/Tag: Old Mission

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

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