A brand-new wine trail is launching in Lenawee County on May 20 to highlight local producers in southeastern Michigan. The River Raisin Wine Trail is a collaboration between four area wineries; Visit Lenawee, a nonprofit that promotes tourism in the county; and Lenawee Now, the county’s economic development corporation.
The four wineries — Cherry Creek Cellars in Brooklyn, Chateau Aeronautique Winery in Onsted, Flying Otter Winery in Adrian, and Pentamere Winery in Tecumseh — formed a collaborative a few years ago and tossed around the idea of creating a wine trail to promote their region’s wine industry.
When they officially decided to form the trail, they chose to name it after the River Raisin, which runs through the county.
“The River Raisin’s also known for [the] abundance of wild grapes that [were growing] along the riverbank just naturally,” says Jenna Salazar, assistant marketing director for Visit Lenawee.
In fact, that’s how the river got its name, bestowed by the first French settlers: Raisin is the French word for “grape.”
“So there’s also that historical component of why we went with that particular name, River Raisin,” says Lorenzo Lizarralde, owner of Chateau Aeronautique. “Michigan has a long history and association with wine and grapes.”
The self-guided trail will feature the wines and other unique offerings of each of the wineries, including ciders, wine slushies, pizzas, lunch or dinner menus, and live music. Each location also offers a distinct setting.
Cherry Creek is just down the street from the Michigan International Speedway, “and it’s located in an old schoolhouse, so it’s a really unique, beautiful setting,” Salazar says. Chateau Aeronautique is aviation themed, owned by a pilot. Flying Otter’s outdoor patio and tasting room overlook the vineyard, “so it’s a really beautiful, peaceful location.” And Pentamere is situated in downtown Tecumseh with its “small quaint shops, and there’s so much to do and see in that little downtown when you visit the winery.”
The variety visitors will find at the wineries enhances the experience.
“You have a common thread, and yet every winery is unique and different,” Lizarralde says. “Just different cultures, different atmospheres, different personalities, obviously different wines. If you’re given an opportunity to taste two wines, you might find one that you like. If you’re given an opportunity to taste 60 wines, you have pretty good odds you’re going to find several that you really like.”
Bob Utter, co-owner at Flying Otter, hopes the trail will highlight the quality wine production taking place in Southeast Michigan.
“I think most people would be very surprised at the quality of wine that we’re producing,” he says. “I know at our own winery here, we’re all 100% estate grown and bottled, so we grow all of our own grapes, make all of our own wine right here on the property, and I think people would be really surprised at the quality of some of our aged dry reds and the wine that we’re producing here in Southeast Michigan, right in Lenawee County. And the same is true for the other wineries.”
The River Raisin Wine Trail kicks off on May 20 with Fare & Pair, an event where guests can sample wines paired with specially selected dishes along the trail. Those who missed out on tickets are welcome to take a self-guided tour at any time (Visit Lenawee can also arrange transportation for groups of five or more), and additional events will be planned in the future.
“We’re a new trail, and we hope to grow,” Utter says. “And this is the first of many events that we’ll be having, so just watch social media and try to get out to Southeast Michigan and enjoy some locally produced wine.”
For more information on the wine trail, go to visitlenawee.com/plan-your-visit/trip-ideas/wine-tour.