Times Herald: Thumbs Up Wine Trail event gives enthusiasts taste of region

Area wine enthusiasts got a taste of the Thumb Sunday afternoon during a wine trail event in Port Huron.

The Wines of the Thumb Taste Fest “Let’s Get Nauti” event, hosted by the Thumbs Up Wine Trail and several charities, was at the Port Huron International Seaway Terminal on Sunday, and attendees got a view of the St. Clair River. But for the variety of wineries’ products and food available to sample, their reasons for coming were pretty simple — fun.

Amber Dubaere, of Emmett, and Samantha Trautman, of Riley Township, were enjoying a girls’ day getaway. Neither had been to a wine trail event before, but they decided to come after seeing a post on Facebook.

“Actually, (it was) better than I expected it to be, to be honest. I wasn’t expecting this many different wineries, and I for one did not know this many were around.” Trautman said. “… I think I grabbed a business card from every single one.”

The Thumbs Up Wine Trail promotes tourism and the southeastern Michigan wine industry. It hosted the event Sunday with the Blue Water Folk Society, Jeddo Lions, Sandusky Kiwanis, Rising Stars Academy and Optimist International of Shelby Township, and Wine Trail President Kristi Shopbell said the benefiting charity organizations were to get half of the event’s profit shares.

Organizers of the event Sunday largely considered it a success, despite bouts of rainy weather.

Shopbell, of 3 North Vines in Croswell, said she thought they successfully transferred the occasion from Shelby Township, where the event had been held the previous two years. Trail Treasurer Patrick Mulrenin, of Fieldstone Winery and Hard Cider in Rochester, said the new location along the St. Clair River in Port Huron was more centrally located between all the wineries participating.

The wine trail includes Blue Water Winery in Lexington, Green Barn Winery in Smiths Creek, Sage Creek Winery in Memphis, Washington Street Wine House in New Baltimore and several more around the Blue Water Area.

“It’s a great value to all the wineries because there’s a lot of people that came here because of certain wineries, but then they get to see other wineries that people go around and see as well,” Mulrenin said.

Shopbell said it was about “having fun and being exposed to wine they haven’t been exposed to in the past.” She added, “And not only that, but all of our vendors are also local business owners.”

“We’re very community minded. We do a lot of giving back,” Shopbell said.

Attendee Cheryl Parlove was conversing with another Shelby Township Optimist volunteer at a wine booth Sunday, when she remarked on the event overall and the change in location.

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“It’s a nice venue, and the food was excellent,” she said. “I think people are always surprised to hear we have such good wine, especially in the Thumb.”

Shopbell said that the wine trail will do some self-driven tour events in the coming months — first at a date that’s yet to be determined this summer, as well as next fall and in December. She said they usually include a ticket purchase that helps get discounts at participating wineries, and the next one will feature smoky-themed foods to pair with wines.

The trail effort is something they said that’s benefited business for everyone — so they’re collaborating and not competing. Mulrenin said some are about retail, while Shopbell said others are more experience driven.

In addition to the obvious wine, the fest event featured live music. Nearby, Dubaere and Trautman jokingly plotted their next wine outing at some of the wineries they saw that day.

“Yeah, a couple girls day day trips. Perfect,” Dubaere said.

For more information visit www.thumbsupmi.com.

Contact Jackie Smith at (810) 989-6270 or jssmith@gannett.com. Follow her on Twitter @Jackie20Smith.

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