Wine Tasting in the Midwest


Napa and Sonoma may have all the fame and popularity, but wine regions like the Leelanau Peninsula are gaining notoriety, and are creating great wines, perfectly accessible for a weekend of wine tasting in the Midwest!  Zoom Vacations’ Bryan Herb appeared on WCIU’s “The Jam” to discuss wine tasting in the Midwest.

Click the image above to see the segment.

Click the image above to see the segment.


Michigan arguably boasts the finest wine growing region that lies between the two coasts, especially in the Northwest corner of Lower Michigan near Traverse City and the increasingly well-known Leelanau and Old Mission Peninsulas. Leelanau shares the same latitude as the Champagne region of France, so there are many similarities in growing conditions for wines in this area.  And, it is only a five hour car trip from Chicago.  In 2017 Leelanau was named one of the 8 Stunning Wine Regions in the world to explore

Wines hailing from this region can often garner 90+ Wine Spectator ratings and there is a great diversity of varietal production there, with everything from Riesling and Pinot Blancs to Chardonnays among the whites, with Cabernet Franc (Cab Franc) and Pinot Noir among the reds, not to mention amazing sparkling wines and some rose’s as well. 

In addition to its reputation as an up-and-coming wine destination, Northern Michigan Wine Country is also a rising culinary destination and this beautiful area is the perfect summer getaway for a few days or much longer, with amazing beaches, inns and so much to do and see including Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.

If you don’t have time for a weekend jaunt, then Pastoral Artisan Cheese, Bread & Wine in Chicago can get you virtually any wine from the midwest, with perfects cheese pairings as well! Chicago’s award-winning hometown cheese and wine shop has four locations in the city (Loop near Millennium Park, Chicago French Market in West Loop, East Lakeview and Andersonville). They love to feature the best of what can be found in Chicago’s “backyard”, especially great wines and cheeses that reflect the “terroir’ of the Upper Midwest!

You can even take a little Pastoral picnic fare on your trip to bring up to Wine Country for your winery visits and then when you come back, pick up some of the wines, cheeses and more that you enjoyed up North to rekindle taste memories with a summer picnic along Chicago’s lakefront or at one of our many festivals, concerts or movies in the park.  Pastoral’s $25 picnics give you great flexibility because you can customize them to your tastes, starting with a base picnic makings of  sweet, savory or alfresco and then you pick the cheeses to go with them and anything else you would like to add.

In today’s segment on WCIU’s “The Jam”, Zoom Vacations’ Bryan Herb recommended three distinct wineries.

·       L. Mawby:   Every great experience should start with a glass of sparkling, and Lawrence Mawby, the pre-eminent producer of sparkling wine in the Midwest (and beyond) offers some of the best examples of traditional method sparklers.  Everyone loves bubbly, and with summer here, everyone also loves rose’, so why not combine them in a brut rose’ from pinot noir grapes that is dry and crisp with notes of berry and cherry that everyone is sure to love?  Aged at least 2 years and perfect for pairing with light, lemony fresh goat cheese, like the kind we get from award-winning Idyll Farms, which is located just miles up the road at the northern tip of the Leelanau Peninsula.  Taste them separately to enjoy their characteristics and then taste them together to see that the best pairings are where the sum is greater than the parts!  The key here is a balance, as one flavor should not dominate the other—that’s why the best pairings are of comparable “weight”. 

·       More About Mawby: For your information,  Mawby lets you bring food on the vineyard to picnic and enjoy with their wines along Suttons Bay.  For more information about L. Mawby, their wines, their vineyard and their events, visit  You can purchase Grace at anyone of Pastoral’s locations.

·       Good Harbor Vineyards: Not so far directly west of Mawby (on Good Harbor!) is Good Harbor Vineyards, one of the first wineries in the region (over 40 years in production)  and is renowned for it’s high quality white wines.  We are tasting their delicious small production Chardonnay today, which is bright and crisp; aged in stainless steel and then in oak for only three months, making it gentle and fruit forward!  We are pairing it with another Midwest original, Illinois’ delicious Comeback Cow, soft ripened cheese from Dorothy’s Cheese.  Buttery and mushroomy, it is a great foil for the Chardonnay and the wheel is shaped like a flower which makes for a beautiful picnic spread.  Nibble on some olives or cornichons with this.

·       More About Good Harbor: Good Harbor also has an outdoor picnic area and will participate in the Leland Food and Wine Festival which is coming up on June 9th! Over 12 wineries and one brewery participating.

·       Black Star Farms: When it comes to a trip to Traverse City area wine country, Blackstar Farms has it all just a short hop from our other two destinations.  From an award winning winery with two tasting rooms (one on each peninsula), to a luxury inn with dining room with culinary classes, a farm to table café, a distillery and an equestrian riding facility, it is the perfect home base to enjoy the whole area.  Black Star offers a wide variety of wines, both red and white, which are very well regarded.  Black Star Red House Red is a vibrant blend of many different red grape varieties including primarily Cabernet Franc  but also Merlot, Pinot Noir, and the French-American hybrids Foch, Marquette and Regent. This blend gives the wine a pleasant balance between ripe red fruit and earthy rusticity. It is soft, smooth, and easy drinking.  This pairs beautifully with a nice vibrant and colorful Wisconsin original cheese, Haus Select cheddar from Roelli Cheese!  Try this also with some of the charcuterie and the olives.

·       More on Black Star Farms:

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