Wines of the Thumb Taste Fest
Wines of the Thumb Taste Fest in East Michigan
Visit East Michigan® is always looking for new and fun things to do in Michigan. On May 22nd, we had the pleasure of attending the 2nd annual Wines of the Thumb Taste Fest hosted by the Thumbs Up Wine Trail. What an outstanding event held at the historic Packard Proving Grounds in Shelby Township with over a thousand people in attendance. The event included a classic car show, delicious food from local restaurants and entertainment by the Green Dragon Jazz Band.
The Thumbs Up Wine Trail is a non-profit organization that was formed to complete the wine trail along the Michigan coast. We were delighted to meet so many people with our passion for promoting East Michigan as a travel destination. One of the founding fathers, Tom Gray explained that “when following the coast along Grand Rapids, Traverse City, Alpena and Tawas you will find wine trails”. He goes on to clarify that “even south of Macomb County has a wine trail that covers Jackson Michigan.” The Thumbs Up Trail currently has 13 partner wineries and runs from Macomb County inclusive of Oakland, St. Clair, Lapeer, Genesee, Sanilac, and Huron Counties.
Discover New Things To Do
As you travel the scenic routes of this new wine trail, you may also discover some new favorite destinations in East Michigan. The objective of the Thumbs Up Wine Trail is to make it convenient and fun by also including point of interest partners in their group. Thus, helping tourists become more familiar with the wide range of things to do in East Michigan.
When we talk to people at events, we always ask the same question What are your favorite things to do or places to go in East Michigan? Everyone is always eager to share their stories with us. At this event, the most popular answer was visiting the wineries, no surprise. Other activities that people enjoy on our side of the state are fishing, camping, and boating. Some of their favorite spots include Caseville, Lexington, Port Austin, Port Hope, Port Huron, Port Sanilac, St. Clair Shores, Tawas and West Branch. If you haven’t visited these cities, you’re missing out. Visit these cities in East Michigan, who knows, you just might find a new family tradition.
East Michigan as A Destination
The success that this event has had in just two years should be a motivation to us all that there is strength in numbers, which Tom Gray is fully aware. His financial background and his passion for rejuvenating the economy, lead him to discover this great opportunity for local businesses and East Michigan tourism. Tom Gray along with Tony Haefner, owner of the village winery in Romeo both knew what a positive economic impact completing this wine trail would have on their community. As vacationer’s, we reap the rewards of their efforts in enhancing tourism in East Michigan.
In addition to the founding fathers of this organization, we had the pleasure of interviewing Pat Mulrenin from Fieldstone Winery in Rochester and Geri Aprile from The Popped Kernel. They both share Tom and Tony’s community building passion.
Pat Mulrenin has been in the winery business for 13 years. His previous experience as an accountant has prepared him for the treasurer position of the thumbs up trail. Pat along with Denise Bell ran this event for the last two years. Denise’s background entailed coordinating events for churches and now runs her own business assisting other businesses including the wineries with their events. Pat shared with us that after last year’s event, businesses in the group and the surrounding area has seen a huge upturn. Not only has this organization benefited the local businesses, but they also give back 50% of the net proceeds to local charities including Rising Stars Academy, Romeo Goodfellow Association, and Shelby Optimist Club.
Geri Aprile took over her nieces business four years ago after a long career in the medical field. She started out with just a few popcorn flavors and now has 60 flavors with their top 20 flavors always available in several locations including Michigan by the bottle. Be sure to check back often because they make special seasonal popcorn like beer popcorn for St. Patties day and smores popcorn for the summer. Popped Kernel small batches everything, their handmade gourmet products all have to be approved by Geri before going out the door.
Who would have thought of pairing popcorn with wine, Geri did, and it’s working! You need to try her popcorn it is simply amazing!
Other Success Stories
During our interview with Tom, he shared with us that some of the wineries in the group have expanded or are in the process of expanding to keep up with new found demand for their products. These wineries include Sage Creek Winery in Memphis and Superior Lakes Winery in Harrison Township. Green Barn Winery in Smith’s Creek is in the process of expanding in preparation to begin selling their wine to China.