I found out this past weekend that you don't have to know a lot about wine to enjoy it. For an adult getaway mini vacation my husband and I, my two brothers and their wives took off to beautiful upper Michigan to the Traverse City Bay area and surrounding Leelanau Peninsula. This is known as the wine touring destination with many award winning wines to taste in addition to the spectacular views of Grand Traverse Bay.
With a choice of 17 wineries to choose from, a casino, and the most beautiful scenery put on this earth, we were truly looking forward to a fantastic trip.
After finding our hotel and getting maps and brochures we headed to our first of 6 wineries that we chose to visit. I will list them with a short description of each and I will say this for each winery we visited......the tasting rooms are staffed with the nicest, most entertaining and knowledgeable people that you will ever meet. You need never worry about sounding like you are a novice and not an experienced wine drinker. Not all wineries charge for samples but if they do it is a nominal $3.00 to $5.00 for a souvenir wine glass to take home and usually 5 wine samples of your choice.
Chateau de Leelanau: This winery had the most breathtaking view of Grand Traverse Bay and the rows upon rows of grapes hanging on the vines was almost enough in itself. We headed inside for our first wine tasting. Here we paid for our wine glass and drank the first of our 5 samples of wine which you choose from a list that is given to you. My husband and I each bought a glass and we were able to sample 10 wines. We quickly knew we like the red wines and dessert style wines the best!
Willow Vineyards: This little winery greeted the Michigan football fans to the halftime score of the MSU/UofM game. MSU ahead....let the wine tasting continue!! We received three of the house specialty wines here for free.
Ciccone Vineyards: Beautiful vineyard and winery which also has a beautiful 1930's refurbished barn to host special events such as weddings or holiday parties with spectacular settings for pictures. I personally bypassed this wine tasting as they only offered dry white wines for samples. I browsed and picked up free wine labels to take home as souvenirs. This winery produced and bottled the Madonna 2005 Cabernet Franc with her picture on the label.
L Mawby: This was one of our favorite wineries. Not only was our wine server the most fun and animated but we were given 4 sparking free wine tastings. Our favorite was the one called "Sex" which created tons of conversation and laughter when we were told that at the end we would all have group sex if we behaved. Another really good wine here was called Fizz and we each purchased a full glass of the Jadore wine with some cheese and crackers to ward off the effects of the alcohol and to sit and chat over what we had tasted so far.
Black Star Farms: Here we were greeted on a large covered outside porch with hot apple cider made with the Black Star Farm Hard Apple Cider. We all took the recipe home with us and bought a bottle of the cider. This was probably the largest winery we visited. A large walk up bar area gave 5 samples of your choice from a list with the purchase of a wine glass. My favorite was the last where we were given a chocolate truffle which you put in your mouth and then sampled the Sirius cherry dessert wine.....just like having a chocolate covered cherry! Another one top on the list here was the Sirius pear dessert wine. This winery also has a bakery and is home to the Leelanau Cheese Co. You will also find a beautiful bed and breakfast inn located here which looks like an old Kentucky colonial mansion.
Leelanau Cellars: Our last stop of the day and the only winery not located on a vineyard. This was a restaurant/winery right on the bay and the view from the upper balcony area was breathtaking. We all enjoyed the wine here taking home a bottle of the raspberry and blueberry vintage. We asked our server how many samples to check off on the list given to us and her comment was "I'll let you know if you have too many!".
It really helped that one of my brothers and his wife have done this several times before. They knew exactly where to drive and which wineries were their favorite. We saw some groups come in a limo and another in small tour bus. This takes care of a designated driver without it being someone in your group, something you need to think about before heading out. Don't try to taste every wine in one day, spend a night or two and enjoy your vacation!
There are many wine related events throughout the year so please check out www.lpwines.com for a complete list of events, especially the Wine & Art Festival or the Traverse City Cherry Festival. There are art galleries, shops galore and beautiful beaches. There is no shortage of hotels, bed and breakfasts or condo's to rent if you want to stay for an extended vacation and check out our little slice of heaven in Michigan!