Winery guidebook due out in May; and wineries poised for state’s go-ahead on joint ventures

A few years ago, a survey by a Michigan wine industry promotional group showed more than 800,000 people visit the state's nearly 60 wineries annually.

Now a publisher is taking notice, and just in time for the 2009 tourism season. The first true guidebook to the state's wineries, "The Glovebox Guide to Michigan Wineries" by former Leelanau Peninsula Vintners Association spokesman Rick Coates, is due out in May from the University of Michigan Press.

"We expect there has been demand for a title of this type for some time; there just hasn't been the right book out there," said Heather Newman, trade marketing manager for the University of Michigan Press, in an e-mail. "Michigan's wineries are fun to read about, fun to write about and fun to visit. And, in our opinion, they've been overlooked in publishing for far too long."

At 4 by 8 inches, the book will indeed fit in a car glovebox. It would also, Newman noted, display nicely on a winery counter. She hopes to work with wineries to market the book.

While the wine industry is now spread statewide, the book will have definite northern Michigan roots. Coates continues to write about regional food and wine as part of his duties as a writer at Traverse City's Northern Express weekly newspaper. The project also originated with Traverse City's Petoskey Press, Newman said. Owned by Brian Lewis, Petoskey has published several other regional guidebooks and nonfiction titles, including the Northern Michigan Almanac by WTCM personality (and Business News columnist) Ron Jolly. Petoskey acquired and will edit the title, while U-M will publish, publicize and distribute it, Newman said.

Coates said the book will be comprehensive, including all Michigan wineries. Organized by region, each winery entry will include standard information. He'll also include information on wine events and festivals.

A final price hasn't been set, but Newman said it will be less than $20. That would make the "Glovebox Guide" considerably less expensive than "From the Vine," the 2007 hardcover, coffee table book on the wine industry by Lorri Hathaway and Sharon Kegerreis.

Michigan wineries are hoping Gov. Jennifer Granholm's March agenda includes signing a bill that would end the prohibition on so-called "tied houses" and free up wineries to enter into joint ventures from warehouses to tasting rooms to wines.

As of my mid-February deadline, Senate Bill 202 had encountered no opposition and was headed to the House. It would change state liquor law that now bars wineries from certain collaborations.

Michigan would be the last state to change its tied house law, which was designed to keep separate the three tiers (supplier, wholesaler, retailer) of the post-Prohibition alcohol regulation system.

"All this does is bring Michigan in line with 49 other states and the federal government," said Bob Jacobson of Leelanau Wine Cellars.

Jacobson is a board member of WineMichigan, the lobbying arm of the state wine industry. Two years ago winery owners unanimously agreed to support the bill, Jacobson said, and it's now finally in the Legislature.

Jacobson said he doesn't expect passage to trigger immediate effects, but eventually wineries would embark on joint projects like shared warehouses with a joint employee.

"(There's) nothing I'm ready to do day one. It might be year two, year three," he said. "There are some things I'd like to do and some wineries I've talked to.

"You'll eventually see someone do a joint tasting room."

Cari Noga has covered Michigan's grape and wine industry since 1999. Read her blog at www.michgrapevine.com. Send news and story ideas to her at cari@michgrapevine.com.

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