Good Harbor Vineyards, Lake Michigan, and the Good Harbor Basin
Many esteemed wine regions around the world flourish due to their proximity to large bodies of water. The Leelanau Peninsula, located on the 45th parallel is no exception, it is surrounded and protected by Lake Michigan, which allows farmers to successfully grow a wide variety of Vitis Vinifera such as Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay, Riesling, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc, to name a few. The vast majority of Good Harbor’s vineyard acreage is located within five miles of Lake Michigan and all of it within the regionally distinctive Good Harbor basin.
Provided that Lake Michigan does not completely freeze, it acts as a moderating influence for surrounding temperatures creating an ideal macro climate for world class wine grapes. Grapes grown near Lake Michigan are typically subject to large amounts of snow cover which provides a protective insulating cover for the vines through the winter and into the early spring allowing growers to grow and produce more sensitive and hard to grow varieties such as Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc.
In addition to providing protection through the cold winter and early spring months, the lake effect is also helpful at the end of the growing season. Lake Michigan allows temperatures to remain warm enough for grapes to sit on the vine into autumn to capture the warmth of late fall and extended sunlight to help ripen the fruit to its full maturity. Without the warmth of the lake, grapes might not have time to fully ripen. The Good Harbor Micro Climate holds many of the warmer waters later into the season that typically gives an additional week or two of frost free nights, which in a Michigan Vintage can mean the difference between a good vintage and one you will talk about for years to come!
Having a deep understanding of agriculture and terroir, it was a strategic decision for John Simpson to purchase and plant the specific parcels of land that Good Harbor owns and continues to farm. He knew that finding high elevation parcels with southwest facing slopes near Lake Michigan would provide an ideal area for producing fruit.