Vineyards and wineries are spirited spots for group gatherings.
From the lush vineyards of the Traverse City area to independent wineries throughout the state, Michigan’s wine experiences are bountiful. For instance, the state is home to more than 140 wineries and four certified American Viticultural Areas, which means there are endless opportunities to relax with a glass while networking with colleagues, catching up with clients, celebrating a milestone, or commemorating an achievement.
“Wineries are just such a cool experience for groups,” says Allison Beers, owner of Traverse City-based Events North, which plans corporate events and gatherings. “That’s especially true when you’re able to reserve the entire place. You get to see things up close and personal in a way you don’t as a drop-in guest.”
From hip, intimate tasting rooms to sprawling vineyards and a bed-and-breakfast with breathtaking views, here are just a few Michigan experiences awaiting oenophiles.
3 North Vines Croswell
Kristi Nichols-Shopbell and her husband, Nate, founded 3 North Vines in 2007 after meeting at Michigan State University and forming a bond over a wine-tasting class. They planted grapes in 2008, opened their doors in 2014, and today, 3 North Vines offers several hard ciders, plus a variety of wines and sangrias made with grapes grown on the four-acre vineyard. The rural location, just a few miles
from the shores of Lake Huron, can host up to 50 guests in the tasting area and as many as 125 in the vineyards. Between sips and bites, groups can enjoy activities that include yoga and painting among the vines. Having both a vineyard (where the grapes are grown) and a winery (where the wine is produced) is rare, notes Kristi. “Most wine venues have one or the other,” she says, “but we enjoy being in control of the grape from beginning to end.”
Black Star Farms Suttons Bay Traverse City
It is located just minutes from downtown Traverse City, but Black Star Farms Suttons Bay feels a world apart. The 160-acre winery estate includes a spacious tasting room, luxurious 10-room inn, equestrian facility, and hiking trails.
“We can do everything from a lunch meeting for the office that just wants to get out of downtown Traverse City for the afternoon to an overnight retreat for the executives of a corporation with board meetings, wine tastings, winery tours, cooking classes, yoga in the vines, and guided hikes,” says Ingrid Olson, sales and catering manager at Black Star Farms.
Sherri Campbell Fenton, Black Star Farms’ managing owner, adds, “This is a very relaxed, rural setting, and we understand the need for some corporate groups to have discretion and privacy.”
Black Star Farms’ event space, which includes the centennial Pegasus Barn, has a capacity of 150 guests for a seated dinner, but that increases to 175 if you opt for a strolling reception.
Last December, Sandy Scarbrough held the holiday party for the staff of Scarbrough Family Eyecare in one of Black Star Farms’ private rooms. “It was lovely to have a space to ourselves rather than be in the middle of a restaurant,” she says. In fact, Scarbrough was so impressed with the service and food (which included gluten-free and vegetarian options) that she’s planning her son’s wedding at Black Star Farms in June.
Chateau Aeronautique Jackson and Irish Hills
Bringing new meaning to “wine flight,” Chateau Aeronautique calls an old airplane hangar home. Chateau Aeronautique began with a cozy tasting room and a winemaking operation in the hangar, but today, a boutique tasting room, adorned with paintings, chandeliers, and a bar constructed from retired wine barrels, also overlooks the grass runway. Both the original tasting room and the new tasting room are available for small events. In 2017, the winemaking operation was moved to a new 8,000-square-foot facility located on 26 acres in the Irish Hills. With a 6,000-square-foot outdoor seating area, it’s available for events of all sizes. Chateau Aeronautique also operates the Blue Skies Brewery in Auburn Hills—its 5,500-square-foot all-weather Biergarten can also host corporate gatherings. Fun fact: Every bottle label features a 1940 Stearman biplane, a fitting adornment since owner/winemaker Lorenzo Lizarralde is a pilot.
Chateau Chantal Traverse City
Located on Old Mission Peninsula, Chateau Chantal offers not only a vineyard and winery but also a charming bed-and-breakfast with stunning views of Grand Traverse Bay and Power Island. The B&B can accommodate up to 44 guests in its 12 rooms, while the 2,000-square-foot Hospitality Room can host 100 attendees for a reception. Groups can sample more than two dozen different wines, tour the cellar, enjoy a wine dinner, and attend wine seminars and hands-on cooking classes. For an especially elevated experience, guests can hike the Founders’ Trail, which bends its way through the 65-acre estate.
Grape Beginnings Winery Midland
Since 2015, Grape Beginnings has brought the world to Midland.
“Our slogan is ‘worldly wines made local,’” says manager Chris Whitted. “We get the juice from around the world and make great wine here in Michigan.”
The result is a boutique winery with an eclectic selection and the ability to craft French, Italian, and other international wines on-site. Cozy and intimate, the place is a popular gathering spot. That’s especially true in the summer, when its patio in downtown Midland provides a perfect location to sit with a glass of cabernet and listen to live entertainment. Grape Beginnings also hosts quarterly wine-and-cheese pairings as well as wine-and-chocolate pairings. The winery is available for dinners and private tastings for up to 40 guests.
St. Julian Winery and Distillery Paw Paw
Today, Michigan’s most-awarded winemaker, St. Julian, operates six tasting rooms, but Paw Paw is where it all began. The winery recently celebrated its 100th anniversary making wine from fruit to glass on-site. Tours are available for groups, along with a tasting room and patio for sampling St. Julian’s wines, ciders, cocktails, and slushes. The Apollo tasting room, warmed by a fireplace and with capacity for 60 people seated and 100 standing, is available for corporate events. Audio, live music, catering, and more can be accommodated.
“When you walk into our tasting room, you’ll be met by a friendly crowd,” says Alyssa Sonnevil, St. Julian’s director of marketing. “At St. Julian, we enjoy having a good time and want to share that experience with our guests.”
Tabor Hill Winery & Restaurant Buchanan
Located in southwest Michigan’s wine country, Tabor Hill Winery & Restaurant offers award-winning wines and fine dining in the heart of a vineyard.
A pioneer in Michigan winemaking, Tabor Hill celebrated its 50th year of harvesting in 2021. Both the tasting room and the rustic, upscale dining room are available for private events, with room for up to 225 guests. Guests are encouraged to bring a bottle along with them as they hit Mount Tabor Trail, a 3.5-mile hike through the woods and vineyards.
“We love being able to offer a truly unique experience,” says Meagan Veldman, member engagement specialist at Tabor Hill. “No matter where you are on our property, the vineyard is always in sight!”