After recently completing a series of posts on Michigan Breweries, I thought it only fitting to follow up with a few posts about Michigan Wineries. They are equally plentiful here in the mitten state. My husband Mark and I have been wine tasting in Michigan for many years. We visited our favorite local winery often enough that we were asked to help with harvests, then later with bottling and I eventually picked up a part-time job there in 2010 (I still work occasionally).
One of our favorite places to wine taste in Michigan is the Traverse City area. There are many wineries close together in this part of the state. Rolling hills and lake breezes along with an abundance of other local fruit crops make the area perfect for wine making. TC has two main wine regions The Leelenau Peninsula Wine Trail and the Wineries of Old Mission Peninsula. Both of these Trails are extensive. When we go wine tasting, I purchase either Mark or my favorite bottle (sometimes both) at each stop along the trail. Putting together a box of wine this way is like filling a treasure chest one doubloon at a time. Since we only go up a few times a year, we hoard them like treasure too.
Because there are so many wineries to choose from, we try to just pick 1-3 wineries. If you do more than that, your palate starts getting confused and so do you. I like to mix it up and go to a different combination of wineries each time. That way there is always something fresh and new to try the next time I visit. Sometimes I even just run in and buy a bottle (or two) of a long standing favorite as we are driving by.
Today I am going to focus on The Old Mission Peninsula, which is located very close to down town Traverse City. Since it is centrally located, it is always easy to get to from most anywhere in the TC area. The peninsula divides the 2 Bays of Traverse City so you have beautiful panoramic water views from any direction on your drive. There are 8-10 wineries scattered along the way. It’s best to pick up a trail map (you can get one anywhere) and have a plan before you start. I suggest either having a designated driver or picking just a few wineries each time you visit.
There are 2 main roads on the Peninsula Center Rd/M-37 that goes right up the middle or Peninsula drive which takes you up the western edge along the bay. Most of the wineries are more easily accessed from Center Rd., but you should go up one way and come back down the other. Completely different views.
We usually like to drive toward the top of the peninsula and start at 2 Lads Winery then work our way back down toward TC. If you visit 2 Lads, take a moment to enjoy the gorgeous water view from their hilltop parking lot. Their tasting room has an Urban Industrial feeling created by using modern fixtures, clean lines, and high ceilings with visible duct work. They make beefy reds, classic whites and a a few sparkling varieties. My husband is a fan of their Riesling while I enjoy the Cab Franc Rose and Pinot Grigio.
Another winery we like to stop at on Old Mission is Chateau Chantal. Like 2 Lads, the Chateau is perched on a hill top. You wind your way up the drive surrounded by beautiful rows of grape vines. It is a massive estate with a very impressive tasting room and a Bed and Breakfast on site. I find it best to get there early as they get very crowded with bus traffic later in the day. They offer a very large list of wines, ports, bubbly and even cider. There is no way that I could pick a favorite wine here, but two I really enjoy are their Pinot Grigio and the Cerise which is a cherry port. Marks favorite is the Riesling (are you seeing a trend).
Brys Estate Vineyard and Winery is another good choice on this peninsula. The first thing you notice as you approach the tasting room are the beautiful mahogany wood doors. The wood and brick are carried throughout the interior design creating a classic elegance. Their list is filled with high quality, well crafted and perfectly aged wines. Therefore, expect a shorter list with slightly higher prices. I am very fond of their Pinot Noir and their Gewuztraminer Reserve. While there, take a walk through the “Secret Garden” or relax outside in one of their Adirondack chairs.
If you want to find Hawthorne Vineyards, take Peninsula Drive. You will have to keep your eye’s peeled for the stack of 3 yellow wine barrels that marks the end of the mostly hidden drive. Keep in mind when planning your visit to Hawthorne Vineyards that they close the tasting room during the winter months. My favorite wine there is their Barrel Reserve Auxerrois. I really like that grape and they have not blended with other varietals (which other wineries often do).
Chateau Grand Traverse is one of the oldest wineries on the peninsula. I find it to be more commercial than most of the rest. They have a large enough production to ship to stores throughout the state. Chateau Grand Traverse offers a wide variety of wines at very affordable prices. Although you will find some “Reserve” level big reds and plenty of Riesling, they produce a lot of wine blends or wine and fruit combinations. I found a good Pinot Noir Rose last fall to bring home in my box of treasures.
Many of you are familiar with Carter Oosterhouse from HGTV. A few years ago, he and his brother Todd opened Bonobo Winery on the Old Mission Peninsula. The winery has a patio with a spectacular view of Grand Traverse Bay. I recommend enjoying a glass of wine on the outside after your tasting. You can also order light nibbles inspired by Mario Batali. Ok, you have heard me talk about loving the Pinot Noir Rose’s but they make my favorite (to date).
Peninsula Cellars is located in an old One Room School house. Everyone who visits loves the Hot Rod Cherry for both it’s bold cherry flavor and fun flame stripe design on the bottle. I prefer the Old School Red which is just a good red table wine. They also make a very nice Barrel Aged Chardonnay. Some wineries can be a bit stuffy when you are tasting, but the people who work here are customarily down to Earth and very friendly. I really like the relaxed environment.
Next weeks post in the Michigan Wineries Series will be a feature on Mari Vineyards. They are the newest winery on the Old Mission Peninsula and we just had an opportunity to visit them. I have so much to share with you about our time there that I needed to devote a full post to them.