/Tag: Leelanau

Northern Michigan Winery Guide (Infographic)

Northern Michigan Winery Guide graphic

In honor of Michigan Wine Month Traverse Traveler created the Northern Michigan Winery Guide. This at-a-glance reference is designed to help travelers who are wine tasting in the Traverse City, Michigan region.

Which winery should you visit?

With 45 tasting rooms near Traverse City—and counting— it’s hard to decide where to go. There isn’t a right or wrong answer. However, we can offer some guidance to help you make an educated decision for your next wine tasting adventure. When you ask us which winery to visit we often answer with more questions:

Are you visiting Leelanau Peninsula, Old Mission Peninsula or another part of our region?

Are you wine tasting only, or are you looking for cider or mead?

Do you want vineyard views, or a view of the water?

Every winery has something unique to offer their guests. For the Northern Michigan Winery Guide we focused on answers to commonly asked questions. We gathered information on tasting fees. We noted the wineries with wine clubs. And, since destination weddings in Traverse City are so popular, we highlighted wineries equipped to host special events. This infographic provides the answers to the most common questions about planning a wine tour in Traverse City.

The Northern Michigan Winery Guide

Northern Michigan Winery Guide infographic

Click the image for a downloadable PDF

How to Get There

One of the best reasons to spend the day wine tasting in northern Michigan is taking the opportunity to explore our beautiful area. The vineyards and orchards, rural landscapes and small towns are part of the wine tasting experience. The scenic route is your path to adventure.

To help navigate from one winery to the next, use the Traverse Traveler app. The geo-location feature will sort the listings to show wineries closest to you. And you can use the maps to get turn-by-turn navigation.

We’re Growing All the Time

It’s important to note our wine region is growing and changing all the time. We anticipate new additions, updates and edits to the Northern Michigan Winery Guide. If you have new information that would help us keep it current, or tips for categories you’d like to see in the future, please leave us a comment or contact us.


©Traverse Traveler and TraverseTraveler.com. Content and links may be shared provided that full credit is given to Traverse Traveler and TraverseTraveler.com with direction to the original content. Unauthorized use and/or duplication without express and written permission from this site’s owner is strictly prohibited.

By |2018-12-12T08:51:55+00:00May 16th, 2018|Travel Tips, Wineries|0 Comments

How to Plan a Fall Color Wine Tour in Traverse City

Fall Color Wine Tour Traverse City image

Planning a fall color wine tour in Northern Michigan this year? We’ve gathered a few tips to make the most out of your next wine tasting trip from Traverse City to Leelanau or Old Mission Peninsula.


wine tour with Traverse Traveler app imageWhat to Bring

• Camera. The wineries are beautiful any time of year, but especially in the fall during harvest season. You’ll want a few pics to remember your trip.


• Money. Many of the wineries now have tasting fees. Bring cash to cover fees where you might not purchase a bottle of wine. Each winery’s policy is different.


• Bottled water. Here’s a tip from the Kathy at Bel Lago, "For a successful wine tour, drink as much water as you do in wine. And be sure to eat."


• Snacks. Cheese spreads, breads, crackers and fruit all pair well with wine and won’t spoil your palette for the wines you’ve yet to taste.


• Smartphone. The Traverse Traveler app was designed with the wine tourist in mind. This handy mobile guide will help you research, plan and navigate a wine tour in northern Michigan. And best of all, it’s a free download for iPhone and Android users.



Wine Tour imagesWhat to Leave at Home

"Don’t wear lipstick." This tip is from Caryn at 2 Lads Winery. It’s not just the marks on the glass that are left behind. Lipstick imparts flavors like petroleum and other chemicals when wine passes over your lips.


• No perfume. It ruins your tasting experience, and everyone elses. The scent of one person’s perfume can contaminate the air in a tasting room for hours.


• Cigarettes. Your sense of smell is a large part of the wine tasting experience. And smoke is a very stong scent. Like perfume it affects those around you. So please leave the smokes in your car.


• Gum. You can’t taste past it, especially mint. So stow the Altoids and TicTacs too.


• Dogs & Kids. A wine tour is meant for the 21+ crowd. While you may see a few wine dogs throughout your travels, several of the tasting rooms offer food pairings, which means it’s against their health code to have dogs in the winery. So as a general rule, take the kids and pets to the beach or the park, but not on a wine tour.



Wine Tour Planning imagePlanning Your Wine Tour

With nearly three dozen wineries in our tip of the mitten it can be a bit overwhelming to figure out where to start. Here are a few tips on planning a wine tasting route from Traverse City.


• You can’t see them all. Make a list of favorites, or recommended wineries you want to be sure to visit, and squeeze in others as time allows.


• Stick to one peninsula. There are two distinct AVAs in our region: Leelanau Peninsula and Old Mission. Stick to one or the other for a one-day trip. The wineries are scattered throughout each peninsula making it difficult to jump back and forth.


• There’s an app for that! Use the Wineries category on the Traverse Traveler app to choose which stops you want to make. The maps are great for navigating between wineries via backroads for a more scenic tour, or finding the fastest route.


