Michigan winery tourism reaches new heights

Two million people expected to visit Michigan wineries in 2013.

Through their work in Michigan tourism, and as part of the Northern Grapes Project, a multi-state, initiative to enhance wine grape growth and development in cold climates, Michigan State University Extension researchers, Dr. Dan McCole, and Dr. Don Holecek, have updated their estimate of Michigan winery tourists.

“Getting a count on visitors is tricky because some wineries don’t track their visitors,” McCole said. “We created a model that combines the data from our surveys of Michigan wineries and tasting room visitors with secondary sources, such as tax records and we feel confident that more than two million people are visiting Michigan tasting rooms each year. The last best estimate of 800,000 Michigan winery visitors was done 2002-2003 and is now out-of-date.”

A 2005 estimate of the value of Michigan winery tourism was put at $8.6 million in tourist spending and $3 million in wages (MKF Research 2005). Michigan is home to 101 wineries in both peninsulas, and four promotional wine trails (Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development 2013). Economic impacts of today’s winery tourism segment are being developed as part of the Northern Grapes Project.

“With more wineries opening each year, this area has become a wine enthusiast vacation destination,” Millicent Huminsky, Executive Director of the Southwestern Michigan Tourist Council said. She notes Southwest Michigan is an area ideal for growing European hybrids and producing premium award-winning wines.

“We have benefited from the local food movement and growth of agricultural tourism just as Michigan entrepreneurs have realized that we have the land, weather, water, skilled farmers and talented winemakers to produce classic varietals,” Don Coe, Managing Partner, Black Star Farms said. “Our consumers have discovered wine country in their own backyard and are learning to consume regional wines paired with local food just as they would when visiting any of the great wine regions of the world.”