Lake Michigan Shore Wine Trail (LMSWT) members are providing frontline workers and first responders with an opportunity to relax with a glass of great wine produced in southwest Michigan.

To celebrate their efforts in battling and containing COVID-19, the LMSWT purchased a total of 69 cases of wine from 14 member wineries throughout southwest Michigan. Hand sanitizer is to be donated to organizations in the Lake Michigan Shore American Viticulture Area (AVA).

“We hear about the struggles being felt by these dedicated nurses, doctors, aides, first responders and all who are tirelessly working to help those stricken by this pandemic,” said Kathy Sturm, LMSWT’s executive director. “I find it heartwarming that these dedicated professionals are doing this for their patients and our citizens.”

Photos: Lake Michigan Shore Wine Trail

The LMSWT is a nonprofit organization that promotes the development of the outstanding wine-producing and agritourism industry in southwest Michigan. Its mission is to stimulate interest in wine in general, and more specifically the wines of the Lake Michigan Shore Wine Trail, and to assist local wineries in becoming industry leaders.

The donation idea came about when Paw Paw-based St. Julian Winery, Sturm and other member wineries brainstormed ways to thank healthcare professionals and first responders for their service. They are working together to coordinate the wine and hand sanitizer distribution efforts through emergency agencies in Allegan, Van Buren, Kalamazoo and Berrien counties.

St. Julian is also producing the hand sanitizer, which is being distributed to medical centers, nursing homes, emergency service providers and fire departments, among others.

“What an amazing opportunity to give back to our communities,” said Nancie Oxley, vice president and winemaker at St. Julian. “We are proud to participate in these efforts to recognize the essential workers on the medical frontlines who are faced with the threat of COVID-19 on a daily basis.”

Safe social sipping

To comply with Michigan’s “Stay Home, Stay Safe” executive order, LMSWT members closed their tasting room locations. The organization also canceled its 15th annual wine festival in June, which typically draws about 3,000 attendees.

In response, members have explored new ways to spread the word about each other’s products.

Every Wednesday in May at 4 p.m., three or four different LMSWT members are getting together via Facebook Live to discuss their wine choices, flavor profiles and ideal pairings.

“We are not going to let the virus stop us from enjoying conversations and wine tastings,” Sturm said. “We’re just doing it a bit differently.”

As a way to engage southwest Michigan wine enthusiasts in the discussions, online and curbside-pickup orders for the wines to be tasted during the Facebook Live chat can be placed the weekend before.

“We’re a very social industry,” Sturm said. To learn more about the LMSWT and its members, visit and