The below-referenced article from wikipedia.org projects that the Michigan Grape and Wine Industry Council set a goal of 10,000 acres of wine grape production and 3 million cases of Michigan-produced wines annually by 2024, which is about 10 times the current production. There will be several aspects of the service industry in the state that will be vital in supporting this growth, one of which is legal services.
In order to sustain proposed growth as reported above, wineries and wine growers will face issues similar to other businesses. Those issues include business formation, state and federal beverage licensing and permitting, financing, land acquisition, construction and design of facilities, environmental and natural resource issues, water rights, employment/worker’s compensation/OHSA issues, trademark protection, license agreements, income taxation, business succession and estate planning, and possible litigation matters.
The attorneys at Wright Penning & Beamer are experienced in all aspects of areas of business law cited above and how those laws are to be adapted to an agribusiness operation. If you have any questions or would like to inquire about our services, please do not hesitate to contact us at 231-271-4500.
Information about the Michigan Wine Industry from wikipedia.org – please visit their site for additional information, reference notes and maps of Michigan’s Wine Regions.
Michigan wine refers to any wine that is made in the U.S. state of Michigan. As of 2007, there were 1,500 acres (610 ha) under wine-grape cultivation and 56 commercial wineries in Michigan, producing 425,000 cases of wine. According to another count there were 112 operating wineries in Michigan in 2007. Wine and wine tourism were estimated in 2007 to be a $100 million industry. Most of the quality bottled wine of Michigan is produced in the four listed American Viticultural Areas (AVAs) of Fennville AVA, Lake Michigan Shore AVA, Leelanau Peninsula AVA, and the Old Mission Peninsula AVA. Besides grape wine, Michigan is a leader in the production of fruit wines such as cherry wine.
Most of the grapes grown in Michigan are grown for “table” uses, not wine. Of 100,000 short tons of grapes produced in 2005, only 4,600 tons were used for wine-making. However, the proportion of vinifera grapes used in winemaking is increasing. In 2005, the wine industry pressed 2,640 tons of European vinifera grapes, 1,660 tons of hybrid varieties, and 300 tons of American varieties. European grapes grown include Cabernet Franc, Chardonnay, Gewürztraminer, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Syrah, Pinot Gris, and Riesling.
The traditional wines of Michigan were sweet wines, often made from grape varieties native to North America, such as the Catawba, Concord, and Niagara, or from hybrid grapes partly descended from these varieties. North American native grapes bore (and continue to bear) the advantage of being adapted to local growing conditions, with consequent high fruit yield. In addition, local growers could switch back and forth between the production of sweet wine and grape juice. Of Michigan’s 14,600 acres (5,900 ha) under grape cultivation, only 12%, 1,800 acres (730 ha), were devoted to wine grapes as of 2007.
Michigan’s wine industry dates from after the repeal of Prohibition. With large plantings of Concord in the southwest, mostly for the Welch Grape Juice Company, the state was well positioned to enter wine production. Four large wineries (out of eleven wineries established by 1946) came to produce almost all Michigan wine: La Salle Wine and Champagne Company which was established in Windsor, Ontario and moved to Farmington, Michigan, the Bronte Champagne and Wine Company of Hartford, Michigan Wineries (now Tabor Hill Winery) of Buchanan, and St. Julian Winery, which was also established in Windsor, Ontario on the Canadian shore across from Detroit during Prohibition and moved to Paw Paw after repeal.
Vineyard on the Leelanau peninsula
Michigan law in the mid-20th century placed a tax of 4 cents per U.S. gallon on Michigan wine while other wine was taxed at 50 cents per U.S. gallon to promote the local industry. Michigan wine of that era was, primarily, fermented to dryness, giving about 9% alcohol, and then fortified with California brandy to 16% alcohol. State laws considered this natural wine and allowed it to be sold in grocery and drug stores while fortified wines from out-of-state at 18-20% could only be sold from state liquor stores.
The wineries of Michigan specialized in sweet wine and fruit wine well into the 1970s. With the growth in demand, starting in the latter half of the 20th century, for locally-grown and locally-labeled U.S. fine wines, several existing Michigan makers of sweet wine experimented with upgrading their production, and new vintners entered the scene. Tabor Hill Winery in southwest Michigan, opened in 1971 as the first Michigan winery specializing in vinifera wines. Only a few years later in 1974, Chateau Grand Traverse opened in the Traverse Bay region of Northern Michigan. A slow growth in the number of wineries and continued trial of different vinifera varieties continued well into the 2000s.
The four AVAs of Michigan.
Michigan contains four American Viticultural Areas (AVAs), regions whose wines share similar and distinct characteristics: Fennville, Lake Michigan Shore, Leelanau Peninsula, and Old Mission Peninsula. All four regions are located in proximity to Lake Michigan, and almost all of Michigan’s wine grapes are grown within 25 miles (40 km) of the lake. The lake effect provides a favorable microclimate compared to interior regions of the state. The northern wine regions have a 145-day growing season while the southern ones have a 160-day season.
The Greater Traverse City area, which includes the peninsulas of Leelanau and Old Mission, is one of the primary wine regions of Michigan. The soil is sandy, with good drainage, and a lake-dominated climate allows a longer growing season than in most of the U.S. Midwest. 51% of Michigan’s wine grapes, including much of the state’s vinifera grapes, are grown in this area.
The same advantages exist, to a slightly lesser degree, on the eastern shore of Lake Michigan south of Grand Rapids in the Fennville and Lake Michigan Shore regions. 45% of Michigan’s wine grapes are grown in this area.
The climate of Greater Traverse City allows for the production of ice wine, which requires an early hard freeze so the fruit still on the vine can be harvested while frozen. A small number of wineries produce this style; although it is not possible every year. In 2002, for example, 6 Michigan wineries produced over 13,000 half-bottles of ice wine, a record at that time.
Michigan may be the foremost U.S. state in the production of diverse varieties of bottled, fermented fruit wine. Fruit wine has a long and honorable history in Europe, especially in regions such as Poland and the Baltic states where grapes do not easily grow. In Michigan, apple wine and cherry wine are produced in the highest volume, but almost any fruit juice can be fermented with novel results. Michigan is a North American leader in the production of fortified fruit wines and eau-de-vie (fruit brandy).
As with other states, the Michigan wine industry is seen as an attractive example of regional cuisine and is supported by tourists. More than 800,000 tourists visited Michigan wineries in 2005.
The wine industry in Michigan is supported by an agricultural research program at Michigan State University which began experimental vineyards around the state in 1970 and established a winery on campus in 1972. The Michigan Grape and Wine Industry Council is a state agency established in 1985 to promote and support Michigan wineries.
A warming trend in the climate of the Great Lakes region could increase Michigan vinifera productivity and lead to a higher profile for Michigan wines. However, Michigan vineyards, particularly vinifera vineyards, remain vulnerable to late spring and early fall cold snaps, such as the killing frost of March, 2003, insufficient growing season heat to fully ripen the grapes, and rot or mildew originating from rainfall while the grapes are maturing. The Michigan Grape and Wine Industry Council has set a goal of 10,000 acres (4,000 ha) of wine grape production and 3 million cases of Michigan-produced wines annually by 2024, about 10 times current production. Consumption of Michigan wine has risen from 1.5% of all wine consumed in Michigan in 1997 to 5.2% in 2006 with the number of wineries rising from about 16 to 50 in the same period. Michigan liquor law revisions in 2005 affirmed the right of wineries to sell from their tasting rooms, ship wine directly to consumers, and sell directly to licensed retailers and restaurants, bypassing wholesale distributors.
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