Ground & Growers

The Terroir of the Lake Michigan Shore

Roughly 80 miles of Lake Michigan shoreline run along the “Lake Michigan Shore” American Viticultural Area or AVA, which is quickly gaining recognition as a world-class wine region. When speaking of the unique qualities of the wines from the Lake Michigan Shore AVA, we are in actuality talking about their sense of place, or as some would say, “terroir.” The close proximity of the AVA to the lake and the prevailing westerly winds combine to give the AVA the “Lake Effect.” Wines from the Lake Michigan Shore are fruit forward, balanced, and food friendly, much more akin to the wines of Europe than to the wines of the West Coast of the United States.

During the growing season, the area accumulates an average of 2900 growing degree days, more than Burgundy and Alsace in France, all of Germany, or the Willamette Valley in Oregon. Regions of equal accumulation are Bordeaux and the Italy’s Piedmont.

During the summer, the average high temperature in the Lake Michigan Shore is 81F, with roughly 20 inches of rain. In the fall, Lake Michigan returns the heat it accumulates during the summer months, extending the growing season and allowing for full ripening of red and white grape varieties alike.

Lake Michigan also moderates winter temperatures – the average winter low is 20F. Because of this, famous wine grape varieties that normally do not survive typical Midwestern winters will thrive in the Lake Michigan Shore AVA.

The moraines along the shoreline were created 12,000-13,000 years ago during the Wisconsin Glaciation. Most of the vineyard sites are located at elevations above 650ft, with the highest elevations in the AVA at over 900ft. The 40+ soil types in the AVA range widely in texture, drainage and slope.

The Lake Michigan Shore AVA encompasses all of Berrien and Van Buren Counties and includes parts of Allegan, Kalamazoo and Cass Counties. All of our growers are located within this region. The AVA is bordered on the northern edge by the Kalamazoo River, on the southern edge by the Michigan-Indiana border, and on the eastern edge by the path of the Grand Trunk Western and Penn Central railroad lines.

An Extraordinary Place to Make Wine

We believe that Southwest Michigan wines can stand up with the greatest wines of the world. Our wine showcases the unique qualities of the Lake Michigan Shore AVA, producing delicious wines of exquisite balance and finesse. Come taste, and see for yourself.


Logo for 12 Corners Vineyards. Red square with the number 12 in white.

12 Corners

Benton Harbor, MI

Hinkleman Farm

Jon and Diane Hinkleman
Watervliet, MI

This shows the Karma Vista Vineyards logo. The line in the K becomes a shooting start that dots the i in Vista.

Karma Vista Vineyards

Joe, Sue and Keith Herman
Coloma, MI

The Lemon Creek Winery logo shows a barrel with white grapes painted on it, reading "Lemon Creek WInery & Fruit Farm, Est. 1855."

Lemon Creek Fruit Farm

Jeff and Cathy Lemon
Berrien Springs, MI

Meadowbrook Farm's logo shows a rooster standing on top of a pig standing on top of a cow.

Outcross Vineyards (Meadowbrook Farms)

Michael and Michelle de Schaaf
Benton Harbor, MI

The Southwest Michigan Research and Education Center logo is a white circle with green lettering reading "Institute of Agricultural Technology: 1894 - 2019, 125th Anniversary."

Southwest Michigan Research & Education Center, Michigan State University (SWMREC)

Benton Harbor, MI

Nye's Apple Barn logo, featuring an apple with a human face licking its lips.

Nye’s Apple Barn

St. Joseph, MI

Corporate Partners

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