The best experiences in life are the ones that pleasantly surprise us. People don't expect much, and then they unanticipatedly discover something wonderful. Most wine lovers dream of visiting vineyards in places like Napa, Tuscany, and Bordeaux. Michigan certainly isn't a name often associated with winemaking, and, yet, Youngblood Vineyards in Ray, Michigan produces award-winning wines despite Michigan's harsh climate. This is a destination that will delight wine enthusiasts with its hospitality, flavors, and scenery.

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Youngblood Vineyard

Jessica Youngblood offers visitors a warm welcome when they arrive. Although the winemaker is usually busy--she planted many of the 23,000 vines herself--, she always finds time to make guests feel at home. The family's Great Pyrenees follow along as she guides guests along cordons of vines. Jessica tells the story of how the vineyard and winery came to exist.

The 25-acre plantation is on land farmed by five generations of Youngbloods. After living in California, Washington, and Virginia wine country, the couple found themselves drawn to winemaking and came up with a plan for the old family farm. Dave and Jessica cleared the land of Christmas trees and soy in 2016 to make room for grapevines.

Growing grapes in Michigan presented some unique obstacles--their farm had heavy soil and harsh frosts. They started by grading the soil and selecting the varieties they wanted to grow. The couple researched cold-hardy vines extensively before choosing plants from the University of Minnesota's breeding program. The vineyard's varieties include Itasca, Marquette, Frontenac, Petite Pearl, Frontenac Blanc, and Prarie Star.

The Youngbloods use sustainable farming techniques. That means more work sometimes. Most recently, they've been covering the vineyard with bird barrier netting to ensure that their grapes make it to harvest, but without harming any birds. Everyone in the family helps with these kinds of tasks, including their three children, Georgia, Gracie, and Wyatt. Visitors to the vineyard may get a glimpse of pre-teen Wyatt chopping wood for the pizza oven or driving the tractor. Wyatt loves farming so much that he's even started his own YouTube Channel, "Vine Boy," to show different aspects of running a vineyard.

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Tasting The Youngblood Wines

The Youngbloods produced their first commercial wine in 2018. It is an estate wine, which means they only used grapes grown in their vineyard. All their hard work paid off in 2019--judges of the Michigan Wine Competition named the Youngbloods' Marquette best in its class of dry red wine. Their other wines are Petite Pearl, Petite Pearl Rosé, Sherman Blanc, and Frontenac Blanc. For $10, guests can try a flight of six wines.

  • Location: 61829 Ray Center Road, Ray Township, Michigan
  • Hours: Saturday 12 pm - 9 pm and Sunday 12 pm - 7 pm
  • Price: $10

Animals And Wildlife On The Youngblood Farm

Jessica is a self-professed animal lover so it's no surprise that visitors get to see the family's animals. Tiny goats roam around waiting for weekend goat yoga. Then there's the Flemish giant rabbit and a flock of chickens, too. Not long ago, Wyatt found and rescued a baby hummingbird. A few days before that, Jessica found a lost fawn and returned it to its mother.

  • Goat yoga tickets: $25 via Eventbrite
  • Time: 1 pm - 2 pm
  • Description: Participants take a yoga class with animals nearby. Afterward, they drink a glass of Youngblood wine.

Whether travelers are looking for a glass of delicious wine, authentic wood-fired pizza, or a place where their children can pet-friendly animals, they will find it at Youngblood Vineyards. Jason Davidson wrote this Google review: "I absolutely love this Vineyard for so many reasons. Great Wine. Great Family. Animals (goats, rabbits, dogs, and chickens), Wonderful estate-grown wine, and now wood-fire pizza. Truly a wonderful place to spend a day."

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