5 Wine Touring Tips For Beginners

Yesterday I was invited into a collaboration with a fellow wine friend I met on Instagram, and I am SO EXCITED! I miss the wine industry, and any excuse I have to participate with it, I take. I’ll share more information in a week or two once the planning comes to a close, but until then you can be sure I will be educating myself even further on Southwest Michigan’s local wine scene.

One key component I will share about this collaboration is that it will involve wine tastings and tours. The question of how many and which wineries will be on the tour is still up in the air. However, as I continue to prepare for this new event, I thought it would be a perfect opportunity to share some of my wine knowledge with you. As someone who worked in the Michigan wine industry for over four years, I gained a few gems of information on the topic. Welcome to one of my passions: wine!

Southwest Michigan has become a focal point for any wine connoisseur. It is nearly impossible for visitors in the area not to pass a sign mentioning a local winery and allowing passers-by to, quite literally, taste the countryside. With the lake effect off Lake Michigan, Southwest Michigan has earned the privilege of having its own signature varietals, expressing the particularities of the local soil and climate. With a specific vocabulary and wide range of flavors to master, wine can be an intimidating subject. Do not let this daunt you though! If you’ve never been on a tasting tour, here are some basic tips to keep in mind as you sip your way along the lake shore.

Give yourself ample time. Wine is one of the ultimate slow foods. If you are having fun, a tasting can last over an hour, so set aside plenty of time between visits. You will be glad you’re not in a hurry, and so will the person conducting the tasting.

This is also a very important tip if you are looking to wine taste during “peak season.” Peak season in Southwest Michigan is typically May through October, and weekends are definitely busy during these months. Most tasting rooms have room for twenty or less guests at one time, so you may need extra to schedule waiting time. Thankfully the next step can sometimes decrease this need…

Call ahead. Whether they are out in the vineyards or down in the cellars, winemakers are usually eager to welcome visitors, but they’re not necessarily in close proximity to a doorbell. So unless you are aware of schedule tasting and tour hours (which some do have), let them know you would like to visit in advance.

Calling ahead may also reserve a spot for you and your party. There are several wineries in Southwest Michigan (Lemon Creek, 12 Corners, Tabor Hill, to name a few) who have ample room for groups of 20+ at a time, but parties larger than 6 guests are usually asked to make a reservation to help decrease wait time. Calling in a reservation allows wineries to reserve bar space as well as staff appropriately. It is a win-win for both sides! Plus, it is simply good manners.

Do not be afraid not to know. Wine criticism may be all about identifying the faults and strengths of a wine, but wine tasting is about finding what you enjoy. You are eminently qualified to do that no matter how much or how little you know. Most wineries have educated servers who are more than happy to explain and answer your questions. If you feel your questions are going unanswered, ask if a winemaker or owner may be available to chat. You won’t learn more without asking!

Ask where to eat. Take advantage of your server and their wine experience in Southwest Michigan! The best way to enjoy wine is with delicious food, and what better resource of good restaurants in the area than the locals? The wineries in Southwest Michigan are very invested in and connected to area restaurants, and vice verse. Ask for recommendations.

Michigan passed a law a few years ago where you can bring a bottle of wine into any restaurant for your own enjoyment. There may be a corkage fee instilled by the restaurant, but many owners take pride in the Michigan wine industry and will comply with inexpensive fees. Find a wine you love at a tasting? Have the full wine-tasting experience and skip the wine imports on the restaurant’s drink menu. Instead buy a bottle at a winery you are visiting, take the bottle to dinner with you, and enjoy all the savory tastes of Southwest Michigan!

And with that.. Buy a bottle. No winery is going to have the exact same wine as another, even if the same grapes are being used in the recipe. So if you find a wine you love at one, go ahead and buy a bottle. Not only are you taking a one-of-a-kind souvenir back home with you, you’re also thanking the winery for pouring their hearts and souls into their product.

If you happen to be traveling in Southwest Michigan, feel free to DM me on Instagram @uncorkingpeonies or send me an email for winery and/or restaurant recommendations. I am a foodie and a local, so I can generally direct you to some of our best options per your taste buds.

