Wine Trail Review: Pioneer Wine Trail

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We have lived in the Detroit area for our whole lives and we have never had a wine trail experience that was close to home. We do enjoy reinvesting in our state by purchasing Michigan wines and Michigan produce but we have always had to travel at least a couple hours to get to an area that had more than 1 or 2 wineries. Well surprise, surprise, surprise! Many wineries have been built right under our keen, perceptive noses! Vineyards have been planted, grapes have been harvested and fermenting in barrels, tasting rooms have been opened, and wines are now being poured! Many have been opened for quite a few years now and have already produced award winning wines and are becoming known around the country. Many have live music in the summer, winery tours, wine and food pairing dinners, wine dogs, and have become established in their community. We are talking about the Pioneer Wine Trail which is located between Ann Arbor and the Jackson/Parma area, along I-94 and south towards Ohio. Well, gas prices are pretty high right now & we are staying close to home anyway. So why not give a visit to the Pioneer Wine Trail and experience local wine and food?

Believe it or not, the Pioneer Wine Trail has over 10 wineries and tasting rooms and a couple that are not even on the list yet! Because there were more wineries than we could visit in one day, we focused on 3 different wineries because of their proximity to each other. And 2 of these wineries are very new so we wanted to try a new, emerging Michigan winery on this trip. Our first stop was the famous St Julian tasting room in Dundee, Michigan just west of US-23. With over 90 years of wine making experience, we knew we would be trying some good wines. We met the very hospitable Jack who would be our wine consultant for our tasting and he gave us a wine menu that had almost 50 different wines to choose from! Dry reds and white wines, sparkling wines, fruit wines, sweeter style and port wines were all on the menu and all sounded great! It took some doing, but we were able to narrow down our choices to 6 tastes each. All the wines we tried were very good and wanted to fill our cellar! We loved the Braganini Blanc de Blanc sparkling white wine with its lively pear, spicy citrus, toast, and crisp finish. A summer quencher or to celebrate a moment. The Braganini Meritage is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc and had flavors of dark berry, plum, and an elegant oak finish. The Braganini Syrah was luscious with its flavors of ripe, black raspberry, white peppercorns, and notes of cherry vanilla. Another favorite was the Braganini Traminette with its creamy texture and flavors of white peach & apricots. Lastly, the award winning Solera Cream Sherry with its butterscotch nose and sweet flavors of hazelnuts and almonds. Wonderful! Check out for more information about their wines, hours, and locations. St Julian is also on Facebook and Twitter.

Next on our target list is a new winery called J. Trees Cellars in Blissfield, Michigan. Here we found a quaint little tasting room with a real small town feel. We were greeted by our wine consultant Andrea and she gave us alot of fun information while she poured wine and hard cider for guests. All the grapes are grown locally in the Blissfield area and even though the winery and tasting room are fairly new, J Trees has been growing grapes for years. Andrea poured us some J Trees hard cider which was very refreshing and very tasty! We are newbies when it comes to hard cider, but obviously J Trees is not! Many locals buy the hard cider by the growler and get it refilled often when they come into town. We enjoyed the cider and was just as interested in trying some good wines too. At the time of this writing, there were 5 wines on the menu and a sweeter style cider. We were quite impressed with all the wines and we liked each one! Our favorites were the Chardonnay with great flavors of tropical fruit and lighter oak finish. The Dry Rose was bursting with strawberry, watermelon, and clove! The Vidal Blanc Ice Wine was deliciously sweet with flavors of dried apricot, pineapple, and honey. If you should go visit J Trees, try the Fuji Iced Cider because it was very lush with a sweet apple taste. For more information about J Trees, log onto or check them out on Facebook or Twitter.

Our third stop on the Pioneer Trail was recommended to us by friends we ran into on the trail so we had to stop at The Flying Otter Vineyard and Winery in Adrian, Michigan. We pulled up to a farm surrounded by rolling hills and vineyards with the tasting room behind the farmhouse. There is something relaxing about visiting the farm and sipping some good wines and we found alot of them here! We were greeted by Bob and Linda Utter who are the owners and winemakers here at the Flying Otter. Bob was an engineer and has loved wine as long as he can remember and started out making wine from kits. They planted their first grapes back in 2005 so they have graduated from wine kits to making wine grown directly from their vineyards. They are planning to continue to grow in size and selection since they are building a 2nd tasting room which will be open air and overlooking the vineyards. The Utters had 8 wines on their menu when we arrived and we couldn’t wait to try a few! All of the wines they have were very good and we did have a few favorites. We loved the Noiret which was a very peppery red wine with hints of berry and mint. The 2011 Sunshine White is dry and a blend of 5 local white grapes. This wine just won a gold medal at the 2012 Michigan Wine Competition and we loved the white peach and citrus flavors! Perfect! The 2010 Vignoles is a semi-sweet wine but had more of a crisp finish. Wonderful tropical flavors explode from the glass! And how about some cherry pie in a glass? We also enjoyed the 2011 Cherry Pie dessert wine and it was the perfect wine to round out the day! Go to for more information about their winery, location, hours, and some informative podcasts as well. You can also find them on Facebook and Twitter so make plans to visit Flying Otter Winery soon!

There are about 7 other wineries on the trail and we plan to visit them and review them all soon! Other wineries on the list are Chateau Aeronautique Winery in Jackson, Sandhill Crane Vineyards in Jackson, Cherry Creek Cellars in Albion and Cherry Creek Old Schoolhouse in Brooklyn, Lone Oak Vineyard in Grass Lake, Pentamere Winery in Tecumseh, and Sleeping Bear Winery and Taste of Michigan Store in Albion. Also, we cannot forget our good friends Deb & Dave Burgdorf who own Burgdorf’s Winery in Haslett, Michigan. They have some wonderful wines for you to try the next time you travel up I-96 near East Lansing, Michigan. They are also part of the Pioneer Wine Trail on the northern end.

So get out there and support Michigan by trying and buying some of their amazing wines! Many of these wineries have weekly events, music, and all sorts of food and wine pairings. Everyone is very helpful, knowledgeable, and looking forward to helping you discover some new favorite wines! Click on and you will find all the information you will need for a great time! Look forward to seeing you along the trail soon! Winesplashing!

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