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American Viticultural Areas

The Bay View Wine Trail is part of the Tip of the Mitt American Viticultural Area, one of five in Michigan

The 10 wineries that make up the Bay View Wine Trail are located in and around the greater Petoskey area, not far from Little Traverse Bay. They’re part of a larger Tip of the Mitt American Viticultural Area (AVA)— which encompasses 2,760-square miles throughout Alpena, Antrim, Charlevoix, Cheboygan, Emmet and Presque Isle counties in the northern Lower Peninsula. Established in August 2016, the Tip of the Mitt is the latest of five federally-recognized AVA’s in Michigan — the others include Old Mission Peninsula, Leelanau Peninsula, Fennville and Lake Michigan Shore.

Located further north than any of the other AVA’s, the Tip of the Mitt region offers a unique set of challenges and opportunities when it comes to growing grapes. Lake effective conditions from Little Traverse Bay and the Straits of Mackinac often create colder and windier winter seasons, meaning varietals typically planted downstate can’t withstand the harsh conditions. Hybrid varietals — such as Marquette, Frontenac, Lemberger, Traminette, Vignoles and a dozen others — represent new standards in cold, hardy viticulture and enology.

An American Viticultural Area (AVA) is a designated wine grape-growing region in the United States distinguishable by geographic features, with boundaries defined by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) of the United States Department of the Treasury. As of November, 2016, there were 238 recognized AVAs in the United States — several of which are shared by two or more states.

map of american viticultural areas in michigan

Current regulations impose the following additional requirements on an AVA

  • Evidence that the name of the proposed new AVA is locally or nationally known as referring to the area;
  • Historical or current evidence that the boundaries are legitimate;
  • Evidence that growing conditions such as climate, soil, elevation, and physical features are distinctive;

Once an AVA is established, at least 85% of the grapes used to make a wine must be grown in the specified area if an AVA is referenced on its label. AVAs are reserved for situations where a geographically defined area has been using the name and it has come to be identified with that area.

The Tip of the Mitt AVA was created by the U.S. Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau by petition from the Straits Area Grape Growers Association. The petition to create the AVA noted that the area was suited for the cultivation of cold-weather varietals such as Marechal Foch and Leon Millot. The Straits Area Grape Growers Association has announced its intent to specialize in cold-hardy vines.

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