Sip your way through Michigan’s Little Bavaria with these 5 wine stops
Red, white, sparkling — whatever your sip of choice may be, a little Bavarian town in Michigan has every palate covered. Early in the fall, I went on a two-day guided tour of Frankenmuth to explore its German heritage, but I didn’t go too far without a glass of wine in hand. Aside from world-famous chicken dinners, horse-drawn carriages and the world’s largest Christmas store, Frankenmuth is known well for its abundant tasting rooms.
Visiting five different spots across town, I got a great sense (and taste) of the pride Frankenmuth holds in its wine scene. I was greeted with warm smiles and charming Midwestern hospitality — I felt welcome in no time.
My first stop was at Frankenmuth FunShips, offering an entirely new wine tasting experience. The company pairs wine, chocolate and a ride down the Cass River in an electric-powered boat for an unforgettable trip. All of the chocolates are handmade in-house, and the wines are supplied from Fenn Valley Vineyards. I tried a few different selections, including a pinot noir with dark chocolate, and a rosé with a white chocolate-covered pretzel — definitely my favorite out of all five pairings. During the cruise, our guide shared stories of Frankenmuth’s history and German influence while leisurely floating down the river.
St. Julian Winery
After docking the boat, we made our way to St. Julian Winery, the oldest and largest winery in Michigan. Using locally grown grapes from the southwest region of the state, the winery produces a wide-ranging selection of 80 varieties. I tried the Sweet Nancie Peach, Serious Rosé, St. Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay and Founders Red. Hues of gold, coral and magenta swirled in my glass while large crowds filtered into the tasting room — a sure sign this was the place to check out.
Between sips, I discussed group-friendly attractions in the area with my guides from the Frankenmuth Chamber of Commerce and Convention & Visitors Bureau, and quickly learned St. Julian’s was a big one — people continued to filter in from the motorcoaches parked outside. Once the crowds dispersed and our glasses emptied, we ventured to Prost! Wine Bar & Charcuterie for dinner.
Prost! Wine Bar & Charcuterie
Known for its charming ambiance, wines on tap and satisfying cuisine, Prost! celebrates the German cheer to good food, great wine and the warm conversation and laughter among family and friends. Prost! offers a wide range of craft beers and cocktails, and an eclectic menu including fine meats and cheeses from Spain and Italy for guests to create their own charcuterie boards.
I had a glass of house red wine accompanied by The Grilled Cheese Royale — a panini packed with mozzarella, provolone, smoked cheddar, spicy pesto, pancetta and tomato — easily the best grilled cheese I’ve ever ordered. Aside from drinks and handcrafted eats, Prost! serves up live entertainment and a number of events throughout the year.
Modern Craft Wine
Following a good night’s sleep at the famed Bavarian Inn Lodge, we strolled through the Frankenmuth River Place Shops, an outdoor German-themed shopping mall. Walking through, we found over 40 distinct shops and attractions, including tasting rooms for Modern Craft Wine and Black Star Farms.
Adjoined to Bead Haven, Michigan’s largest bead store, Modern Craft opened this tasting room to give shoppers an experience unlike any other. Visitors can create their own jewelry while enjoying a glass of wine, but with a twist. Modern Craft offers an abundance of fruit wines that can be blended with sodas, beer and other mixers to create a “mixperience.”
Combing the fudge and raspberry wines, we made a “Dark Raspberry” cocktail — and it was out of this world. We also tried “Chreamy,” a concoction of cherry wine and Jones Cream Soda. Before stepping into Modern Craft, I wasn’t a fan of fusing wine with other mixers, however I was pleasantly surprised, and impressed.
Black Star Farms
Our next and final stop was the tasting room for Black Star Farms. Its award-winning winery is located along the rolling hills of the Leelanau Peninsula in Suttons Bay.
Tucked along the coasts of Lake Michigan and Grand Traverse Bay, Black Star Farms produces varietal wines of high character, acidity and balance, due to the lake-effect climate.
I tried the pinot noir and award-winning riesling, and was amazed. I could see why Black Star Farms was one of the most sought-after and awarded Michigan wineries, the wine was very crisp, yet sweet and easy to sip on. After exploring these five hot spots and getting a taste of Frankenmuth’s culture, I could see the draw for both locals and tourists alike.
For those looking to relax and enjoy the simple things in life, I encourage a visit to the east side of Michigan to experience the charm, history and flavors that Michigan’s Little Bavaria holds. Prost!