Situated on the 45th parallel, halfway between the equator and the north pole, Leelanau County and the nearby areas of northern Michigan provide some of the best growing climates for wine grapes. With such a rich history of viticulture, Michigan draws thousands of visitors during wine tourism season, and Leelanau Sands Casino is lucky enough to live among the nation’s best wineries.
As enthusiasts flock to the Traverse City and Leelanau regions for Michigan wine trail tours, ready to taste the efforts of dozens of wineries, we find ourselves wrapped up in conversations with our guests about the best varietals and tasting rooms. If you’re up north, you probably love wine as much as gaming!
Since our infatuation with local vintages matches that of our casino guests, we’ve compiled some of our favorite vineyards and tasting rooms to visit while you’re in the area. With Leelanau Sands as your home base, you can go out, explore, taste, then return for a night of gaming (and comparing tasting notes). Grab your designated driver and enjoy this guide of truly unforgettable Michigan wine tasting tours!
If you’re making your way up north for your Traverse City wine tour, we suggest Brengman Brothers as your first stop. One of the southernmost wineries in Leelanau County, Brengman Brothers is a family-owned winery that’s fueled by passion and quality grapes. We highly recommend their 2016 Gewurztraminer, which was made with grapes with “noble rot” – a defect that, when in the hands of skilled winemakers, can be developed into a delicious dessert wine. A true nectar, the “gewurz” shouldn’t be missed.
Just a few miles north of Brengman Brothers and on the Leelanau wine trail is Shady Lane Cellars. Featuring one of the best outdoor tasting areas in all of Leelanau, Shady Lane is a must-visit in the late summer and early fall months. Enjoy a glass among the grape leaves or near their outdoor fireplace.
As you move past Shady Lane and up M-22, a cornucopia of vineyards welcomes you. Chateau de Leelanau, Ciccone Vineyard & Winery and Willow Vineyards are all nestled within a few miles of each other. But no wine tour of northern Michigan is complete without visiting one of the oldest and most delightful wineries in the area, Mawby Vineyard and Winery. Their sparkling wines are a local favorite, including their famous bubbling Rosè, Sex.
These other wineries are absolutely worth visiting as you make your way back up to Leelanau Sands via M-22:
Now we are in Leelanau Sands territory. If you started tasting from the south, you can stop back at your home base, the Lodge of the casino, or you can venture north. Silver Leaf Vineyard and Winery could be your first stop, and as you head inland to the west, 45 North is also a must-visit. Their 2016 Select Harvest Riesling won Gold at the 2018 Pacific Rim Wine Competition, and their 2016 Chardonnay consistently brings in medals in competitions across the country.
If you want to head even further west, the village of Lake Leelanau is home to a plethora of wineries, such as these:
If you’re venturing far north, near Northport is Leelanau Wine Cellars, one of the oldest wineries in the area. It features a tasting room that’s right on the beautiful waters of West Grand Traverse Bay.
We know there’s a plethora of wine to take in before you come back to the casino for the evening (How great is that?), so keep in mind that there’s a Leelanau Wine Trail App to help guide your tour!
Many Michigan wineries are open year-round. Winter or summer, make Leelanau Sands your home base, and enjoy the spacious and comfortable offerings of The Lodge at Leelanau Sands Casino after a day of exploring vineyards. You can’t beat the view of the bay – especially after a wine tour and before a night of gaming!