Beyond Grapes

Michigan’s agricultural diversity supports a wide range of fruit wines
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Sparkling peach and strawberry wines are staples at 45 North Vineyard & Winery. Photo courtesy of 45 North

Grapes may dominate the spotlight in Michigan’s wine industry, but other types of fruit shine in fermented form as well.

And it’s no wonder, since “Michigan is one of the most agriculturally diverse states in America,” says Jenelle Jagmin, director of the Michigan Craft Beverage Council, citing blueberry, plum, blackberry, peach, and cherry among her favorite fruit wines.

Cherries are widely associated with Michigan, and Brian Lesperance, vice president of Fenn Valley Vineyards in Fennville, promises consumers won’t be disappointed with the cherry wines coming out of the Mitten State.

“You’ll be amazed at the vibrant cherry flavors and plenty of acid to balance the sugar,” he says.

Mackinaw Trail Winery in Petoskey has long carried fruit wines; currently, they produce strawberry-rhubarb, blackberry, raspberry, blueberry, and cranberry wines.

“We have always sold a lot of fruit wine,” says Dustin Stabile, head of production at the winery, “and it helps offer a product for the people who don’t like dry red wines or grape wines in general.”

Stabile’s preferred non-grape fruit to use is cranberry. “It’s very complex for a fruit wine,” he says. “It’s acidic, so it can handle the sweetness, … and [it’s] just overall intense in flavor.”

At Burgdorf’s Winery in Haslett, co-owner and winemaker Deb Burgdorf transforms a variety of fruits into wine, including red and black raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, pears, cranberries, and strawberries.

Burgdorf’s go-to from their menu is Purrrr-fection, an “intense in flavor” black raspberry and cherry blend.

Holly Balansag, owner and winemaker at Sandhill Crane Vineyards in Jackson, grows apples and pears on the SCV estate and sources raspberries and blueberries from other Michigan farms. Some of SCV’s fruit wines are 100% fruit; others are blended with grape wines.

“I love all of the fruit Michigan has to offer,” she says, “and these make great wines.”

At 45 North Vineyard & Winery on the Leelanau Peninsula, sparkling peach and sparkling strawberry wines made by blending fruit with a base wine have long been mainstays of their portfolio.

“You should at least try a fruit wine from as many wineries as possible,” says Jay Briggs, 45 North’s winemaker. “We’re in a fruit-producing region, and the farmers do a fantastic job growing high-quality fruit for wineries. Give your favorite fruit in wine form a try.”

This article originally appeared in the 2022 Michigan Wine Country magazine.

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