• Map it. Pick up the large map from the Traverse City Convention & Visitors Bureau. If you’re not a smartphone user this will be a hands-on resource for finding your way around both peninsulas.


• Beware of high traffic times. If you’re wine tasting during peak fall season your best days are mid week. If you must come on a weekend be prepared for crowds. Most of our wineries have small tasting rooms with even smaller tasting bars. On a busy weekend you may have to wait to get a turn at the bar.


• Go off the beaten path. Most tasting rooms in Leelanau and Old Mission are lucky to be located near the vineyard. But that vineyard isn’t necessarily on a major highway. Part of the fun is exploring and discovering new locations. Start at the top of the peninsula and work your way south. Or make a plan to stay inland and visit some of the smaller boutique wineries.



Wine Tour Groups imageGroup Travel

There are some special considerations to planning a wine tour when you’re traveling with a group. Here are some tips to maximize the fun and minimize the hassle when planning a group wine tour.


• Size matters. Wine tasting with friends can be a wonderful experience. But if your group is too large it can cause problems which detract from your enjoyment. In our experience a group of 10 or less is the ideal size. Larger groups will have additional limitations on where you can go, how quickly you will move from place to place, and tasting room fees.


• Carpool. Part of the fun of a group wine tasting is comparing notes about each winery with your companions as your travel. Pile into one person’s vehicle, rent a van, or book a wine tour. And if at all possible, assign a designated driver. Listen to Ellie at Traverse City Tours who warns, "Don’t come on vacation and leave on probation."


• Large groups call ahead. For wine tours larger than 10 you should call ahead to each winery. Some tasting rooms are so small they do not allow buses or tours at all, and others have per person tasting fees for the entire party. These are not things you want to discover after you’ve driven across the peninsula to visit.


• Label wine purchases. Hopefully your group will discover many wines they like and purchasing bottles at each location. Pick up a box from the first stop. Using a Sharpie marker label each wine purchased with your initials, or used color coded garage sale stickers. Add additional boxes as needed. When the tour is complete it will be easy to determine which wine was purchased by whom.


• Pack a picnic. It’s important to eat and drink water throughout your wine tour. For a fun experience pack a cooler with cheese, fruit, crackers and bite-sized appetizers or sandwiches. Many of the wineries have picnic tables or areas outside where you can stop and enjoy your snack along the route. There are also markets and farm stands scattered throughout the peninsulas to pick-up snacks along the way.


• Be patient. "Be respectful of other tasters and wait patiently if there’s a crowd," says Chaning at Forty-Five North Vineyard & Winery. When you’re traveling as a group this is especially important since you may have to break into smaller groups, or taste in shifts.


We’ve been on several group wine trips and completely agree with Kyle from Riverside Canoes who says, "My best wine tasting tip is to go tasting with your closest friends. The wine always tastes better!."



Wine Tour Tips imagesSip Tips from the Pros

Winemakers and tasting room staff are incredibly knowledgeable about their products and their craft. Here are a few of their tips for making the most of a northern Michigan wine tasting experience.


• It’s OK to spit. Ask Bel Lago winemaker Cristin Hosmer and she’ll tell you, "Spitting is OK. In fact it’s encouraged." It cuts down on your consumption of alcohol. So remember, "The dump bucket is your friend."


• Chew your sparkles. When tasting a sparkling wine, "You don’t want to drink bubbly like you kiss your grandmother." If you’ve been pursing your lips when you sip sparkling wine from a glass you’ve got it all wrong. Instead,"Chew, hold and slowly swallow," instructs Don at L. Mawby. By chewing the wine the bubbles explode in your mouth allowing the flavors to disperse. Try it. It’s a whole new experience.


• Eat mild not wild. "Don’t eat strong flavored foods  — onion, garlic and spicy dishes — before or during a wine tour," warns Coryn of Black Star Farms. While a bottle of wine may pair well with some of these dishes, the pungent flavors will linger throughout your wine tour affecting the rest of the wines you taste.


• Not a free drunk. Wine tasting is not a free ticket to inebriation. "Don’t treat a wine tour like happy hour at a bar," reminds Tom at Peninsula Cellars. Guests in a tasting room are there to learn about wine, and are offered tastes (sometimes free) to determine which wines they might like best. If you’re more interested in hanging out at a bar and chatting with your girlfriends, you’ve got the wrong kind of bar. Just be respectful of the staff’s time, and the product that they’re freely sharing so that you’ll discover something you’d like to buy.



A wine tour is a great way to explore Traverse City and the countryside in Northern Michigan. With these handy tips you’ll be sure to make the most of the adventure. For more fabulous day trips in northern Michigan this fall check out our post: 22 Reasons for a Fall M-22 Roadtrip.

By |2012-10-04T19:33:00+00:00October 4th, 2012|Day Trips, Traverse City, Traverse Traveler|0 Comments

10 Northern Michigan Places I've Never Been

Places I've Never Been graphic

This summer I’m on a mission to explore uncharted territory in my own backyard, and improve Michigan’s economy one purchase at a time.

