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Plan the Perfect Wine Tour Within 2 Hours of Chicago

This route encompasses 21 wineries, with a short detour for sandboarding, if you’re up for it.

Photo: Joshua Nowicki

Let’s be honest: You’re not headed to Sonoma. Let’s be even more honest: Does it matter? When all you need are some vineyard vistas and a few good pours, a jaunt around the lake will land you in the breezy bluff-top beach town of St. Joseph at the center of the Lake Michigan Shore Wine Trail. A boon of the fruit belt that stretches across southwest Michigan, the route encompasses 21 wineries, from ­generations-old family vineyards to walkable in-town tasting rooms staffed by the winemakers themselves. Allow us to make a few suggestions.

Illustration: Adam Hayes

1. Lazy Ballerina Winery

2. White Pine Winery

3. Baroda Founders Wine Cellar

Stroll a block of downtown St. Joe’s State Street and clink glasses in these three tasting rooms. At Baroda Founders, the viticulturist winemaker might detail the science behind lake-effect grape growing while he pours you an aromatic Riesling.

4. 12 Corners Vineyard

Go for the vibrant, semisweet Beach Cottage Vacation White; stay for the live music and expansive views of Michigan’s fruit-growing farmland.

5. Contessa Wine Cellars

The exquisite, well-balanced Chardonnay Reserve aged in French oak barrels should be first on your list at this Italian villa–esque vineyard run by a third-­generation winemaker who’s been working Michigan vines since he was 12.

6. Karma Vista Vineyards

High on a hill with a panoramic view, drink fruit-forward wines with playful names like Stone Temple Pinot and Gunzan Rosé from this 2017 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition bronze medalist. (Psst, that’s playing with the big boys out west.)

7. Domaine Berrien Cellars

Try the elegant, currant-popping Cabernet Franc—the grapes grow nicely in the region’s sandy soil—at this boutique winery known for its dry reds.

8. Round Barn Winery

Need a snack to go with Round Barn’s spicy, fruity Sauvignon Blanc? Mosey over to the onsite food truck for some gourmet mac and cheese and mellow out to live music on the bucolic grounds—with, yes, a giant Amish-built round barn.

9. Tabor Hill Winery & Restaurant

You’re drinking: sparkling Grand Mark in the tasting room. You’re eating: Duck Cherry Char Siu at a table with a view over the rolling vineyards—some of the region’s oldest. You’re thinking: I could get used to this.

Festival alert:On June 17, sample a sipping smorgasbord stocked by all 21 of the trail’s wineries at the Lake Michigan Shore Wine Fest at Weko Beach, 20 minutes south of St. Joseph.

Stay:At the Boulevard Inn & Bistro (from $179), extolled for its wine list, you’ll find the beach and downtown St. Joseph right outside your door.

While You’re There:Try your hand—er, legs—at sandboarding in nearby Warren Dunes State Park with a lesson ($75) from Third Coast Surf Shop.

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