On the Michigan wine trail with Leelanau Peninsula Vintners Association

I love my kids and all but I’m not going to lie and say that I was not looking forward to visiting Traverse City without them. We had gone to Traverse City as a family last September and had a blast, not letting the presence of our kids stop us from wine-tasting and beer-sipping. No matter how many times I told myself, “I don’t care what other people think,” (about my dragging the kids into wineries and breweries), I knew I’d have a more enjoyable time on my next visit without the kids and the accompanying guilt.

When planning my most recent visit to Traverse City, I did not include the kids (and my husband, for that matter). Mama was in need of some relaxing and wine-sipping. It’s like Bacchus was looking out for me; my visit coincided with Spring Sip & Savor, a food and wine pairing event put on by Leelanau Peninsula Vintners Association. My friend Raul of ilivetotravel was in Traverse City, also, so the two of us pulled out the Leelanau Peninsula Wine Trail map and plotted our adventure.

There are twenty-five wineries that make up the wine trail and they are grouped into three loops: Sleeping Bear Loop, the Northern Loop, and the Grand Traverse Bay Loop. In a perfect world, one in which neither of us had to drive to get to all the wineries and one where we could drink all the wine we want and manage to stay upright, Raul and I would have made a stop at all 25. However, I did need to be able to operate my vehicle to get us around, so we were conservative in our planning. (Next time, though, I swear: I’m renting a party bus!) We didn’t stick to any one route, but picked out the wineries that looked most interesting to us. Francesca and Raul’s Excellent Wine Trail Adventure went like this:

Ciccone Vineyard & Winery  This was our starting point and where we obtained our event passes and custom wine glasses, and received instruction on how the whole event works: at each stop, Sip & Savor participants are offered a sample of the winery’s wine of choice, paired with a hand-picked food item. The event pass also included a number of samples at each stop (the number differed by winery). At Ciccone, we were given a generous taste of their Cabernet Franc, which was paired with Joan’s Chili, made by owner Joan Ciccone. It was a cold, gray, rainy day so the thick, hearty chili was welcomed and it paired nicely with the smooth Cabernet Franc. Out in the tasting room, we chatted with employee Mary Arroyo who gave us a thorough overview of the vineyard and the wines while pouring our samples. We were allowed five more tastes and I chose (listed in order of my preference, starting with most favorite): Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Lee La Tage (exclusive blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Malbec), and Tres Donna (produced exclusively in 2012; blend of Moscato, Pinot Blanc, and Riesling).

Ciccone Tasting Room | Credit

Ciccone Tasting Room | Credit

Blustone Vineyards  This was our second stop and, I’m just going to go ahead and put this out there now, my favorite winery of the day. I knew from the minute we pulled up and I saw the simple, modern design of the tasting room, that I was going to like Blustone. Decor is minimal inside the tasting room. The floor-to-ceiling windows that offer views of the Leelanau Peninsula landscape and allow the natural light to flow in, make man-made design unnecessary. The food and wine pairing at Bluestone was pinot grigio and Cuban pork and rice from Georgina’s, a Latin/Asian restaurant in downtown Traverse City (that I am definitely going to next time I’m in town!). The pork was ridiculously delicious; the pinot grigio, some of the best I’ve ever had. I left Blustone with two bottles of my own.

Blustone Tasting Room

Blustone Tasting Room

Forty-Five North Vineyard & Winery  This winery is situated squarely on the forty-fifth parallel; hence, the name. It’s also where the party was at during Sip & Savor! We could tell as soon as we pulled up and saw that the parking lot was packed. We were lucky to even get through the front door! Yet, despite the crowds, Raul and I managed to get our hands on the paired food and wine items AND secure a spot at the bar for more wine-tasting. Along with the pinot gris, which I enjoyed completely, I also tried the chenin blanc, peach crémant, and Chapple (“lightly carbonated cider consisting of 70% organic antique apple juice and 30% Montmorency cherry juice”). What I enjoyed most at Forty-Five North was the atmosphere. The tasting room looks like the inside of a northwoods cabin: relaxed and casual. The vibe was incredible and contagious. If I didn’t have to drive, and if Raul wasn’t already feeling the effects of all the wine, we probably would have stayed at Forty-Five North well into the evening.

45 North Tasting Room

At the time, it seemed like a total bummer that I couldn’t drink ALL the wine because I had to drive. But looking back, having the car allowed me to give Raul his own guided tour of Leelanau Peninsula. This trip to Traverse City was Raul’s first – and his first-ever visit to the state of Michigan! So, between and after our winery visits, I took Raul to some of my favorite spots in the area, like historic Fishtown and Brys Estate Vineyard & Winery and Jolly Pumpkin on Old Mission Peninsula. I know I’ll be back in Traverse City before the year is over and, as I said before, I’m definitely getting a party bus – or another designated driver – to take me to the remaining wineries on the Leelanau Peninsula Wine Trail.

Be sure to check the Leelanau Peninsula Wine Trail website for upcoming events!

I was a guest of Traverse City Tourism and my Sip & Savor pass was complimentary. That being said, all words and opinions, as always, are my own.