The strategy is simple. Visit 10 places I’ve never been before…just because, I’ve never been.


Close your eyes and think about this for a moment. Wait…that makes reading rather difficult. Scratch that.

Better yet imagine, if you will, your morning commute. If you’re lucky enough to call northern Michigan home that drive probably takes you through quaint shopping districts, or perhaps a bayside cruise past restaurants, marinas and resorts. When you live in a tourist town, like Traverse City, you’re surrounded by unique destinations. But just like those beautiful bay views, you seldom stop the car to appreciate them.

When I’m running displays for Mealtickets & Unusual Ideas my route takes me across Grand Traverse, Benzie and Leelanau county every month, canvassing the same highways area travelers flock to for a taste of Northern Michigan. Along these drives I pass dozens of storefronts I’ve never been in. And that got me thinking, why not? What is so difficult about taking 15 minutes out of my trip to satisfy my curiosity, and hopefully find something I like. That’s when I decided to pick 10 new places and pay them a visit.


What’s the big deal about choosing some place new?

One of the best parts of being a tourist is exploring uncharted territory. You never know what you’re going to discover. When you’re on vacation, especially in a place you’ve never been, every site you see, every food you taste, every door unopened is the beginning of a new adventure. If you look at your own community from the eyes of a visitor you’ll see a whole new world.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing shameful about having a favorite restaurant, or shopping at the same grocery store because it’s convenient. Every business needs ‘regulars,’ and that’s what the locals often are. But new customers are the key to business growth.


Did you know, in 2010 the Michigan tourism industry generated $17.2 billion— that’s a 14% increase from 2009. And, for the first time, out-of-state visitors spent more than Michigan residents on travel*.

Regions like Northern Michigan depend on those tourism dollars. And why do you think that is? Because we count on area visitors to do what we aren’t doing enough of: going out to eat, shopping at local stores and staying in area hotels. So I say, become a tourist in your hometown. And see what that does for Michigan’s economic recovery.

In honor of following my own advice I’m sharing my list of 10 New Places right here on the Mealtickets blog. Here’s a sneak peek at what’s in store:

Hodge Podge Lodge graphic1.  Hodge Podge Lodge
– After seeing their listing in the Traverse Traveler app, and walking past the store in downtown Beulah, I had to check it out. And I must say, I’m loving my new $10 shoes! Click here to read more…



Chateau de Leelanau graphic2.  Chateau de Leelanau – Located on M-22 near Suttons Bay, this winery has new owners and some great wines…I’ll be back this summer for their cherry sangria, I can tell you that. Click here to read more…




Korner Gem graphic3.  Korner Gem – I’ve been dying to explore this hidden treasure just off M-22 on the west side of Traverse City, and I’m so glad I did. I can’t wait to show off the new jewelry they’re making—from my own beach stones. Click here to read more…



Woodland Creek graphic4.  Woodland Creek Furniture – My friends from Virginia stop here every time they drive through Traverse City but I have never made a point to go in. Until now. It’s huge, and it’s amazing! Click here to read more…


Rock Shop graphic5.  The Rock Shop – If you’ve driven the corridor between Interlochen and Honor on US-31 you’ve passed it a million times. And so have I. But not this summer. I’m dying to find out how a place that sells rocks has been in business for so long! Click here to read more…



22 Vines and Wines graphic6.  22 Vines & Wines – I’ve heard nothing but good things about what’s coming from the kitchen in this tiny restaurant, with a Philippine chef, that lies along on the road to Suttons Bay. Click here to read more…



Country Christmas graphic7.  Country Christmas – Every local has passed this quaint cottage at 55 mph and yet I wonder how many have slowed down enough to read the sign. Looks like I’m gonna celebrate Christmas in July this year. Click here to read more…


Two Fish Gallery graphic8.  Two Fish Gallery – There’s a huge tree near the corner of River & Main Street in Leland as you look down the boardwalk toward Fishtown. It casts a shadow on this lovely gallery. But the treasures inside are worth a visit. Click here to read more…


The Cherry Hut graphic9. The Cherry Hut – Can you believe my husband graduated from Benzie Central, but he’s never been to this Beulah landmark? We’re going to check this one out together. Click here to read more…




Mystery graphic10. Mystery Visit – I think I’m going to see what our Facebook & Twitter fans suggest, and base my 10th stop on their recommendations. Click here to reveal the Mystery…



You can keep up with my discoveries here on Mealtickets.com, and make suggestions of your own on Facebook and Twitter. And, as an added bonus, I’m going to make sure these new places get listed on the Traverse Traveler iPhone app. That way you can check them out too!

Why don’t you join me? Become a tourist in your hometown with these three simple steps:

  • Get Ready: Take a moment and think about the places you drive past every week, but have never been in.
  • Get Set:  Pick ten, and make a list. The list is critical. There’s something about the simple act of writing it down that will help make you accountable.
  • Go:  You have 99 days of summer to explore your own backyard. Make it memorable.


Share your 10 Places with us!

