Michigan meeting and event planners needn’t travel to Napa or Sonoma Valley to fi nd a stellar winery to host their next aff air. The Great Lakes State boasts several wonderful wineries that make perfect event settings.
“A winery setting makes every event seem more special,” says Heather Price, executive director of Sandhill Crane Vineyards, a family-owned-and-operated winery known for its wide range of small-batch wines made from fruit grown in Michigan. “[Our] building is surrounded by grapes, which are beautiful during every season. It’s sort of like taking your staff on a retreat without the airfare and hotel costs.”
Sandhill is one of the state’s well-kept secrets. Price noted that the vineyards’ location in Jackson, about a mile north of I-94, offers guests easy access but also isn’t a spot that people drive by and notice. Situated less than two hours from several Michigan cities and only an hour west of Detroit, the winery has a banquet room that can seat anywhere from 72 to 90 people. Planners can use the onsite kitchen to cater an event and choose from a variety of wine-related activities for guests to enjoy, including food and wine pairing sessions, wine tastings and cellar tours.
Must-try vinos include the estate-grown Chancellor (a dry white), the Raspberry dessert wine and the Vidal Blanc, the latter of which regularly wins Best of Class at the Indy International Wine Competition.
A Traverse City Treasure
Mari Vineyards in Traverse City only recently began booking private events on its gorgeous grounds. The venue can accommodate up to 300 guests. Mari’s Tasting Room is ideal for larger parties and has an outdoor patio that overlooks the east arm of Grand Traverse Bay as well as the winery’s Bella Vista vineyard; its Conference Room overlooks the winery’s production facility and is ideal for corporate meetings, classes, lectures and smaller luncheons, especially during autumn months when it’s peak harvest season; and its Caves are perfect for intimate gatherings, as guests can mingle among the aging wine barrels.
“Mari Vineyards’ three event space options are all very different and cater to many different types of events,” says Jenna Veiga, Mari Vineyards’ assistant tasting room manager.
“In addition, much of the architecture and design of the building is so beautiful in person, pictures don’t always do it justice.”
All of the spaces have varied seating options and Wi-Fi accessibility. Events can be catered by Mari Vineyards’ small on-site kitchen, which can prepare a selection of appetizers that pair perfectly with the estate’s selection of award-winning wines as well as its signature Row 7, named after the first seven rows of vines that grow in their oldest vineyard. Planners also have the option of utilizing an outside caterer.
“When that option is chosen, we ask the caterer to come visit in advance, and offer the opportunity to work on pairing our wines with their chosen menu for the event,” Veiga says. “We are always happy to create the best paired menu we can.”
Veiga notes that Mari Vineyards is also always ready to incorporate a tour of its 31,000-square-foot building into any event since “most people are so curious about seeing it.”
An All-Night Affair
Chateau Chantal, located on the Old Mission Peninsula north of Traverse City, also boasts stunning views of both the east and west arms of Grand Traverse Bay from its sprawling grounds. Featuring a 2,000-square-foot hospitality room able to accommodate 111 guests (68 seated), an intimate 12-seat conference room and an 11-unit bed-and-breakfast inn, the charming property prides itself on its Northern hospitality as much as its variety of handcrafted wines.
“Our best-kept secret is that guests who stay overnight with us are allowed to use the honor system in our tasting room after hours,” says Marie-Chantal Dalese, president and CEO of Chateau Chantal. “Guests can make their way into the tasting room and guide themselves through our tasting list. Many people find this one of the quaintest things about staying here.”
The venue also boasts an extensive list of activities planners can add to their event, including chef-led cooking classes, vineyard walks, multicourse wine dinners and, of course, winery tours and tastings.
“Our talented and dedicated staff are ready to exceed customers’ expectations by helping plan the best event possible,” Dalese says.
Black Star Farms, which is known for its hand-crafted classic varietal wines and fruit brandies, offers overnight accommodations at its luxurious Suttons Bay property, too. In addition to a 10-room inn, the scenic retreat has a large meeting room that accommodates up to 150 guests for a large presentation or dinner, as well as a smaller meeting room, suitable for board meetings and intimate dinners, that accommodates 35 guests.
“We have a great deal of resources at our fingertips,” says Sherri Campbell Fenton, Black Star Farms’ spokeswoman. “There’s a winery and tasting room, a commercial kitchen and café, hiking trails … We enjoy personalizing events for our guests. We can do scavenger hunts around the property, team cooking competitions or demonstrations and classes, team create-your-own-wine-blend—a trend in Napa—and blind tasting competitions.”
“We will work with you to ensure your event reflects your own taste and personal touches, while offering our own unique twist and experiences,” adds Dorothy DeBlasio, Black Star Farms’ catering and conference services manager. “You can host a daytime meeting then enjoy hospitality hour with one of our innkeepers and cap the night off with a wine-paired meal.”
The 160-acre Suttons Bay property is home to a variety of animals and prides itself on using its own proteins in the kitchen whenever possible.
“We provide a unique place to get away from distractions, with everything needed for a meeting and excellent cuisine,” Fenton says.
With such appealing venues to choose from, meeting and event planners should have no problem finding the perfect winery for their guests to savor.