Nov. 2 2011 12:00 AM

There’s something tasty at every stop along Michigan’s Pioneer Wine Trail


Looking for a fun, spontaneous activity to fill the seasonal void before the holidays?  The
Pioneer Wine Trail beckons. The trip comprises eight south-central
Michigan wineries comprise the “trail,” all within an easy day trip
from the Lansing area.

These wineries boast many medal-winning wines and are attracting loyal followers.  Geographically,
the northernmost winery on the trail is Burgdorf’s Winery, east of
Haslett, and the southernmost is J. Tree Vineyards, near Blissfield. In
between, six other wineries span from Dexter on the east side to Albion
on the west. Many of these wineries source some of their grapes and
fruit from a variety of growers around the state, so you’ll be enjoying
wines made from grapes grown in regions ideal for maturation of the

All medal references are based upon results of the 2010
and 2011 Michigan Wine and Spirits Competition, the most significant
judged event limited to Michigan wines.

Consider starting the tour just around the corner at
Burgdorf’s Winery. Drawing upon their extensive science and
agricultural backgrounds, Dave and Deb Burgdorf not only create grape
wines, but also bottle a variety of fruit wines. Featuring as many as
30 wine selections, there is something for every palate — plus,
customers can even arrange to make their own wines. The 2007 Morado, a
sweet red wine made from Concord grapes, won double gold at the
Michigan Wine and Spirits Competition, a rare honor for any winery. Or
consider the gold medal-winning 2009 Niagara, a sweet white wine, or
the double gold-medal-winning Perfection, a blend of black raspberry
and tart cherry.

Next, head south on US 127 to Chateau Aeronautique
Winery, located at the edge of a runway at Williams Aero Estates, near
Leslie.  Founded by Delta
Airlines international pilot Lorenzo Lizarralde, Chateau Aeronautic
features an elegant tasting room and wood deck, which provide a perfect
setting for enjoyment of classic vinifera wines such as Chardonnay,
Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminer, Riesling, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet
Franc and Merlot. Wine styles range from bone-dry to port-style sweet.

Not far away is Sandhill Crane Vineyards, aptly named to
honor the nearby sandhill crane rookeries. Notable wines include gold
medal-winning 2008 Sur Lie Chardonnay and  2010 Vidal  Blanc, along with silver medal-winning 2008 Legacy (a dry blend of Chardonnay and Vignoles), 2009 Chardonel,  Moulin Rouge, 2006 Port in a Storm, 2008 Late Harvest Riesling, 2009  Blushing Crane, 2009 Serenade and Raspberry Rose.

Head south across I-94 to Grass Lake and linger at Lone
Oak Vineyard Estate, where you might enjoy the raspberry wine
creatively labeled “LOVE” after the winery name.  It
features 12 estate-grown European grape varieties, and vineyard
management practices follow a unique path. The vines are trellised just
three inches from the ground, for maximum absorption of ground heat,
protection from cold weather at night and protection from winter kill
during the dormant season.  Lone
Oak features dry through sweet wines, including Pinot Noir, Cabernet
Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Riesling and Gewurztraminer, as well as a red
raspberry dessert wine. Look for wine dinners and entertainment on most
Saturday nights.

Winding down the road to Tecumseh, you’ll encounter
Pentamere Winery, with its “urban” setting in an historic building in
downtown Tecumseh. Sourcing grapes from a variety of vineyard sites,  Pentamere
not only offers a range of nearly 20 wines covering dry red through the
most delectable “ice wine,” but also offers fruit wines, spiced wine
(to drink warm in front of a fireplace on a cold winter evening) and
even wine jellies.

The next stop is the Pioneer Wine Trail’s southernmost
winery, J. Trees Cellars, on Main Street in Blissfield. Michigan State
University viticulture grad Jon Treolar’s wines have shown well in
competition, including silver medals for 2008 Vidal Blanc Ice Wine,
2008 Dry Riesling and 2008 Chardonnay. Visit J. Trees Cellars’ Facebook
page for up-to-date information and comments regarding selections, such
as Fuji Ice Cider and 2010 House Red.

Heading back home on Highway 223 toward John and Denise
Burtka’s Cherry Creek Cellars, you’ll need to make a decision: Visit
their winery and tasting room located in an 1870 schoolhouse off of
US-12, or stop at their second tasting room location off I-94 near
Parma?  Either way, visitors
have an opportunity to sample a vast array of wines, including gold
medal winners such as Cherry Port, Jazz and La Mia Famiglia, double
gold-winning Raceway Red (remember Michigan International Speedway is
just around the corner), and silver medal-winning 2008 Montage, Wood
Duck White, Dry Riesling, 2007 Lynn Aleksandr Cabernet Sauvignon,
Michigan Cherry and Summer Breeze. Visitors will also enjoy the
well-stocked merchandise shelves, featuring a variety of cherry-based
products, coffees and fudge.

The wine trail journey ends at Sleeping Bear Winery,
which also happens to be the home of the Bad Bear Brewery and a great
Taste of Michigan store, featuring a wide variety of food and non-food
items. The wine selection is broad, covering a range of wine styles,
including several fruit wines. Notable wines include double gold
medal-winning Vignoles, and gold medal-winning Bear Lake White,
Edelzwicker and Winedog Boardoe. As long as you are there, don’t forget
to check out the brewery side, where guests can enjoy pizza and
sandwiches in the brew pub while sampling from the seasonally rotating
list of fresh beers and ales.

Enjoy the journey.

For more information about the Pioneer Wine Trail,
sponsored events, and links to the wineries’ web sites, visit 

In vino veritas