We want to hear about the adventures in your hometown. I’ve set up a Discussion Board on the Traverse Traveler Facebook Page. I’d love to hear what you’ve discovered. Happy backyard travels everyone!


*Detroit Free Press | State Tourism Spending Soars

Local Chefs in the Running for James Beard Award

scallops at Blu in Glen Arbor, MichiganConsidered "The Oscars of the food world," by Time Magazine, the James Beard Foundation Award is one of the highest honors a chef can receive. And three Traverse Area chefs are on the cusp of receiving this very honor.

Semi-finalists in the category Best Chef: Great Lakes 2010 are chef Miles Anton of Trattoria Stella, chef Randy Chamberlain of Blu, and chef Guillaume Hazaël-Massieux of La Bécasse.


The semi-finalists were chosen from thousands of on-line entries in over a dozen categories. Finalists will be announced by the Foundation on Monday, March 22nd. Winners will be revealed on May 3, 2010 at the James Beard Foundation Awards Ceremony and Gala Reception in New York City.

Congratuations to our local chefs, and best of luck in the competition.


By |2010-02-25T15:42:41+00:00February 25th, 2010|Check This Out, Leelanau, Restaurants, Traverse City|0 Comments

Hearth and Vine Opens for Dinner

Black Star Farms announces the opening of Hearth & Vine serving dinner to the public Wednesday through Sunday evenings.
Black Star Farms, already well known for its award-winning wines and cheeses, is now serving dinner in Hearth & Vine, a vineyard café, at the Suttons Bay farm featuring wood-fired fare in a rustic yet elegant atmosphere.
The weekly menu at Hearth & Vine draws on ingredients produced on the farm, including pork and lamb, fresh eggs, 9 Bean Rows hoop house vegetables and hearth baked breads, and of course, Leelanau Cheese Co. cheeses and Black Star Farms wines.  It’s truly a celebration of agriculture.
From late spring through fall, Hearth & Vine is open daily serving delicious wood-fired pizzas and sandwiches as well as soups and salads. Black Star Farms wine is available by the glass or bottle along with soft drinks, coffee and tea. Lunch and snacks can be enjoyed out on the terrace or indoors in the cozy cafe.
On the market side they’re all about local.  Black Star Farms farm-fresh eggs and fruits and vegetables from their and neighboring farms are offered seasonally.  Pastries, cookies and 9 Bean Rows hearth-baked breads, Black Star Farms maple syrup, verjus and kettle cooked jams and preserves, and the best of other locally produced items are also available.
Hearth and Vine is now open for dinner Wednesday-Sunday from 5pm to 9pm.  Seating is limited and reservations are appreciated.  For reservations, please call 231.944.1297

By |2010-02-03T18:28:18+00:00February 3rd, 2010|Leelanau, Restaurants, Wineries|0 Comments

My Up-North Summer To-Do List

Every year summer seems to come and go in the blink of an eye. In an effort make sure I enjoy it I’ve learned a helpful trick. Start out the season with a summer "Must-Do" list. Mine is usually a combination of favorite activities and things I’ve always wanted to do but haven’t made time for. There’s something to be said for writng things down that makes you more apt to do it.

So I’ll share with you a few from my 2009 Summer Must-Do checklist:



Five Needles at Michigan Legacy Art Park1. Enjoy a Day at the Park – I’ve never been on a walk through the Michigan Legacy Art Park at Crystal Mountain Resort, so this is the year. I can’t wait to see the larger than life-size sculptures, like Five Fingers, scattered throughout the park.



2. Learn a New Trick – It’s important to keep learning. So this summer I thought I might take a watercolor class. There are great day classes or seminars at the Crystal Lake Arts Center. Or maybe I’ll try to improve my photography skills with the digital photography workshop at Interlochen. There’s something out there for everyone if you know where to look.



fresh michigan cherries3. Pick Fresh Fruit – When I was a kid we picked cherries, strawberries and raspberries to eat, freeze and make jam. I think my kids are ready to continue the tradition. My favorite was always picking cherries. But since that usually requires a ladder, perhaps we’ll go for blueberries this year. With all the U-pick farms in the area it shouldn’t be hard to decide.



4. A Quiet Day at the Beach – Sometimes the best activity is inactivity. Toes in the sand, book in hand, and all by myself. That sounds like a perfectly relaxing way to enjoy a sunny afternoon.



Cherry Bowl Drive-In Theatre popcorn5. Eat a Barrel of Popcorn – …on a lawn chair, in front of the car, at the Cherry Bowl Drive-In. I’ll try to share, but I’m not promising. With real melted butter poured on top of the fresh kernels, it’s hard to resist this movie-lover’s treat.



6. Sip and Savor – I’ve been looking forward to an evening sipping a glass of Riesling and one of the small plate appetizers at Left Foot Charley in The Village. Sitting outside watching visitors come and go – ahhh, this is the life.



dinner at LuLu's in Bellaire7. Try a New Restaurant – Summer is a great time to try new things. And since I love food, one of my favorite adventures is to discover a new restaurant. Whether it’s new to the area, or just new to me, it’s always a treat. Last summer we enjoyed Blu in Glen Arbor, and this winter LuLu’s in Bellaire. Who knows where this summer will lead.



