Hometown Guide for Holiday Gifts

A resource of staff favorites for this holiday season


One of the reasons I love living in the Traverse area is being surrounded by unique and unusual restaurants, stores and locations. When guests come to town we always insist on dining at a local restaurant and taking them to some of our favorite shopping haunts. So when the holidays roll around it’s no surprise that I like to spend time searching for unique regional gifts to share with friends and relatives who appreciate the Traverse area from afar. This year I thought it would be fun to talk with our clients and see what their favorite gifts are this holiday season. Their input, along with my own and some suggestions from Staton, make up our Hometown Guide to Holiday Gifts.


Care for a Drink?

When it comes to wine everyone has their favorites, especially the winemakers. That’s part of the fun, but it’s also what makes wine such a tricky thing to give. My advice is to always consider the recipient, whether they prefer white or red, and if you’ve no guidelines at all, get a recommendation. And don’t worry, if you prefer your beverages from a tap we have some great ideas for you as well.

Black Star Farms Bubbly Nouveau imageCoryn – Black Star Farms, 2008 Bubbly Nouveau
This wine is reminiscent of a Riesling with subtle fruit flavors of apricot, apple, and melon… think Moscato d’Asti. The Bubbly Nouveau pairs well with seasonal dishes, appetizers, and spicy flavors. It will make a delicious addition to holiday menus and is meant to be drunk young.

Stacey – Left Foot Charley, 2007 Red Drive
A medium bodied, smooth Cabernet Franc blend. The toasty, smokey nose and vanilla undertones reminds me of a warm campfire. It pairs great with alot of hearty meals like pot roast, pork tenderloin or even pasta bolognese. And its excellent in mulled wine as a winter warmer!

Peninsula Cellars Manigold wine imageTom – Peninsula Cellars, 2006 Manigold Gewurtztraminer
This single vineyard, limited production Gewurz has an intense floral bouquet complementing ripe grapefruit flavors, with a spicy finish

Cindy – Forty-Five North, 2007 Icebox Pinot Gris
Made from late harvest pinot gris grapes this is our answer to ice wine. Truly the whip cream of dessert.

Staton’s Favorites
Forty-Five North Peach-Apricot Mead, Left Foot Charley GerwurtztraminerPeninsula Cellars Detention and Black Star Farms Arcturos Late Harvest Riesling. Each of these is remarkable, distinctive with or without food and guaranteed to please the varied palates of seasonal guests…no danger of seeing partially-consumed pours at the end of an evening. And not to be forgotten, a growler of Distill My Heart Bourbon Stout from Right Brain Brewery.


For the Foodie

Edible gifts are some of my favorites. They are great to have on hand for hostess gifts or pull them together and make a truly thoughtful custom basket. Many area retailers even have packages assembled and ready to ship. We asked our clients for some of their favorites and of course I had to weigh in on this one.