If you’re not in Southwest Michigan, these tips hold true in every wine touring adventure. I would love to hear about your experiences across the country and globe when it comes to wine. Please share in the comments section below.

Drink happy, friends,

4 Wise Tips on Preparing for Marriage After the Wedding

I know I’ve said it before, but here I am saying it again: the wedding is only the beginning of what should be the rest of your blissful married life. As husband and wife, you’ll be embarking on years of new adventures after the one day of festivities. Your wedding day is only a grain of sand in the grand beach of your entire life. It is best to prepare for life following the Big Day and not only the day itself.

I am a big believer that if you adequately prepare for something — that is, to prepare mentally, emotionally, spiritually, physically, all of the above — then your chances of success increase substantially. Though I know there will never be enough wisdom and information I can gain to fully prepare for marriage, I do feel I’ve gained a few gems of advice in which to set a firm foundation as a newlywed.

These four gems include advice on communication, clarification, adjustment, and agreement between both the husband and wife in order to have a happy marriage. They touch on possible challenges once you’re married and encourage you to invest in your partner following your vows. They are all examples of how G and I plan to enter our marriage, and I would love to share them with you!

1. Learn how to resolve conflicts with a team mentality.

When it comes to mentors granting marriage advice, resolution of conflicts and investing in your partner are the two tips advised from every role model. For conflict resolution, the healthiest way to do so is with a “team mentality.” By this I mean that each individual approaches the conflict with an “other-first” way of thinking. You want to understand the other person’s perspective, relinquish the need to be right, and extend both grace and understanding while you communicate the issue.

Marriage is hard work. I’ve witnessed the hard work put in from my parents, grandparents, and other role models. I cannot predict specific problems in my future, but I do know hard times will roll through. Sometimes it may be your partner’s fault, but it’ll be yours just as often. Look inward before pointing the finger and always try to look at things from both sides. Compromise is key, and never be afraid to apologize.

“You can have peace or be right, but seldom both.”

This is a quote one of our dearest friends and mentors has said to us several times while giving advice on marriage and happiness. G and I have actually taken to quoting it to one another when we are having a disagreement. It reminds us to stop, think, and consider what the other is thinking before jumping to conclusions or fighting for our point. Perhaps creating a similar “pauser” with your partner may help cool heated situations in your future as well.

2. Make your relationship the priority.

This little tip was exceptionally difficult for me at the beginning of my relationship with G. Since college I have kept my schedule busy, penciling in this-or-that every evening in order to never have a second’s rest. I spent more time in group meetings, going out with friends, leading discussions, playing sports, and sitting in appointments than I did actually sleeping. If I wasn’t moving, I wasn’t happy.

Then I started dating G and I realized why I kept myself so busy: to stop from feeling so lonely and unsettled. I was continuously searching for more in my life, but once I met G I realized he was the more I needed.

As our dating became more serious, my to-do list became less scheduled. And in my free time I found not only more time for worthy relationships in my life but also more time for myself. Even if evenings were only binge watching Netflix, making dinner, or sitting around reading a book. I no longer felt like I needed to be so active in order to be happy. Instead, I found contentment in my downtime which always seemed to involve G.

Nowadays, I’m almost a homebody. If I have more than two evenings occupied by responsibilities, I will be sure to leave all others empty in order to enjoy time with my fiance. We agreed early in our engagement to make boundaries in our schedules and actively build our friendship and love every day in order for our dreams to come true.

Looking back, I could not be happier with this decision. Opting to invest in our relationship rather than continue on my own path allowed me to truly get to know the man I’m going to marry. G and I do not only go on dates — actually going out to movies and dinner are rare for us — but we do LIFE together. We grocery shop together, cook dinner together, do book and Bible studies together, exercise together, do errands together, etc. We spend more unplanned time together than “penciled in” time. This has allowed us to get to know what each of us does when nothing in particular is planned, which (we’ve been told) will be what married life is like.