8. Shop the Farmers Market – Almost every town in Northern Michigan has a farmer’s market. From the Sara Hardy market in Downtown Traverse City, to The Village, you can’t beat the fresh foods, handmade products and beautiful plants available each week.



Point Betsie Lighthouse image9. Climb the Lighthouse – I’ve been to the beach at Point Betsie Lighthouse dozens of times, but I’ve never been inside. This summer I want to climb to the top of the light and check out the view. It’s amazing that after 150 years, boats still depend on the light to guide them safely through the Manitou passage.



10. Experience a Silent Movie – I’ve seen movies at the drive-in, the State Theatre and even at the City Opera House, but I’ve yet to experience an authentic silent film at the Music House Museum. Watching Buster Keaton or Charlie Chaplin with live accompaniment on the Wurlitzer Theatre Organ is a truly unique opportunity.


Now that I’ve shared some of my Up North Michigan summer must-do list, what about you? Take a few minutes and compile your own list of new places to visit, favorite activiites to share, and adventures to experience. Already have a list? Join our discussion on Facebook and share your summer ideas! Let’s make this season a memorable one.

Welcome Knot Just a Bar

Knot Just a Bar graphic Omena Waterfront Restaurant Joins Mealtickets Family

Mealtickets is proud to welcome Knot Just a Bar to our display of card advertisers. Their beautiful views and casual family atmosphere make it a perfect choice for area visitors and locals alike. Located in the same building as Leelanau Wine Cellars the restaurant is an easy drive-to destination for a great meal, and possibly some wine tasting next door. 

Their menu is filled with comfortable classics and Northern Michigan cuisine. But don’t let their stunning location fool you, the prices don’t reflect the view. Instead you’ll find a huge copper bar, complete with over 69 beers and a TV for watching the game. I often make a point to stop here on my way back from Northport in the summer to grab a lunch out on their deck overlooking Grand Traverse Bay.


So next time you’re taking a drive on M-22 on the Leelanau Peninsula, make sure to stop by Knot Just a Bar. On the weekends you’ll even be treated to some live entertainment, so sit back and enjoy. You can find more information about Knot Just a Bar on our Dining & Wineries page, or check out their website at www.knotjustabar.com.

By |2009-01-27T15:13:00+00:00January 27th, 2009|Leelanau, Mealtickets News, Restaurants|0 Comments

Why Ice Wine is Divine

frozen grapes for ice wine at Black Star FarmsWhen the Temperatures Drop our Spirits Rise in Northern Michigan Wine Country.

Germany is known for their Eiswein, and so is Canada. But did you know that Michigan has been turning frozen grapes into liquid luxury since 1983? When you learn a bit about the process you’ll understand why ice wine is worth it’s weight in gold.

A true ice wine is made from grapes left on the vine until harvest and pressed while frozen. Each year winemakers must decide whether or not to gamble on producing an ice wine. Growers take quite a risk leaving grapes on the vine after the fall harvest. It’s not only a risk to the crop but to the vine itself. According to Chris Lopez of Black Star Farms, grapes left to ripen past harvest require so much energy from the vine and the roots which sustain it, that it can cause a smaller harvest in subsequent years or possible loss of the vine itself.


Black Star Farms ice wine harvestOnce the decision is made, winemakers must wait for ideal conditions to harvest ice wine grapes. According to Lee Lutes, winemaker for Black Star Farms, the temperatures must hold below 17˙F for three consecutive days. The calls go out at 2am for the dedicated staff and friends to join the harvest among the vines before dawn. With fluctuating temperatures in early December this year’s harvest began on December 8th and resumed on December 16th; a clear example of the importance of the harvest temperature.

Upon picking the grapes are as hard as marbles. They are brought to the winery and pressed outside in old-fashioned wooden basket presses. The frozen block takes days to squeeze a thicky syrupy liquid as each grape will yield not much more than a drop. The frozen block is then painstakingly removed from the basket by hand.


Black Star Farms A Capella ice wineThis year Black Star Farms harvested 6000 pounds of ice wine grapes, which produced 125 gallons of juice, or roughly 110 cases of ice wine. That may sound like a lot, but it’s actually only 25% of a normal yield. In other words, had those same grapes been picked in the fall they would have produced 500 gallons of juice. When you factor in the potential loss of grapes, the perfect conditions required for harvest and the additional labor, it’s easy to see why ice wines are so valuable, or as some might say, expensive. But once you’ve had a sip of this deliciously sweet nectar from the vine you’ll know it’s also worth every cent.

Black Star Farms A Capella ice wine has taken taken several medals and has been served in presidential dinners hosted at The White House. Ice wines are fantastic when aged, even 20 years or more. For Lee Lutes the ability to age an ice wine makes it that much more valuable. His 2002 vintage, an especially prosperous harvest for local ice wine, is one he’s saving to share with his daughter as they share the same birth year.