Underground Cheesecake on a Stick imageKristen – The Village

Some of my favorites include a bottle of Red Drive Red from Left Foot Charleya bottle of Artisan Red from TASTES of Black Star FarmsGrocer’s Daughter Chocolates from Sweet Asylum, Karma Candy (chocolate covered espresso beans) from Higher GroundsCheesecake on a stick from The Underground Cheesecake Co.“Brownies to Live For” from The Silvertree Deligrissini bread sticks from Pleasanton Bakery
Ann – Learn Great Foods
Check out the FoodBooks for recipes, tips on buying from farmers, health benefits and more for each featured food. Newest editions include Fish, Bison, Herbs and Asparagus. Available now online.
Staff picks include the brand new Cherries Galore – Premium Pie Filling and Dessert Topping, one of a kind Black Cherry Wine or how about a gift basket assembled in a stainless steel cherry colander.
Brandy’s Picks
I love picking out oils and vinegars from Fustini’s – my current favorites are Meyer Lemon Olive Oil and Pomegranate Balsamic Vinegar. I’m also a recent addict of the parmesan olive bread from Pleasanton Bakery. And I’ve yet to stop in toThe Radish without leaving with one of their fresh baked goods. The granola nut bars with chocolate chips are fantastic.
Staton’s Favorites
Chocolate covered cherries from The Cherry Stop, a cup of warm sangria from Ciao Bella, and a flavor infusion of oil and vinegars from Fustini’s. There’s nothing better than a HOT bowl of soup, especially the Tomato Basil at The Radish.
Local Artisans
Like wine, art can be difficult to choose, especially for someone else. Here are a few suggestions, for all price ranges, that might make your shopping a little easier this holiday season. If all else fails, check out these great galleries and shops and see if they make wish lists.
glass vial necklace imageKristen – The Village
The glass vial necklace from Gallery 50 is a cool mix of silver, glass beads and medicine vials.  Also love the earring necklaces at Jeanette Veeder Designs made from vintage earrings and other fun bits and pieces…perfect for the girl who likes to do her own thing.
What about a collection of wild flowers or winter scene notecards? You can create your own combination of Gwen Frostic’s original block prints or choose one of the pre-packaged sets. There’s also a full line of rubber stamps for reproducing Gwen’s designs at home.
James Blanchard Fordite ringsBrandy’s Choice
Too many favorites to mention them all, but here’s a sample. Signature “folded design” rings from Becky Thatcher Designs, an A-line skirt in bold black & white from Haystacks…which is designed and sewn in Leelanau County, one of Kristen Jongen’s paintings from Art and Soul Gallery in Downtown Traverse City. And I love to tell people about the jewelry made from Fordite or Detroit agate. Pick up a ring at Gallery 50 from artist James Blanchard and get the whole story.
Staton’s Shopping Haunts
Belstone Gallery in Downtown Traverse City for jewelry and art glass, calendars and notecards from Gwen Frostics in Benzonia and we always find something we can’t live without from the artists at Michigan Artist’s Gallery in Sutton’s Bay.


Gift’s for the Guy or Gal with Everything

We all have them on our list. Friends or relatives that already have what they want, or aren’t too forthcoming with suggestions for what might be on their wish list. But fear not. I have a few ideas that you might not have considered. How about a day trip, now or when spring returns, so they can enjoy this great place we call home? Or what about the sportsman, or the patron of the arts? Here are some great suggestions so you can finish your shopping before New Year’s Day!

Coppelia ballet at Interlochen imageSteve – Interlochen Center for the Arts
My vote is for Coppélia. Based on a tale by E.T.A. Hoffman (who also inspired “The Nutcracker”), “Coppélia” is a magical masterpiece that introduced automatons, dolls and marionettes into the world of ballet. The comic storyline revolves around a mysterious (and faintly diabolical) toymaker, and a love triangle between a feisty village girl named Swanhilda, her fiancé Franz, and the toymaker’s amazingly lifelike clockwork doll. One of the few true comedy ballets, it’s an enchanting holiday treat for the entire family!

golf simulator imageDoug – Traverse City Golf Center
For the golfer on your list, how about a winter driving range membership or a golf lesson package from the Traverse City Golf Center? Or, for an afternoon of fun, play an hour of golf at Pebble Beach on one of two Golf Simulators located on-site.

Colleen – Downtown Traverse City Association
It may be unusual, but that’s what makes it a showstopper: The upside down tree from Holiday Traditions in Downtown Traverse City. Just what the festive decorator in your family would dream of.

Other Fun Ideas

  • Lifetime membership at Right Brain Brewery, complete with growler, mug and t-shirt
  • Culinary farm tour on Leelanau Peninsula this spring with Learn Great Foods. (Visit our photo gallery to see what fun Staton and I had this fall)
  • For the music lovers, how about an ornate music box from The Music House Museum.
  • Treat someone to an Ethnic Night dinner out at The Bluebird Restaurant in Leland
  • Explore the local waters with Traverse Tall Ship Company, for an evening sail then bunk in the cabins below deck on an overnight Bed & Breakfast sail. You’ll have to wait until May 1st, but gift certificates and reservations can be made today
  • A haircut from Robertsons…keeping the memory of Sandy Raymond, Staton’s barber for 24 years, alive.


I’d say that should give you a lot to shop for this holiday season. From Downtown Traverse City, to The Village and out into the smaller communities that make up Northern Michigan, there are countless unique buys this holiday season. My last suggestion is to always be on the lookout for a great find, a special reminder of why we love the Traverse Area. And remember that shopping local throughout the year supports the businesses and families that keep this region strong.


Happy Hunting!