Winery Road Trip Guide: Southeast and Thumb

City meets country at wineries from the Irish Hills and Detroit to the Thumb and the Mackinac Bridge
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At Blake’s Orchard & Cider Mill in Armada, visitors can pick seasonal fruits and veggies, eat at the on-site restaurant, and savor apple cider and donuts. Photo courtesy of Blake Farms

While Northwest and Southwest Michigan tend to get the most recognition of the state’s wine regions, Southeast Michigan abounds with outstanding wineries that are well worth a road trip. If you’re visiting the region from Toledo, Ohio, you can take M-50 west from U.S. 23 to enjoy a string of wineries scattered throughout Michigan’s stunning Irish Hills area and its outskirts.

Begin your jaunt at Pentamere Winery, located near quaint shops and restaurants in the heart of charming downtown Tecumseh. Venture farther out into the country to enjoy the nature-filled views at Tecumseh’s Black Fire Winery or The Winery North of 12 in Brooklyn. For a truly unique wine-tasting experience, head north up U.S. 127 to Jackson to visit Chateau Aeronautique Winery, founded by pilot Lorenzo Lizarralde in an airpark community; the tasting room overlooks a private grass runway. Nearby in Jackson, Sandhill Crane Vineyards — which is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year — offers wine, beer, and cider made with Michigan fruit and serves up fresh eats in its café.

Metro Detroit Tasting Rooms
If you’re visiting Southeast Michigan wine country from Windsor, Ontario — or coming from Toledo but seeking a more urban wine-tasting experience — metro Detroit offers numerous wineries to enjoy. Just northeast of the Canadian-Detroit border (or a 60-mile drive up Interstate 75 from Toledo), Detroit Vineyards presents a spacious, industrial-chic tasting room in the heart of the Motor City. While you’re there, take in all that the Eastern Market district has to offer, including a wealth of shops, restaurants, and bars; there’s even more to see if you visit on a Saturday when the signature year-round market is bustling.

Continue your journey north up I-75 to visit the inventive B. Nektar meadery in Ferndale. Or head northeast of Detroit along Interstate 94 to visit Superior Lakes Mead, Wine, and Cider in Harrison Township, right next to the Clinton River Spillway and Lake St. Clair. Three miles northwest of Superior Lakes along Crocker Boulevard, Cellar 104 offers wines made in Mount Clemens with grapes from around the world. Farther north and west from Cellar 104, via M-59, you can enjoy wood-oven pizza on Saturdays and choose from a robust wine menu at Sterling Heights’ Tennerra Winery.

Pastoral Charm in the Thumb and Northeast
If you’re seeking a more adventurous drive, take M-53 2.5 hours north of Detroit to visit Bad Axe. There, you’ll find Dizzy Daisy Winery and Vineyard (its seasonal “tiny tasting room” is also nearby in Port Austin) as well as B&B Wines’ backyard winery and tasting room, both part of the rural scenery of Michigan’s Thumb area.

The wineries in the Southeast and Thumb regions are also easy to reach if you’re crossing the Blue Water Bridge from Ontario into Port Huron. From there, a trip down I-94 takes you to Detroit and the wineries in that area. Or, take a short drive west on I-69 and then south on Wadhams Road to get to Green Barn Winery, known for its sulfite-free wines, in Smith’s Creek. Go 20 miles farther west on I-69 and about 10 miles down Capac Road, and you’ll reach Blake’s Orchard & Cider Mill, home to the eponymous hard cider brand. At the flagship farm in Armada, open year-round, visitors can pick seasonal fruits and vegetables, eat at the on-site restaurant, and savor apple cider and donuts.

Looking to extend your journey even farther up the Mitten? Northeast Michigan is home to more than 10 wineries and tasting rooms. From Detroit, take I-75 north to M-33 (or I-69 to I-75 first if you’re coming from Port Huron) to visit Rose City, where you’ll find both Country Corner Winery and Rose Valley Winery, the latter of which offers unique selections such as maple and rhubarb wines. Complete a journey from one end of the Lower Peninsula to the other by jogging back west to I-75 and taking it all the way to Nicholas’ Tasting Room, an outpost of Nicholas’ Black River Vineyard & Winery in Cheboygan. At the Mackinaw City tasting room, just southeast of the Mackinac Bridge, you can enjoy a variety of wines. A bonus: This “Tip of the Mitt” location is a jumping-off point for a side trip to picturesque Mackinac Island.

Editor’s note: This article originally appeared in the 2023 Michigan Wine Country magazine.

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