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Mackinaw Trail Winery
by
Kathy and Terry Sullivan

Mackinaw Trail WinerySummary: Mackinaw Trail Winery, a family-owned winery, is one of the oldest wineries located in Michigan’s Tip of the Mitt region. The owners know the fascination the public has for watching wine produced and has built the winery to accommodate visitors. The winery produces 99% estate grown grapes. Mackinaw Trail Winery also produces hard cider.

The Mackinaw Trail Winery, is located in a brown-sided facility, with the center and tasting room entrance enhanced with a stone facade. The winery is owned by Ralph and Laurie Stabile. Their son, Dustin, is now the second generation winemaker.

Background

Mackinaw Trail WineryRalph Stabil, owner of Mackinaw Trail Winery, grew up in Detroit. His grandmother and grandfather immigrated from Italy. His grandfather owned a farm in Mt. Clement and had a half acre vineyard. Ralph remembers helping his grandfather make wine. During the 1990s Ralph moved to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and planted a vineyard in Manistique. He decided to go into winemaking full-time and had a small building in the Upper Peninsula. The first year for Mackinaw Trail Winery, Ralph crushed the grapes in his garage. Eventually he wanted to make the business grow and opened tasting rooms in Mackinaw and Petoskey. He saw the potential of this area. He purchased the current property in 2012 and planted grapevines in 2013/2014. The winery facility was built to handle 40,000 cases. In 2016 he added the barrel room and storage area.

Dustin would like the public to know that this is a laidback winery where people like to laugh, get the knowledge and try the wine. “Give the best experience that people can have.”

Winery

Arriving at Mackinaw Trail Winery, we were walking to the tasting room entrance when we saw a bin of red grapes dumped into a destemmer/crusher. I quickly said, “I’m not going to miss this!” We have seen grapes destemmed and crushed at numerous wineries but it is a sight that is fascinating to watch. As we started to walk back to the tasting room, Dustin called for us to stop and motioned us over. After the bin was empty, Dustin came over and introduced us to Ralph.

Mackinaw Trail Winery     Mackinaw Trail Winery

Ralph recognized the importance of allowing visitors to enjoy the sight of harvested grapes. On the day of our visit, several people wandered over to watch the destemming and pressing of Marquette grapes. We learned that Ralph, when planning the winery and tasting room, deliberately placed the press pad, where grapes are destemmed and crushed, out in the front of the winery near the tasting room. Ralph said, “We have been doing this for 15 years. People love to see this and that is why when I designed the winery I put the processing in the front.” In addition to the destemmer/crusher, the Marquette grapes were pumped to a press. The winery was working on a rosé wine.

Mackinaw Trail WineryAfter viewing the pressing, we walked through the winery observing rows of stainless steel tanks. Ralph pointed out various winemaking equipment. Ralph explained that he is currently using a special way to track each wine bottle sold by the winery. The barrel room showcased an oval oak barrel. The ceiling and walls are covered with pine boards that give a golden glow to the room. A large wooden table with chairs is occasionally used for tastings.

Vineyards

Mackinaw Trail WineryRegarding the cold weather grape varieties, Ralph noted that the grapes Marquette and La Crescent are the grape varieties the will define the Tip of the Mitt AVA. He also commented on the new Petite Pearl variety, that they are “still learning the nuances of the Petite Pearl.” Later when we spoke with Ralph’s son, Dustin said, “I can’t figure out what that grape (Petite Pearl) wants to be.”

The winery has 15 acres onsite and another 15 acres at a farm down the road. Next year they will be adding 15 more acres of grapevines to the site down the road. Currently the grape varieties include: Marquette, Petite Pearl, Traminette, La Crescent, Frontenac Gris, and Frontenac Blanc. New grape varieties that will be added include Itasca, Crimson Cabernet and Cabernet Dore.

Tasting Room

Later we entered the large tasting room. The granite tasting counter is curved. Several tables and chairs are spaced out in the center of the room. A comical sign at the tasting counter reads, “In Wine there is Wisdom, In Beer there is Freedom, in Water there is Bacteria.”

Wines tasted are accompanied with a toasted baguette with garlic olive oil.

Mackinaw Trail Wines

Mackinaw Trail WineryFrontenac Gris 2018 Tip of the Mitt AVA had 11.5% alcohol. The wine was a light yellow color. The wine had a tropical fruit aroma and a taste of pineapple, yellow stone fruit, mango and citrus. The finish was crisp and fruity. Pair this wine with a toasted baguette with garlic olive oil.

La Crescent 2018 Tip of The Mitt AVA had 10% alcohol. The wine was a light straw color. The wine offered an aroma of yellow stone fruit. The taste included notes of pineapple, apple, and yellow stone fruit. The finish was crisp with tropical fruits yielding to apple.

Marquette 2017 Tip of the Mitt AVA had 12.5% alcohol. This wine was aged in an oak barrel for one year. The wine was an opaque dark ruby color with a purple hue. The aroma was reminiscent of a red/black fruit salad. The taste included notes of red cherries, black berries, cassis and baking spices. This was a full-bodied wine with bold tannins. The finish was fruity with spices.

Petite Pearl 2016 Tip of the Mitt AVA had 12% alcohol. The wine was a translucent ruby color. The aroma was herbal with black pepper and black fruits. The taste was of black cherry and black pepper. The wine was full bodied with bold tannins. The finish began with fruit yielding to spices.

Cuvee 7 Unrestricted 2016 was a blend of Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec and Syrah. The grapes were sourced from southern Michigan. The wine was a translucent ruby color. The aroma had black fruit and spice. The taste was of blackberry, black cherry and baking spices, The wine was full bodied with bold tannins. The finish started with fruit and yielded to baking spices. The back label notes, “A world of hard rules incurs fixation on what things should be and limits our opportunity to experience an unrestricted journey of life.”

Plan on stopping at Mackinaw Trail Winery, one of the region’s oldest and largest wineries in the Tip of the Mitt AVA. Plan on spending some time as tastings are not rushed and conversation flows.

Mackinaw Trail Winery
3423 US-131
Petoskey, Michigan 49770

GPS: N45º 19.6700’ W84º 57.8314’

 

 

Article written October 2019.

 



 

                                  

 
 
   

 


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