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).
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.
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.
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.