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19 Responses to On the Michigan wine trail with Leelanau Peninsula Vintners Association

  1. Mindi July 4, 2014 at 9:37 am #

    It’s good to know about these Michigan wineries as well as the Leelanau Peninsula . We’re always looking for new places to taste wine.
    Mindi recently posted…Au Cheval in Chicago – Diner or Gastrobpub?My Profile

  2. Jenny @ A Thing For Wor(l)ds July 4, 2014 at 11:40 am #

    Party bus=must. The only way to do wine country. (Although they should just provide them free of charge, can we all agree?) I like the rustic look of the first tasting room the best (I don’t know–your favorite one, the modern one, looks a little museum-lobby-esque to me!) but I would kill to try the Pinot Grigio and pork and rice pairing at Blustone.
    Jenny @ A Thing For Wor(l)ds recently posted…Kaixo! An Introduction to BasqueMy Profile

  3. Brad Bernard July 4, 2014 at 9:43 pm #

    Great post. I worked in Michigan for a few years and all the Michiganders were enamored with the Traverse City wine trail. Such a lovely place in the summer.
    Brad Bernard recently posted…The 50 Best July Travel ExperiencesMy Profile

  4. Paula July 5, 2014 at 10:47 am #

    Traverse City sounds delicious! Thanks so much for all of the useful information.

  5. Erin - The World Wanderer July 5, 2014 at 5:33 pm #

    Definitely bookmarking this bad boy! Would love to experience Traverse City with you one day! Also, I miss you xx
    Erin – The World Wanderer recently posted…What Rights Do Travelers Have?My Profile

  6. Nick (Nick's Travel Bug) July 7, 2014 at 11:56 am #

    I love the Traverse City wine trail. I was up there for their Toast to the Season event a couple years ago and went to 16 wineries over 2 days! So much good wine up there.

  7. Cathy Sweeney July 7, 2014 at 11:54 pm #

    One of my fave things to do anywhere — wine tasting! I visited a winery in Wisconsin recently that got its grapes from Traverse City area — I guess that’s where the great ones grow in the Midwest. Were any of the wines you tried comparable to the cabs from California, for instance? Or are they lighter & fruitier? That’s what I found with the wines in Wisconsin. They were very good, just kind of sweet.
    Cathy Sweeney recently posted…One for the Road: My 5 Day Nova Scotia Road TripMy Profile

  8. Aggy July 7, 2014 at 11:54 pm #

    Oh you lucky lucky girl! I would definitely get that designated driver next time around 😉
    Looks like you and Raul had a blast and I really REALLY want a glass of wine right now!
    Aggy recently posted…Penang For the Street Art LoverMy Profile

  9. Karl July 8, 2014 at 9:29 pm #

    They’re a ton of vineyards out on LI! If you ever come to CT and need a boat ride or place to stay…….. 🙂
    Karl recently posted…Gear Review – Day Trek With The Osprey CometMy Profile

  10. Lance | Trips By Lance July 9, 2014 at 9:58 am #

    I’m looking forward to finally visiting Traverse City in September. I’ve saved this for when I start planning out our wineries to visit. I’ll be hitting you up for all your best beer drinking recommendations, too.
    Lance | Trips By Lance recently posted…Discovering Puerto Vallarta’s Foodie SceneMy Profile

  11. craig zabransky (@StayAdventurous) July 10, 2014 at 11:53 am #

    I am becoming truly amazed how wine (and potentially) good wine is from all over the States… I just tasted a very decent wine from the Harrisburg area of PA… #staysurprised. Well, I never thought I’d put Michigan and wine in the same sentence either until reading this post… … but now I shall do just that (see this sentence ;-).

    stay wanting to be on the party bus with you, Craig
    craig zabransky (@StayAdventurous) recently posted…Sunset Sunday-A Civil (War) Sunset from Gettysburg, PAMy Profile

  12. Traveling Ted July 10, 2014 at 7:29 pm #

    Great that you got to enjoy this trip with Mr. Ilivetotravel. Traverse City sounds appealing. I will have to relax there next time I go to Sleeping Bear Dunes.
    Traveling Ted recently posted…Balmorhea State Park cement pond swimming poolMy Profile

  13. Pola (Jetting Around) July 17, 2014 at 12:04 am #

    TWENTY FIVE wineries?! Good thing I’m going to Traverse City later this summer. Bookmarked!

  14. Aaron July 17, 2014 at 9:02 am #

    This fellow MIchigander needs to roam back that way again soon. Such a beautiful area. I’d say a party bus in Autumn. The colors up there and lots of wine, what a beautiful combo that would be. 🙂
    Aaron recently posted…Florida: The Sunsets of St. Pete Beach.My Profile

  15. Kathy June 16, 2015 at 12:36 pm #

    We’re going to be visiting the area in a few weeks, with kids, and I know they won’t be up for a lot of winery visits. If you had to pick one or two that are somewhat kid friendly, which would you choose?

    • Francesca June 16, 2015 at 9:25 pm #

      Hi Kathy,
      Thanks for stopping by! If I had to choose one or two to visit with kids, I’d go for 45 North and Blustone.
      45 North has a really laid-back vibe, not pretentious at all. I’ve seen a lot of families in there. Blustone has plenty of open spaces, inside and outside the tasting room. There isn’t much for the kids to break or knock over and they could probably run around and let off some steam outside around the building. Plus, the pinot grigio is incredible. I hope this helps!

      • Kathy June 17, 2015 at 6:12 am #

        Thanks for the tips, Francesca! The last thing we want is a bull in the china shop episode or to be “those” people who brought their kids. lol

        • Francesca June 17, 2015 at 2:55 pm #

          You are welcome! I’d love to hear about your experience so come back and let me know 🙂 And I totally know what you mean about the bull-in-the-china-shop scenario!

  16. Tamara @ We3Travel February 3, 2016 at 7:18 pm #

    I’ll come with you next time!
    Tamara @ We3Travel recently posted…Fun Things to do in Vancouver for Kids…in the Rain!My Profile

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