Click here to check out this video of the 2007 Ice Wine harvest at Black Star Farms, produced in conjunction with Absolute Michigan.


ice wine grapes in press at Forty-Five NorthAnother local winemaker experimenting with ice wine production is Shawn Walters of Forty-Five North Vineyard & Winery. Their vineyard is very young, and not currently producing enough fruit to offer a true ice wine. They are however creating an Icebox wine. So what’s the difference? An icebox wine, or Vin de Glaciere, is wine made from grapes frozen in an icebox, rather than naturally on the vine. This style eliminates the risk of crop loss, allows for production not dependent on the weather and therefore costs much less. A bottle of Forty-Five North Icebox Pinot Gris sells for $45 for 375ml, as compared to $60-$90 for naturally produced ice wines. There’s much debate as to whether or not the quality of the wine is better one way or another. But most will agree, it’s not Ice Wine unless it’s frozen on the vine.


Not to be left out in the cold, so to speak, winemaker Bryan Ulbrich of Left Foot Charley will produce a very limited supply of ice wine with a 2008 vintage. His Vidal Blanc Icewine, produced from a grape hybridized specifically for ice wine, came from the vineyards at the Gray Hare Inn. It took three days of pressing to produce 22 gallons of juice. He uses a small basket press, operated by hand-crank, "we walked around it like a bunch of mules," he joked. Talk about a labor of love. And if you think this year’s production of 20 cases is small, ask him how much he produced last year! When asked why he doesn’t use Riesling he said they just don’t have enough grapes to risk on ice wine. "Vidal Blanc was made for ice wine," he explained. I guess you can’t argue with that.


celebrating the ice wine harvestThe 2008 harvest looks promising on all accounts. Black Star Farms will release their ’08 A Capella in the spring. Forty-Five North is selling the last of the 2007 Icebox Pinot Gris, and will release a ’08 Icebox Riesling later this winter. The riesling, a bit of an experiment for Walters, is currently fermenting in French oak barrels, like a Chardonnay. He hopes this will impart a subtle vanilla with earthy undertones. Walters also produced a true ice wine for Longview Winery, Sweet Winter Ice, from the Cayuga grape. 


Check out our new Michigan Ice Wine photo gallery for more images from Forty-Five North and Longview Winery’s ice wine harvest.


Photos courtesy of Black Star Farms and Forty-Five North Vineyard & Winery

For more information on the history of Michigan ice wines check out these links:

Detroit News – Record number of Michigan wineries make ice wine in 2002 vintage The Wine Report, January, 2003, by Sandra Silfven 

FindArticles – Michigan ice wine rises when mercury falls Wines & Vines, July, 2006, by Todd Spencer

By |2009-01-06T19:56:47+00:00January 6th, 2009|Attractions, Leelanau, Traverse City, Wineries|0 Comments

Hometown Highlights: Holiday Gift Guide

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!

18 Ways to Enjoy the M-22 Fall Color Tour

 colorful fall maple treeFall Foliage isn’t the only reason to plan a trip to Northern Michigan in autumn.


We’ve put together a list of some of the fun, food and activities to experience along the M-22 scenic highway. Recently named one of the top five greatest driving tours in America by Rand McNally, M-22 has something to offer everyone. But don’t take our word for it. Check it out for yourself. In case you need a little help getting started we’ve complied a list of 18 Ways to Enjoy the M-22 Fall Color Tour. So grab your camera, hop in the car, and hit the highway.


1. Canoe the Platte. Fall is one of the best times to take a canoe or kayak down the Platte River. The calm cool waters reflect mother nature’s painted canvas, but they also reveal a seasonal secret. The salmon run upstream this time of year and the Platte River is the perfect place to witness this natural wonder. The weir is closed this time of year which means you’ll portage around it. But on the other side the water boils with jumping fish. You couldn’t get a better view anywhere else. Riverside Canoes is located on M-22 and open until the second weekend in October for canoe and kayak rental, or fishing tackle if you’re feeling adventurous.


Ed Moody's pumpkin carving2. Check out the giant pumpkins by master carver Ed Moody. On a small city street in Frankfort you’ll find giant pumpkins that miraculously change overnight into fantastic jack-o-lanterns. Only here the miracle is performed by Ed Moody. They do change overnight though since it’s the only time he can work. During the day you’ll find him greeting the guests who come to visit his creations that line the sidewalk in front of his home. To catch a demonstration check out the Fall Festival in Frankfort.


3. Hike Old Indian Trail. Just on the outskirts of the Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore on M-22 between Crystal Lake and the Platte River there’s a wilderness trail known as Old Indian Trail. There are 2 loops available, both about a 2.5 mile hike through evergreens and colorful hardwoods. But if you make it to the end you’ll be rewarded with beautiful views of Lake Michigan, expanses of sandy beaches and dunes. It’s a great trip to take with your four-legged friends.


4. Benzie Fall Festival. There is so much to do at the fall festival we couldn’t list it all here. But you won’t want to miss the pumpkin chucking contest. Here you’ll see trebuchets, similar to a catapult, built by local high school students challenged to see whose construction will go the distance. Once loaded the trebuchets launch giant pumpkins into the air over Betsie Bay in Frankfort. Cheers and bragging rights go to the winning team.


