From the northern tip of Lake Leelanau, M-22 turns away from the lakeshore and runs northeast across the Leelanau Peninsula. The nine mile stretch of highway is the only stretch of M-22 that runs more than a mile off of the shoreline. It is, nevertheless, a scenic stretch of highway, reminiscent of Central California’s wine regions and filled with local farms, orchards, and wineries.
There are twenty wineries on the Leelanau Peninsula. M-22 runs generally along the same longitude as many of the wine producing regions in France. The climate along Michigan’s northwest lower peninsula shoreline is moderated by Lake Michigan. The glacial soil deposits are rich in nutrients for growing tender fruits like cherries, apricots, and grapes. This makes the M-22 corridor an ideal place for growing wine producing grapes, and one of the only areas in the eastern United States capable of growing vinifera grapes like Rieslings and Cabernet Francs.
Three of the best wineries in the region sit along M-22 between Leland and Northport. Located on M-22 a mile north of Lake Leelanau, Gill’s Pier Vineyards and Winery produces Riesling, Cabernet, Merlot, and Sauvignon Blanc wines. It was opened in 2003, and offers a wine tasting room which is open daily during the summer. Further along M-22 sits Good Neighbor Vineyards, which became Michigan’s first certified organic winery in 2001 and recently became Leelanau County’s first organic micro-brewery. The vineyard sits at the corner of Swede Road and M-22 about six miles northeast of Lake Leelanau. Wine enthusiasts can also check out Montovino Cellars, which opened in 2012, in Northport. Montovino Cellars bills itself as the “northernmost point as you go round the horn on M-22.” It serves table reds, table whites, Reislings, and fruit wines.
This stretch of M-22 also passes a popular local destination, Fischer’s Happy Hour Tavern. Fischer’s has been an M-22 landmark since the 1960s, when previous generations of the Fischer family began serving burgers and beer to travelers along M-22. The tavern sits in an old wooden building, serves some of the best pub food around, and is a throwback to an early era of early tourism in Northern Michigan.