A new tour around Grand Rapids might be a perfect activity if you love wine and are looking for a fun way to spend time with friends or family.

Raise a Glass Wine Tours is a new venture that chauffeurs guests around the greater Grand Rapids area for a luxury, one-of-a-kind local wine tour, beginning when the chauffeur picks you up at your downtown hotel or location of choice.

Tour options include the standard walking tour, a public wine tour, and a brunch tour. Each tour includes a variety of wine samples and food pairings. Personalized private tours are also available for company outings, parties, family gatherings, and more. 

Friends enjoying a wine tour.
Pouring red wine during Raise a Glass Wine Tour

Each stop on the tour selects pairings ahead of time and often includes items that are not on the menu, creating a truly unique experience.

Photo Credit: Experience Grand Rapids


The Experience

During the public wine tour, a luxury vehicle takes you and your crew to various destinations across West Michigan: Forty Acres Soul Kitchen, St. Julian’s Winery and House of Wine – Wine Bar and Retail Shop. Local event planning company, Here.To.Serve Hospitality, leads each tour. 

My friend Angela and I went on the tour on a Friday night and were joined with about 10 others who were also first-timers to the experience.  We were quickly introduced to everyone on the bus and made friends right away.

Expect to be greeted at each stop by restaurant staff, or perhaps even the venue owner. You’ll experience a total of 12 – 15 tastings throughout the tour with each stop providing 3 – 4 pours. 

Staff recommends taking your time and passing up wine pours that aren’t your favorite as you’ll undoubtedly have more than enough along the way. You won’t have to worry about driving, as you’ll be riding in style in the chauffeured vehicle.

Each location selects pairings ahead of time and often includes items that are not on the menu. This allows for a truly unique experience that makes each tour different from the last.

The public wine tour takes the following path:

Forty Acres Soul Kitchen Exterior

Forty Acres is an authentic American restaurant and bar that invites people from every culture to come together at the table to celebrate black culture and community.

Photo Credit: Eric Zuniga for Experience Grand Rapids


Forty Acres Soul Kitchen

Forty Acres is an authentic American restaurant and bar with a unique style. The modern, urban space invites people from every culture to come together at the table to celebrate black culture and community. 

You will find a variety of cocktails and wine on the menu, as well as traditional Southern fare like fried chicken, greens, okra, fried green tomatoes, macaroni and cheese, cornbread, and much more.  

At Forty Acres, we sampled: 

  • Earl Stevens Tropiscato, a California grape wine with 18% alcohol volume
    • Paired with warm naan bread, goat cheese, olive topping
  • OPP (Other People’s Pinot), an earthy pinot with floral flavors of cherry and ginger spice
    • Paired with roasted tomato soup with a zucchini buck and asiago cheese crisp
  • Honey Bubbles Sparkling Moscato, a sweet Moscato with simple honey flavors 
    • Paired with a salmon croquette and fresh arugula salad
Glasses clinking at St. Julian Winery during Raise a Glass Wine Tour
Exterior of St. Julian Winery & Distillery and Flo's Pizzeria.

At the oldest winery in Michigan, St. Julian, you can enjoy wine, draft cider, distillery products, and juice tastings in the brand new tasting room

Photo Credit: Eric Zuniga for Experience Grand Rapids


St. Julian Winery (Rockford) and Flo’s Ristorante

St. Julian Winery is the oldest winery in Michigan. You’ll enjoy wine, draft cider, distillery products, and juice tastings in the brand new tasting room. You can take home your favorite bottles from the on-site retail store. 

Conveniently located next to the winery is Flo’s Ristorante, which offers appetizers such as meatballs and bruschetta, wood-fired pizzas, and more.  

At St. Julian Winery, we sampled: 

  • St. J Pinot Grigio, which has honeydew and Anjou pear aromas
    • Paired with house-made bruschetta from Flo’s
  • Michato, with exotic fruit and crisp acidity
    • Paired with cheesy garlic bread from Flo’s
  • Red Sangria, which has a fun, sweet flavor
    • Paired with spinach artichoke dip from Flo’s
  • Catherman’s Port, a classic port wine from Michigan that’s smooth and rich
Outdoor sign at House of Wine
A row of wine bottles from House of Wine

The newly opened House of Wine offers an impressive selection of wine and a comfy atmosphere.

Photo Credit: Eric Zuniga for Experience Grand Rapids


House of Wine - Wine Bar and Retail Shop

A welcome addition to downtown Grand Rapids, newly opened House of Wine offers an impressive selection of wine to sip with friends in a comfy atmosphere or to purchase and take home. 

House of Wine offers a build-your-own charcuterie platter and a variety of other options to snack on, including salads, paninis, dips, and desserts.  

At House of Wine, we sampled: 

  • Canard Duchene Champagne, a fun bubbly flavor to end the night 
  • Chateau De Sancerre Sauvignon Blanc with aromas of peach, pear, and grape
  • Napa Valley Quilt Cabernet Sauvignon, which was bright and lively with blackberry and raspberry flavors 
    • Paired with a house-made cheesecake shooter
Raise a Glass - Rick Jensen, friend Angela, and Kris Mathis

Kris Mathis (right) told me (left) and Angela (middle) that he founded Raise a Glass in May of 2019 after realizing the lack of wine tour experiences in West Michigan.

Photo Credit: Eric Zuniga for Experience Grand Rapids


How it Started

Kris Mathis launched Raise a Glass Wine Tours in May 2019. He thought up this venture on a wine tour with his wife in Traverse City, when he realized it was difficult to find a similar experience in West Michigan. He prides himself on taking what is typically a more traditional concept and making it culturally focused.

“I was looking for a taste of culture and wanted to do something different,” says Mathis. “The entire experience caters to culture, and as you go from venue to venue you’ll see that these aren’t things you would find at home.”

Private tours are available too, with a maximum of 14 people per tour. Mathis says you can ultimately buy out the entire experience and personalize it for your group or party. This gives groups the freedom to personalize by theme, location, length of time, and more. Every option is based on your budget and group number with a starting price of $75 per person.

This tour is awesome. I would totally recommend it to other people from out of town. It’s great that they drive you from place to place and you don’t need to worry about transportation. It’s also a cool way to get to know people from town.

Growing in Popularity

Raise a Glass continues to grow in popularity and has already seen guests from across the country. Katie Nolan, a Chicago native, heard about the tour in a Chicago newsletter and had never been to Grand Rapids. She and a girlfriend were visiting the city and figured the tour would be a great way to learn more about Grand Rapids. 

“This tour is awesome,” Katie exclaimed as she raised a glass. “I would totally recommend it to other people from out of town. It’s great that they drive you from place to place and you don’t need to worry about transportation. It’s also a cool way to get to know people from town.”

Booking a Tour

If you’re interested in booking a tour, visit Raise A Glass Wine Tours online. The tours book out weeks in advance and often sell out ahead of time. Book your reservation well in advance if you are bringing a large party for the experience.

Have a favorite wine or winery you’d like to share with other readers? Let us know in the comments! 

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