Great Lakes wine/travel pilot debuts on Detroit PBS


Sommelier Michael Bottigliero (right) samples a Michigan vintner’s product

Tonight, Detroit’s PBS station will air the pilot of a new genre of travel/destination shows, created and produced by Michelle DeLong and shot by David J. Miller of Mimi Productions.

Great Lakes, Great Wines, a half-hour of traversing colorful, family-friendly wine country, debuts on WTVS/56 at 7:30 p.m. EDT.

Series host is certified sommelier Michael Bottigliero of Chicago, who calls himself “The Windy City Wine Guy,” and is in the restaurant business in Chicago.

DeLong says the show’s mission is to visit interesting “close-cation” destinations reached in about a four hour drive from locales in the Great Lakes’ rapidly-growing wine producing states of Illinois, Michigan, Indiana, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York.  

“These destinations also boast hidden gems in local restaurants, vacation rental homes, bed and breakfasts and tourist attractions – those mainly being region’s some 500 wineries,” which are highlighted throughout the series’ 12 episodes, she says.

Her considerable research into Great Lakes wine country has revealed that winemakers in this area have turned from making mainly the sweet wines of decades ago to growing more sophisticated grapes, like Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Chardonnay.

“The region is on the same parallel as Bordeaux, France, and many Great Lakes’ vineyards are located in similar microclimates as the famous grape growing regions of Europe,” she says.

The show evolved from DeLong’s contention that quality “close-cation” programming is underserved by local TV stations that are hyper-focused on their own metro areas.  “Very few producers make regional programming for PBS,” says DeLong.

In shopping the series to regional PBS stations, DeLong has made handshake agreements so far with stations in three states that are willing to air the series — provided Mimi Productions delivers a 12-episode series and meets PBS funding guidelines.  

Detroit Public Television agreed to a test airing of the pilot, starting June 19 on WTVS/56, followed by encores June 20, 11:30 p.m. and June 22, 2:30 p.m.

After the Detroit test run, DeLong should have good ratings ammunition to demonstrate the value of the series to potential advertisers.

She plans to shoot six episodes starting in July, and the other six in early 2014. 

Earlier, Mimi Productions produced two series: “Pure Stock,” a race car show currently available on Hulu and “The Merge,” 72 episodes of which aired on JCTV and NRB (National Religious Broadcasters) where it’s still running.