5. Dinner at The Manitou. Nestled among the changing leaves along M-22, The Manitou Restaurant is a great place to stop and enjoy a fall meal. If you hear someone ask about Skinny Dippers they’re not suggesting a cold jump in the lake. They’re actually ordering a crispy appetizer basket of potato skins. All the soups and pies are made-from-scratch so save some room for their famous blueberry raspberry pie a la mode.


Kilcherman's Christmas Cove6. Visit Kilcherman’s Christmas Cove. Do you like apples? Then you’re going to love these apples. Kilcherman’s Christmas Cove grows over 280 varieties of antique apples. Great for eating and baking, some dating back to the time of Christ. This is not your typical orchard. And if that’s not reason enough to make the drive, how about the worlds largest bottle collection? Over 10,000 different glass bottles line the walls of their barn, more than the Guinness World Record!


7. Take in Breathtaking Views. The scenic drive through Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park is an absolute must on any visit to Northern Michigan. The park has over a dozen picture perfect Scenic Overlooks which explain why so many of us come back year after year. No matter the season this drive is worthwhile, but the colors of autumn bring out the beauty of this hardwood forest in shining contrast to the crystal blue waters and miles of sand dunes.


Point Betsie lighthouse8. Explore a 150 year old Lighthouse. Point Betsie Lighthouse celebrates it’s sesquicentennial this year. It’s the second most photographed lighthouse in the nation. And in the fall don’t be surprised to find windsurfers and kiteboarders donning their wetsuits to catch huge air off the crashing waves along the sandy shore. It’s one of the best spots to surf, Yes surf, in Northern Michigan. The lighthouse is open on the weekends through mid October for tours.


9. Visit Fishtown, the historic fishing village in Leland. Wooden shanties line the boardwalk of this century-old fisherman’s haven. Today charter fishing boats bring in fresh caught salmon to be smoked at Carlsons, and the Manitou Transit waits to take visitors on the short journey to the Manitou Islands. From unusual cheeses to locally-made clothing, these rustic shanties hold a vast array of treasures.


10. Tour Art Galleries. For the art lover there are dozens of unique galleries all along the M-22 corridor. Stop in Glen Arbor to discover the distinct style of Sticks painted furniture at the Ruth Conklin Gallery. Becky Thacher’s exquisite jewelry is a must-see along the road to the beach. And on the other side of the peninsula you don’t want to miss Michigan Artist’s Gallery in Sutton’s Bay, where art can be fun, fresh, stylish and affordable. Check out the Fall for Art in Leelanau on Columbus weekend for a county wide art tour.


pinot noir grapes on the vine11. Hop on the Wine Trail. The Leelanau peninsula is home to 16 wineries and counting! Many of them are off-the-beaten-path, but well worth the diversion. Taking a wine tour has become one of the most popular activities for Northern Michigan visitors. From the tiny tasting room of Chateau Fontaine in Lake Leelanau to the large and impressive Black Star Farms in Suttons Bay, the wineries are as diverse and interesting as the wines they produce. 


12. Dine along the water’s edge. When the warm summer’s breeze becomes a brisk autumn wind, find a room with a view and enjoy the scenery from the cozy warmth of the restaurant. Check out The Bluebird in Leland, where tables line the windows along the Leland River. Or visit Knot Just A Bar in Omena where you gaze over Grand Traverse Bay or sneak next door for a sip of wine from Leelanau Cellars tasting room.


Platte River State Fish Hatchery13. One Fish, Two Fish, They Fish or You Fish. All along the Platte and Betsie Rivers you’ll find fishermen casting their lines for salmon and trout as they head up stream. If you like to fish, bring your wadders as the water’s getting colder. For a learning adventure drive over to the Platte River State Fish Hatchery on US31 and 669 just past Honor. This is Michigan’s primary salmon hatchery, where eggs are harvested for coho and Chinook salmon to be raised and restocked in Michigan’s lakes.


14. Take a Haunted Hayride. Looking for a fright this fall, then head over to Empire for their annual haunted hayride, Field of Screams. A fundraiser for the Empire Eagles to support needy families through the holiday season. Take a spooky ride through an eerie wood filed with ghouls. Cider and donuts await those who make the trip. Held the last two weekends before Halloween, on M-72 near 669.


Betsie Valley Trail15. Bike or Hike the Betsie Valley Trail. One of the newest rail-to-trail programs, the Betsie Valley Trail is a 22 mile pathway from Frankfort, through Elberta and Beulah on to Thompsonville. Much of the trail is non-motorized and perfect for bikes and pedestrians. The entire trail is stunning this time of year.


16. Take a Beach Walk. The waters of fall are often too cold for swimming, but the beaches are still a great place to enjoy nature’s gift to Northern Michigan. Follow M-22 from Frankfort to Empire and explore some of the roads that lead to small beaches. Peterson Beach, Otter Creek and North Bar Lake are great places to hike the dunes, comb the shores for fossils and capture the picturesque views of Lake Michigan. Or join the park rangers for an evening beach patrol along Sleeping Bear Point in Glen Haven.


