the Vintage Inn at Veritas Estate.