To call Emily Lenard an admirer of Michigan wine would be an understatement.
The Grand Rapids–area resident, who so far has traveled to 63 Michigan wineries on her quest to visit them all, is something of a superfan.
“I’m always interested in Michigan wine country and what news is coming up and what wineries are opening,” she says. “It’s a fun hobby.”
Lenard set her goal to go to every Michigan winery during a visit to Mawby in Suttons Bay a few years ago. Variety — in terms of both wine and scenery — would be two big perks of her expedition.
“There are wineries all over, so it was going to bring me to different areas in Michigan,” she says. “I had been to wineries before, but once you get a little bit older, you appreciate different wines more than just Moscato, and you want to experience everything that Michigan wineries have to offer.”
Armed with the Michigan Wine Country maps and listings, she plans her stops and chips away at her goal, and then she logs her visits on Instagram (@miwinelist). She’s expecting a baby, which has impacted her progress, of course, but she’s planning a trip to Traverse City in March to knock more wineries off her list.
She tries the wine in person when she can, and she always buys a bottle to take home. One of her favorites is Ad-Lib, a red blend by Blustone Vineyards in Lake Leelanau; she calls it the “Sisterhood of the Traveling Wine” because everyone she knows who has tried it — regardless of their typical wine preference — has seemed to like it.
Two other wines she likes are the Cab/Merlot (a blend of Cabernet Franc and Merlot) from Brys Estate in Traverse City and the 2Cab/Merlot (a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot) from Warner Vineyards in Paw Paw. “Those are definitely in my top,” she says.
Although she’s working toward checking every Michigan winery off her list, she has revisited a few, including Blustone (her favorite), Brys Estate, Bonobo Winery in Traverse City, and St. Julian Winery’s tasting room in Rockford.
Along the way, every winery and wine region has offered something special.
“It’s so easy to remember each winery because of the specific experience that you have,” Lenard says. “Not every winery is laid out the same. Even Mawby and Big Little are such different experiences even though they’re [in] the same building. If I look on my list, I can recall the 13th winery and what that experience was like because every experience was so different.”
Lenard has a couple of recommendations for other people interested in visiting Michigan wineries. “Definitely always try new things,” she says. Although dry red wines are her favorites, she always tries other options and usually ends up liking wines that she didn’t think she would.
She also suggests being “open to talking to other people at the wineries,” both bartenders and guests. “I’ve had a lot of really great conversations and a lot of fun, and the experience is made by the people you’re with or the people you talk with,” she says.
Cost doesn’t need to be a deterrent for prospective tasters, she adds: “A lot of times, you can spend $10 and still get a nice wine tasting. Nothing is out of reach, and everyone should experience Michigan wine.”
Lenard wants to “finish off the Traverse City circuit” in 2024 — she’s been to about 18 wineries in that area so far — and she’s hoping to travel to the southwestern corner of the state this summer to visit a few of the tasting rooms there. She wants to reach 100 “within the next two years” and figures she’ll be able to wrap up her grand tour within the next five.
“So,” she says, “if anyone needs a drinking buddy, contact me.”