17. Shop ‘Til You Drop. The M-22 scenic drive takes you through a half dozen quaint towns defined by their unique locations and the collection of small businesses that make up these communities. Take time to browse through their stores, sample their homemade edibles and bring home something to remember your journey. Perhaps some M-22 logowear would be appropriate.


fall forest mushroom18. Stop, Look and Listen. The change of seasons brings much to enjoy if we take a moment to do so. Listen for the honk of Canadian geese overhead as they migrate in their tell-tale V-formation. Examine the forest floor and you’ll discover mosses and fungi of all sorts thriving on the moist soil. Bite into a honeycrisp apple and enjoy the syrup-sweet taste of Michigan’s fruitful harvest. Soak it up and savor this season.


Autumn in Northern Michigan has so much to offer. So to all you leaf-peepers, welcome! As you travel along M-22 through Benzie and Leelanau counties don’t hesitate to take a few detours along the way. And don’t forget your cameras!

Michigan Cherries; a Little Fruit with a Lot of Power

tart cherries ripen on the branchCherry Festival is Over, but the Cherry Season Has Just Begun


Local cherries are the gems of the northern Michigan summer. Each year we anxiously await the arrival of the ruby fruit that brings visitors to the area, and keeps many of our businesses running. 



Farm report

While growers expect a smaller harvest of tarts, the sweets are shaping up nicely, weather dependent of course. It was a bit of a rocky spring with concerns over frost and cool weather which made pollination a challenge. The National Agricultural Statistics Service estimates a tart cherry harvest of 135 million pounds in Michigan.

For the sweets, it’s all about Mother Nature, and how much rain she decides to send our way. During the harvest rain is unwelcome since it causes the fruit to crack. Northern Michigan is responsible for 90 percent of the state’s sweet cherry production.


Cherry Fun Facts

  • Michigan grows 75 percent of the US crop of tart cherries, and about 20 percent of sweet cherries
  • There are close to 7000 cherries on the average tart cherry tree, enough for 28 pies
  • The World Record for spitting a cherry pit is now 100 feet 4 inches, held by "young gun" Krauss, son of 10 time record holder "pellet gun" Krause
  • It takes 100 cherries to produce an 8 oz. glass of cherry juice 
  • Ease arthritis pain and inflammation naturally with cherry juice, thanks to the anthocyanins, which give tart cherries their color
  • Michigan cherry wine is made primarily from Montmorency cherries
  • Peninsula Cellars is the only area winery to produce a white cherry wine, made from the Emperor Francis cherry


Leelanau michigan cherry treesPick up a Pound

If you’re looking to pick up some fresh cherries on your visit up north there are plenty of options. A drive along the Old Mission or Leelanau Peninsula will offer several roadside opportunities to buy direct from the grower. And you can’t beat the scenic views along the way.

For those of you who would rather grab and go, The Cherry Stop in downtown Traverse City has everything you could ever need. Fresh cherries are available on site, and they’ll even ship if you’re craving a taste of Michigan from far away. There are also dried cherries which make great snacks, frozen cherries for pies, and all sorts of products made from the healthy fruit we all love.

But some of my favorite childhood memories are from roaming the U-Pick farms. We’d lug around our galvanized buckets and climb the rickety old wooden ladders to carefully select the largest, juiciest, ripest cherries. When the buckets were full, or too heavy to carry, we’d know it was time to go home. It took a long swim in the lake to get rid of the purple stained fingers, but it was worth the memories.

For a list of local U-Pick farms, check out LocalDifference.org


Tips and Tricks

  • Cherries with the stems attached will stay fresh longer
  • To remove cherry stains from fingers and clothing try a little lemon juice, and rinse with water
  • For an inexpensive cherry pit remover try placing a metal pastry tip on your finger and pushing them out. A bobby pin or a bent paper clip can be used to scoop out the pit and only leaves one hole.  


Michigan tart cherries up closeFor more information on cherries check out these local links to related stories:

TV 7&4 

Taste the Local Difference  

Absolute Michigan  

The Cherry Marketing Institute  

By |2008-07-16T20:33:22+00:00July 16th, 2008|Check This Out, Leelanau, Traverse City|0 Comments

Vote for Grand Traverse Lighthouse

 Grand Traverse Lighthouse Could Win New JELD-WEN Windows with Your Vote!

The JELD-WEN Reliable Lighthouse Restoration Initiative will award one winning light with new windows, and it’s up to the communities to decide. The Grand Traverse Lighthouse on the Leelanau peninsula is one of 12 remaining nominees. So we ask everyone to log on and vote now. One vote per person, so spread the word.

Click here to vote for the Grand Traverse Lighthouse. Voting ends on September 7, 2008. For more information on the Grand Traverse Lighthouse and other lights in our area visit our Lighthouse page.

By |2008-06-24T13:22:54+00:00June 24th, 2008|Attractions, Check This Out, Leelanau|0 Comments