18 June 2013

May 2013 MICHIGAN Traverse City 3 - Back to the Wine Trail

Next stop was Good Harbor Vineyards - Their taste was Buffalo Chicken Soup (not for me) and don't remember the wine. At this point they are all blending together and there is no photo of their winery on the website to help me remember. They do have some of the nicest label artwork though.  www.goodharbor.com

Gills Pier Vineyard - Last wine stop of the day was here. Nice and helpful folks (see photo of cutie).  Classy atmosphere in side. Peaceful pond out back, if you preferred to sip al fresco. Picked up a nice $35 bottle of 2010 Cab Franc/Merlot, which had won numerous awards.

Even though it was only 3:30pm, we were all hungry for a meal. But heading to the small town of Suttons Bay, Bob made a sudden U-turn. We followed. Unbeknownst to us there was small distillery en route and Bob had spotted it.

Northern Latitudes makes multitudes of liquors, including Manitou Passage rum, Mackinac Island fudge liqueur, Ice Dunes vodka, Horseradish infused vodka (Mike had to have that), Jack Pine Gin, Deer Camp whiskey, and Limoncello di Leelanlau. We sipped and shopped. They also have a beautiful copper distillery similar to the one in Traverse City and lots of cocktail related gear to buy.

If you don't know, limoncello is a lemon-based liquor which originated on Sorrento, Italy. It is one of our fave summer sippers. While we were there, three ladies were paring the skins of lemons for the next batch (while drinking their own favorite cocktails). They said it takes about four cases of lemons to make a batch. They were having the best time and I just wanted to join in.

Alas, we had to be on our way. Stopped at North Country Grill (recommended at Northern Latitudes by the ladies). It was quite classy for an Up North eatery and man, oh, man, did they have a terrific menu. I think three out of the six of us ordered double lobster tails, baked potatoes, and salad.

This was the best lobster I've eaten since we had an Easter Lobster dinner in Cape Cod, Mass. about 30 years ago. I've always remembered

that meal (it was our first meal in life that cost over $100 for the two of us) and our best lobster meal ever. But from now on I'll be thinking of North Country, not Cape Cod. And I don't think we paid $100 this 30 years later. A great birthday meal for brother Bob and his wife Lorraine. I think Bob finally got a freebie dessert here.

After a very leisurely meal, we mosied down the road back to Traverse City, just a few miles. Mike and I decided to take a stroll around downtown to walk off some of the calories.

To top the evening off, we ran into a medical "resource" center. They had a nice variety of products including medibles, like infused lemonade and hummus, of all things.

The next day we all had breakie again together and then went our separate ways. The trip home was uneventful. Always glad to get home. Bella met us at the door. Best part of this day.

May 2013 MICHIGAN Traverse City 2 - Birthday Bob (Morning)

My brother is a ham to say the least. And on this day of celebration, he was in rare form. We started at 9:30am for breakfast at Minerva's, the hotel eatery. We all got a good load on as this was going to be an extended day of wine tasting. We needed a solid start. Bob asked, "Was there a birthday discount?" No was the answer and apparently no free dessert with breakfast. He persisted in his quest for freebies of various sorts throughout the day. I don't how successful he was.

Then we started our journey around the Leelanau Peninsula to the northwest of Traverse City. Not much happening on the vines right now, but I was still blown away with the sheer number of vines set to sprout as soon as the weather gets a bit warmer.

On another note, we have it on good authority that Mario Batali, one of our fave TV chefs, has a summer home in the area, so I was watching for his name on a mailbox along the way. With no success, I might add, but it kept us on the look-out and alert.

The event was the Leelanau Peninsula Vine Association Sip and Savor. You got a free wine glass at the first stop. Then you got a sip of wine and an hors d'oeuvre at each winery stop. There were 22 wineries in all and we made it to eight. 

First stop, Chateau deLeelanau - Their sip was a wine cocktail, something with peach. What a way to start the drinking day and very good for a breakfast wine sip. They had a huge chair on their porch and, of course, all in our group had to try it out. This winery has one of my birthday brother's fave wines (a cab/franc).  www.chateaudeleelanau.com

Black Star Farms - This is a lovely plantation-like B&B, with a tasting room located in one of their out-buildings. There is also a cheese room with fresh-made cheeses, and a riding stable. Although the setting is quite spectacular, it is not one of my fave wine brands. It is pretty popular with most though.  www.blackstarfarms.com

Boathouse Vineyards - It is a little red ranch-style tasting room with a back terrace that meanders down to Lake Leelanau. There are Adirondack chairs scattered around, so you can sample at your leisure while taking in the beauty of the pastoral scene. One person was peacefully fishing off the dock with wine glass in hand. Others were dabbling their feet in the lake. The sip was a 2011 Dry Riesling paired with quiche from Sissons in Leland. They were one of two with a veggie option. It was delish. Could have stayed there a bit longer, but our "battalion" was storming onward.   www.boathousevineyards.com

Bluestone Vineyards - This one is a little fuzzy. If I remember correctly, this winery sets on a hill overlooking the grape vines all in a row. Probably the best vine view of all our stops. And, if I remember, they had a pasta for their bite. One of my faves in life.  www.bluestonevineyard.com

Good Neighbor Organic Winery - It is down a fairly long bumpy dirt road with 2x4's across the road for speed bumps. They specialize in fruity organic hard ciders. On our last visit we bought some really great chocolate-cherry hard cider, but they were out of it today. Boohoo!  And the last time we were here a nearby hill was covered with blooming lavender, which was being harvested. The air was filled with its sweet/savory aroma. This enticed us to buy a few lavender products, as well as a bunch to freshen the car. But not today. Wrong time of the year.   www.goodneighbororganic.com

45 North - I think this was my fave today (fave always changing). It is called 45 North because it on the 45th parallel and if you go 4,500 miles east you will find yourself in Bordeaux, France, another prominent wine region. Here was a modern log cabin style tasting room, with a nice fireplace. Over the fireplace hangs a rhinestone studded long horn bull's skull. In another corner is an over-sized horse statue (not real) standing like a man wearing a cowboy outfit. Sounds too kitschy, but it worked. Best sign of the day was here suggesting "Eat chocolate, drink wine, sleep naked."  www.fortyfivenorth.com

After this winery we took a break and ran up to the tip of the peninsula where Grand Traverse Bay meets Lake Michigan. There stands the historic Grand Traverse Lighthouse, erected in 1858. It is not in use, but beautifully restored.

In the lovely little gift shop are lots of lighthouse and shipwreck books, and a model of the lighthouse and an ore carrier made from Legos. The property also has a rock stairway and rock fence that surrounds an herb garden.

The beach here is mostly made up of these same rocks with a little sand mixed in. Some visitors had also used the rocks and smaller stones to build their own odd-shaped works of art. We discovered some pretty amazing rock sculpture balancing acts.

Here is Birthday Bob photographing a nice one. And a pix of Bob & Lo, the birthday kids for the weekend.