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Exploring Southwest Michigan’s Wine Trail with Grape and Grain Tours

Time is precious, and we should use it doing things that leave us feeling happy. As this picture exhibits, wine makes me happy!!!

smiling woman holding wine by a pond on Southwest Michigan Wine Tour
Free Run Cellars

My expression is an accurate description of my Southwest Michigan Wine tour day excursion with Grape and Grain Tours. It was a joyous time! This scenic destination, also known as the Napa of the Midwest, is only an hour and a half drive from Chicago, shorter than many people’s commutes.

Southwest Michigan

Sign that reads trail to winery on Southwest Michigan wine trail
Baroda, Michigan

A Southwest Michigan wine tour is ideal for day trips, vacations, or carefree weekend getaways. The destination is home to over 15 breweries and 21 wineries, with many providing foodie events, entertainment, live music, and festivals. The scene is continually changing and offers a welcome shift in pace and setting. If you’re not yet hip to this fabulous wine destination, you must get in on this secret! And, if you’re thinking, “Michigan only produces sweet wine,” think again. Check out what area vineyards like Dablon Vineyards in Baroda, Michigan, is doing. 

Sandy beach at Lake Michigan
Lake Michigan

The region’s proximity to Lake Michigan enables the grapes to benefit from a “lake effect,” protecting the vines during winter and spring while facilitating a longer growing season. The growing conditions are ideal for varietals found in warmer climates, so you’ll find the dry reds and whites that your heart desires.

woman smiling drinking a glass of wine on Southwest Michigan Wine Trail Tour
Tabor Hill Winery

Although I’ve visited often, my outing with Grape and Grain tours spoiled me rotten and has me re-thinking future visits. You may, by all means, create your itinerary as I have in the past. However, there are obvious benefits to allowing an experienced tour company to take the reigns for you. Namely:

  • Probably most important; your tour guide is the designated driver; therefore everyone in your group can enjoy a full experience
  • No stress or worries. When someone else does all the planning, the only thing you need to do is relax, drink wine, and have fun.
  • Tour guides are knowledgeable of the area and provide useful insight and information. My goal is to always learn something new from each of my experiences.
  • Our tour guide looked out for us, kept track of all of the purchases, and stored them on the bus because let’s face it; we were all drinking.

Grape and Grain Tours

I received a complimentary Southwest Michigan wine tour for myself and a guest in exchange for sharing my experience. However, all opinions are my own.

Grape and Grain tours far exceeded my expectations! The family-owned company, owned by mother and daughter, Kim and Ashley, was established in 2013. As Michigan natives, they have a deep sense of pride and an in-depth knowledge of the wineries they’ve observed prosper. Their desire to showcase the best while providing a first-rate and fun experience could be felt throughout the day. I can’t say enough about my time on this tour; I like the way they do business. During the trip, Kim popped in to greet us; she’s the sweetest.

Grape and Grain tour guide Tami sitting in van during Southwest Michigan Winery Tour
Tour guide Tami

Tour guide Tami was friendly and personable as well; if you can request her, do it! Because Grape and Grain Tours thought of everything, I was able to relax and enjoy the moments fully. I haven’t melted into that level of unwinding in a long time.

I appreciated that Tami was attentive while allowing us space; there wasn’t any hovering. She was masterful with time, and I never felt hurried. Each stop had just the right amount of time, so there was no sense of feeling the need to move on. She kept us right on schedule down to our arrival time back in Chicago.

Southwest Michigan Wine Tour Transportation and Itinerary

Smiling woman exciting Grape and Grain touring van on Southwest Michigan Winery Tour

Grape and Grains Tours have multiple pick-up and drop-off locations for you and your party. They’re flexible and will tailor to your needs. Our pick-up spot was a local Chicago Starbucks, which was perfect because I can’t start my Saturday without coffee. We departed Chicago at 8:00 a.m (9:00 a.m Michigan time) En route, Tami gave us the facts and history of Michigan’s wine production, specifically the wineries of Berrien County. We also had a bit of trivia. Knowing the history of the area heightened my anticipation and enhanced the experience.

Tabor Hill Winery and Restaurant

First stop on our Southwest Michigan Wine Tour was Tabor Hill, one of Michigan’s oldest wineries. The beloved award-winning winery was the first winery in Michigan to specialize in vinifera wines. Vitis vinifera is a common European grape cultivated in many varieties, such as Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon. We had a good range of dry whites and reds for selection, as well as semi-dry, sparkling, and fruit wines. I stuck mostly to the dry-reds and whites. 

Mom and daughter on Southwest Michigan Wine tour smiling at the camera
Tabor Hill Winery

Tami informed us that Tabor Hill’s Classic Demi-sec and Classic Demi-Red have been staples at the White House since the 1970s. Of course, I had to try them. They were excellent! So much so, I purchased a bottle to take home! Who’d have thought I’d buy a semi-dry to take back over a dry. I surprisingly didn’t find them overly sweet.

Tabor Hill Classic Demi-Sec wine bottles on stocked shelf in Southwest Michigan wine country

Lunch at Tabor Hill Restaurant

We took a tour of the wine cellars before heading to the restaurant for lunch and more wine. The restaurant’s wall of windows enabled us to soak in views of the vineyards while dining. I had the chicken schnitzel, and it was incredible! This winery is for sure on the return list, and the chicken schnitzel will be on repeat. Hopefully, I’ll be able to participate in one of their vineyard tours, the grounds are beautiful!

Free Run Cellars

After lunch, we headed to our second stop, Free Run Cellars. The small-batch winery sits on 3 acres of vineyards. If you’re desiring a smaller intimate setting for your tasting, this is the winery for you. The winery has a lovely outdoor patio overlooking a pond as well as the vineyard. I’d love to return in the warmer months to enjoy a glass in the tranquil surroundings.

Staff at Free Run Cellars describing wine list to seated women during Southwest Michigan Winery Tour
Free Run Cellars

The staff guided us through a selection of 3 tastings of reds and whites.

I really liked their mulled wine and purchased a few of their mulling spices for at-home use. Whenever Fall hits, I’m all about mulled wines.

Round Barn Estate

Large Amish Barn at Round Barn Estate on the Southwest Michigan Winery Trail
Round Barn Estate

The final stop of our tasting tour was Round Barn Estate, named after the attractive turn-of-the-century Amish barn sitting on the grounds.

Tami, our guide referred to this well-know spot as the party place. I agree. They host a variety of events throughout the year. I’ve had some fun times at this estate. I’ve been a fan of this trifecta for a while. Therefore, I mixed things up with tastings of beer and spirits in addition to wine. I knew that I wasn’t leaving without a bottle of their Black Walnut Cream, it’s phenomenal!

It was the perfect way to end our tour. Thank goodness the bus was waiting, and no one had to worry about driving home. Half the bus fell asleep on the way home, lol — another perk of letting someone else manage the details while you handle the fun.

Group of smiling women standing in front of a white Amish barn during Southwest Michigan Winery Tour
Round Barn Estate

Thinking back on that joyous day still brings a smile to my face! Did I mention I only knew a couple of the ladies on our tour? Nothing like getting to know others over wine. So don’t worry if it’s only you and a friend or just yourself on tour, you may make a new friend amongst a group of strangers!

Would I book a trip with Grape and Grain Tours again? Absolutely!

Have you ever visited Southwest Michigan Wine Country? Which wineries are your favorites? Tell me in the comments.

Woman standing in vineyard on Southwest Michigan Wine Tour
Free Run Cellars

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