3. Talk about your finances.

I know it’s usually taboo, but when you’re blending your life with someone else, finances must be discussed. Especially since finances are the top reason for couples to fight in marriage and the number one culprit for divorce. Be open on all financial topics with your partner and start venturing into the idea of merging your lives in this capacity as well.

It might be a smart idea to create a budget together and a savings schedule before you’re married. G and I were given this advice and though it was new to both of us to include another person in our financial affairs, we are so thankful to have this started! Not only can we visualize what a blended financial life will be, we also can set goals as a couple in which to work towards following the wedding. (Because, you know, we’d like to buy a house someday…)

There are also the topics of taxes, insurance, and debt settlement. You’ll now be checking the “married” box when it comes to tax season, but you need to decide whether you’re going to file together or continue to file separately. Your various insurances may also change with a marital status update. Will you be sharing health benefits through work? Will you be including your partner as a beneficiary for life insurance? All of these things should be discussed before marriage.

If you’re just as confused as me by the possibility of so many changes, there are endless tools for you to use to scout out the best offers. One such tool is Reviews.com which allows you to search for the best car insurance options now that you’re married and moving out from Mom and Dad’s house. This is something I am facing since I am getting married within the same fiscal year of turning 26-years-old and Reviews.com provided me a listing of all options in my area for the best auto insurance rates — something which I am so grateful! Or perhaps advisory tips like this one when it comes to health insurance and wondering what options are best. Do you join your partner’s business’s benefits or find another choice? Blogs and advisory articles across the Internet may assist you with your decisions.

Another not-so-fun topic is debt. Yes, this means you need to discuss that $80,000 school loan you plan to pay off when you’re 90-something. Or that credit card you say you use only during emergencies, but emergencies usually involve Starbucks and Charming Charlie. Debt does not have to be a “way of life” nowadays, and discussing a plan with your partner to create a debt settlement schedule is crucial for a happy beginning in marriage.

Also, watch your partner’s money habits. Is he careful with money or does he not care about debt? Does he work hard for his money and is motivated to provide? If he spends money he doesn’t seem to have and doesn’t like to budget, this will definitely continue into your marriage. Discuss both your financial situations now before you marry and start making movements to blend your finances gracefully.

4. Know you have a lot more room for personal growth and that you will both evolve over the years.

There’s something that gets under my skin while watching movies and it’s when an unhappy husband or wife say, “He/She changed.”

Well… yeah!

Every single person in this world changes over the course of their lives. Life experiences, hardships, and evolving opinions and beliefs mold a person on a yearly basis. Think of the person you were in high school/college/a year ago; have any of your habits or thought processes shifted? Mine definitely have even within the past year! I am proud to not be the woman I was a year ago and I am excited to meet the woman I’ll be a year from today. 

However, it is not enough to recognize change in yourself and to be happy with those results (or unhappy and choose to shift for a better future.) You need to realize this is occurring in your partner as well. So keep the conversation going and share the experience together over the years in order to not grow apart. Instead of being ignorant to this fact, embrace it and embrace your changed partner on a daily basis. That is one of the best things about marriage — you can continually fall in love with the same person! It is all about constant investment and wanting to lean on one another through those changes which truly captures what Love means.


To summarize all these points: learn to communicate and understand your fiance(e) prior to the wedding day so you’ll begin marriage with a steady foundation built on two lives becoming one.

Doing so is a great way to open your mind to the changes, adjustments, and challenges that are bound to occur in marriage.

Heck, I’ve never been married. I don’t honestly know what I’m talking about when it comes to preparing for marriage. I’m as lost as the next bride-to-be who’s scratching her head at why she loves this farting, burping, heavy-metal head-bashing, leaves-the-toilet-bowl-seat-up-EVERY-TIME man so fricken much.

It is all a process.

And I am so blessed to have been granted some awesome role models when it comes to married couples and been given great advice on marriage. I am soaking in all this wisdom like a sponge, hoping to keep a few key snippets in my mind once the wedding is complete and I’m a new wife.

In the end, that’s all I can do and I’m happy enough to think I might be able to stumble through marriage just as gracefully as I am with wedding planning…

Best of luck to us all,