Michigan is the fourth largest grape-growing state in America, with over 13,500 acres of vineyards. Much of Michigan’s acreage is planted to varieties like Concord and Niagara, destined for juice production. Wine grapes represent 11% of total vineyard area, but this percentage is growing fast. Close to 50 wineries operate, producing 200,000 cases of wine annually. Just 3% of Michigan’s wine production is from labrusca varieties. The majority is from viniferas like Chardonnay, Riesling and Pinot Noir, with the rest coming from French hybrids such as Vidal, Vignoles and Chambourcin. Wine growing is split almost equally between two areas, each with 2 appellations: southwestern Michigan (Fennville and Lake Michigan Shore AVAs) and northwest Michigan (Leelanau and Old Mission Peninsulas AVAs). Each of these northern growing areas depends on the moderating ‘Lake Effect’ from Lake Michigan and most vineyards are within 25 miles of its shore. The Lake’s buffering effect on climate helps protect vines from damaging frosts in both spring and fall. It also prolongs the frost-free period up to a month longer than more inland locations of the state.
In the southern Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina and Georgia vineyards are small and few, yet the establishment of the Upper Hiwassee Highlands could bring much more.
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