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Issue Date: September 2007 Issue

Michigan Sampler

Amy S. Eckert, Photograph by Jeff Greenberg
The Drive: Jackson, Michigan
Miles: 202
Cheers to the Designated Driver: The Big Grape Tour, Nov. 10, includes transportation to six wineries, dinner, dancing and hotel accommodations. Go to the Pioneer Wine Trail Web site for tickets.
Guests to Pentamere Winery can’t resist gathering around the tasting room’s “pit.” Wine samples in hand, visitors peek through a cutaway section of flooring to spy the fermentation room below. A former greasy spoon, the 100-year-old building has been purged of its dining facilities and retrofitted with 1,500-liter Italian fermentation tanks. Central Michigan’s wine-loving day-trippers couldn’t be happier.

The Southeast Michigan Pioneer Wine Trail is bucking common wisdom, promoting wineries in a region never known for producing good fruit. But the state’s newest appellation is proving its worth by crafting award-winning vintages bottled in six wineries, each of which combines with the others for a memorable wine tour.

Pentamere Winery features award-winning Gewürztraminers, Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignons. But you shouldn’t leave the tasting room until you’ve paid $1 to sample their Vidal Eiswein (an ice wine), a drink seldom poured in tasting rooms.

Nestled among the vine-laden hills of Jackson County, Cherry Creek Cellars is a new winery founded by fourth-generation vintners. Cherry Creek has scored awards for its reds in a state known for whites. Likewise, Lone Oak Vineyard bottles an estate-grown Cabernet Sauvignon, pouring samples in a cozy tasting room with picturesque views of the countryside.   

You can taste one of a dozen varieties at Burgdorf’s Winery, where the owners enjoy winemaking so much they invite visitors to craft their own. The process requires a couple visits to incorporate the fermentation of the wine as well as bottling and adorning it with personalized labels.

Continue north along the meandering rural wine route to Sandhill Crane Vineyards and Uncle John’s Fruit House Winery. Both offer a variety of fruit wines, including peach, apple, raspberry and strawberry.

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