Wineries Welcome Fall with Mulled Wine & Special Events

By: Karen Dybis | September 28, 2020
Rick Deblasio Leelanau Peninsula Vintners Association

Rick DeBlasio, president of the Leelanau Peninsula Vintners Association and general manager of Shady Lane Cellars. Photo courtesy of Shady Lane Cellars.

Cooler Michigan temperatures tend to get people thinking about warm things, like sweaters, those puffy jackets that everyone seems to wear no matter their age, as well as beverages that make you feel comfortable no matter the weather. 

Mulled wine and its fall companion of classic Michigan red wines are an ideal way to not only savor the season but to get to know the state’s many winemakers. This year, many Michigan wineries are holding annual events, offering drink specials and organizing outdoor activities to help introduce themselves to new connoisseurs and keep people coming in for a sip or two. 

Michigan’s Leelanau Peninsula Vintners Association not only has regular events that people look forward to each year, but they have come together as an organization to think up new activities for in-state travelers who want to check out its well-known Leelanau Peninsula Wine Trail.

The LPVA represents 27 Michigan wineries in the state’s northern lower peninsula. Employees from every one of those wineries have been working hard to fill online orders and welcome back visitors to the wineries in a safe, socially-distant way. While the months ahead may look slightly different at these wineries, winemakers and managers are doing all they can to adapt to the concerns of COVID-19. 

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Rick DeBlasio, president of the Leelanau Peninsula Vintners Association and general manager of one of the wineries – Shady Lane Cellars, has been hashing out the details for what the LPVA’s upcoming events will look and feel like.

Instead of large one-day gatherings, the wineries will offer special month-long experiences and a come-at-your-pace feel that encourages safe ways to make the most of this stunning region. For example, The Hunt for the Reds of October will return in its month-long format and the association is still working on more ways to make the most of visits to this Michigan destination.

DeBlasio said these month-long events slow down the pace of visiting a winery, allowing people who visit a real chance to come at their convenience. They can spend more time talking to the staff and learning about the wines. They also can get a new experience in that events like The Hunt for the Reds of October take place during the week, which is a more relaxing time for organizers and participants alike. He recommends visitors check again with wineries to find out if they are requesting reservations and whether walk-in participants can be accommodated. 

Mulled wine also is a great seasonal drink that many Michigan wineries will begin to serve during the fall, DeBlasio said. His winery usually offers it on the weekends through October.

The overall recipe is a secret, but his winery adds things such as brown sugar, orange and a range of spices to truly make this warm drink stand out. He said Shady Lane typically uses a rosé but they’ve also made mulled wine with a red. 

“Michigan grape growing and winemaking is all about capturing the cool-climate characteristics of our region,” DeBlasio said. “Understanding Michigan red wine is really about understanding style. We grow specific varieties and craft them in ways to truly express our region and our climate.”

Here are some additional Michigan wineries to try this fall for not only mulled wine but for special events throughout the season:

Aurora Cellars: This Leelanau winery is a full-production boutique winery that loves large groups, like weddings. This year, it is looking to host smaller groups as well as people interested in learning more about the wine-making process. Reservations through its website are required for paid tastings.

Bluestone Vineyards: The colors at this vineyard are in full bloom, so to speak, right now as the grapes are being harvested. Reservations fill up fast at Bluestone, but you can check in to see if there are walk-in spaces available. The lovely glass-enclosed tasting room looks out onto a beautiful vista of vines, so it is worth the visit. 

Cherry Republic Winery: This is an ideal winery to visit when you are in the area because there is cherry-flavored wine – of course – but also pop for the kids. Everyone can hang out together in Cherry Republic’s garden areas, where there are games and lots of room to spread out to try cherry-flavored everything under the sun. 

Black Star Farms: People come back to Black Star Farms year after year to enjoy the huge deck and wooded surroundings. There is a luxurious inn on site so you can stay for a long weekend if you want. There also are hiking trails nearby if you want to explore the 160-acre estate on the Leelanau Peninsula.

Remember to drink responsibly and plan ahead with a designated driver or take advantage of one of these local designated driving services.