When I think of “semi-destination” weddings planned by Detroit couples, my mind quickly jumps to Traverse City, with its lush lakeside vineyard settings, only four hours north.
But what if I told you there are several more gorgeous, vineyard settings much closer to home? The only hitch is that they involve a passport. I’m talking Canada, folks.
A few weeks ago, while weekending in Grand Bend, Ontario, where my husband’s family has a cottage, we made our first trek up the road to Dark Horse Estate Winery. I’d seen signage for the vineyard and winery, but my expectations were woefully low.
As soon as we neared the property, I realized that I’d been much to quick to judge. A large building loomed, surrounded by row upon row of grapes. The setting, just far enough (a few miles) from Lake Huron to welcome its breeze, was gorgeous at first glance. It only got better as we parked and stepped inside. A vaulted ceiling tasting room anchored the main level, with soaring windows that overlook the vineyard and a large patio with a fireplace that I imagine is as cozy as it gets when cooler fall temperatures arrive.
We chatted with the winery staff, marveling at the beautiful building, tasting the wines, and not surprisingly learning that the venue was fully booked with weddings for the summer. With a capacity to seat up to 300 (and also offering smaller rooms for more intimate parties), it’s an obvious choice for Ontario couples looking for a property outside the larger cities of London, Toronto or Windsor.
For Michigan couples, it’s an escape that’s (for once!) totally new. Not Traverse City, not Ludington, not Garland Resort. From Detroit, it’s an approximately two-hour drive, which includes a border crossing at the Blue Water Bridge in Port Huron. Wedding guests wanting to make a weekend of their travels can book a room or rental in the cheeky beach town of Grand Bend, just up the road, or about 20 minutes away in the equally charming village of Bayfield.
The Dark Horse Winery, meanwhile, serves as the main stage for your event. It’s interior is a mix of dark tones and big, airy spaces, accented with modern furnishings (think Restoration Hardware style) and well thought finishes.
Between the stunning outdoor setting and the equally impressive architecture and design, the space seems perfectly suited for a modern wedding and is definitely worth checking out if you’re exploring new, out-of-town ideas for your big day.
Does two hours seem too far? Explore the Lake Erie North Shore wine trail, which is much closer to home (about an hour or so drive from Detroit, after crossing at the Detroit / Windsor tunnel border). Viewpoint Winery offers sweeping lake views from their venue, perched atop a bluff. Sprucewood Shores Estate Winery is also on the water, with more rustic vibes. Cooper’s Hawk offers a new restaurant and banquet areas as well as lots of green space.
So. All of this to say, if your guests carry passports (or can nab an enhanced driver’s license with enough notice), your within-a-drive-from-Detroit wedding venue options just became much more varied … especially for those of us with a soft spot for good vino.
Wine Country Ontario (for more wineries and links)
Grand Bend Lodging: