Cheers! Wine Consultants

A new addition to an exclusive must-visit list

By Dan & Krista Stockman


On our trip to Michigan that we told you about in our last column, one of our favorite stops was at Forty-Five North Vineyard & Winery.

The winery opened just a couple years after our last trip up north in 2004. When Forty-Five North opened in 2006, we had heard about it as wine columnists for the local newspaper because the owners – Steve and Lori Grossnickle – are from Fort Wayne area. It took us longer than we wanted to get back up to the Traverse City area, but when we did, we knew we had to go to Forty-Five North.

The winery gets its name from its location on the 45th parallel, which puts it at the same latitude as France's Bordeaux region. The Leelanau Peninsula isn't Bordeaux. It get much more cold and has much more snow, making growing hearty red varietals a challenge. But northern Michigan has earned a reputation for having some great wineries with good reason.

At Forty-Five North, 10 grape varietals are grown on the 35-acre property. From that has come 109 wines, many award winning. But awards or not, we like the variety of wines and the atmosphere.

The property is gorgeous with lush vineyards surrounding the main building, which houses a rustic-themed tasting room with plenty of unique touches. At the tasting bar is your typical row of bar stools – except at the end, where you will find two saddles. Our kids quickly claimed those as they participated in their own “tasting.” Outside, in addition to plenty of tables to sit and enjoy a bottle of wine or a picnic lunch, there were lawn games, which also helped keep our kids occupied.

The most challenging part of visiting Forty-Five North was deciding what to bring home. The tasting room staff was friendly and knowledgeable about each of the wines. We ended up with more wines that we initially planned (along with a bike jersey for Krista) because the wine was so good.

We picked up a Rose of Cabernet France, which is a crisp rose in the French style with a touch less of the French bite, and a delicious Pinot Gris. We also went home with 45 Bubbly, a sparkling wine, and Peach Crement, a sparkling wine blended with peaches for a fun summer drink. Dan fell in love with the Northport, a fortified red wine barrel aged in Buffalo Trace bourbon barrels.

Somehow, Forty-Five North has managed to hit that delicate balance between an upscale but casual atmosphere and gorgeous wines. We love the Traverse City area for its wide variety of wineries, but few of them produce as many stunners as this one, and in an area with 25 wineries on just one peninsula (and eight more on the other), we've definitely added this one to our very short must-visit list.