Wines and ciders and beers, oh my!
Well, summer is slowly packing its bags and making room for the crisp onset of fall. Normally, I would have celebrated this unofficial end to the sunny season with a couple of my good judys but Covid-19 has put a lot of those celebrations on hold. So this year, instead of toasting the town on Labor Day, my partner and I headed up to northern Michigan wine country.
Now, I’m not going to lie. I’ve never been to the wolverine state before. So, I wasn’t really sure what to expect. The only thing I really knew about Michigan was that michiganders can map out the whole state on their hands. Something that caused a bit of confusion the first time I saw it done but that’s a story for another day.
We decided to spend the week in the cherry capital of the world, Traverse City. Nestled in the Grand Traverse Bay just about a mile south of the 45th parallel, Traverse City hosts a charming downtown district with a healthy number of unique boutiques and a diverse selection of restaurants and breweries.
The weather was gloomy for the majority of our time in Michigan wine country but we did manage to get one day of warm sunshine and we took advantage. On the Old Mission Peninsula, just outside of the city, there lives a hub of beautiful-midwestern vineyards. In fact, there were so many, we made an entire day just out of tastings. Each vineyard had modified their operations to keep us safe and socially distanced. So, we got to sip under the sun and take in the scenic views from both sides of the peninsula.
We ended up visiting 5 vineyards and 2 tap houses in total in Michigan wine country. Below I have featured my favorite spots as well as the bottles we picked up from each.
Bowers Harbor Vineyards
This was our first stop and Bowers Harbor set the pace for the rest of the day. The vineyard was established in 1991 and was originally used as a horse farm. When we arrived, we were seated outside with a view that looked over the west side of the peninsula and onto the water. There was a fire pit and seating along the vines that made you want to sit and stay awhile as well as a trail for exploring the property. We had a couple of options for tasting that allowed us to create our own experience. We could select from different flights (professionally paired) or taste by the glass.
I did the flagship flight because momma likes her juice. This came with four signature wines. Bowers Harbor’s 2019 unwooded chardonnay, their 2019 pinot grigio, the 2018 Otis, the 2018 Bowers Harbor Red and the 2018 Claret – Wind Whistle.
I enjoyed all of the wines which is surprising because I’m not big on whites; however, the reds in which the flight ended on were right up my alley and definitely my favorites. The Bowers Harbor Red is smooth and easy to drink while the Claret keeps me longing for a cozy night by the fire pit.
We walked away with a bottle of the 2018 Bowers Harbor Red but unfortunately the Claret – Wind Whistle was out of stock. Below is a link and full description of the Bowers Harbor Red in case this has you itching for a taste as well.
The Bowers Harbor Red is a medium-bodied red that boasts flavors of dark berry, black cherry and hints of black pepper. A range of cuisine pairs perfectly with this wine.
Brys Estate Vineyard & Winery
Brys was our midday stop and had a familiar Napa Valley vibe. This estate sits high on the Old Mission Peninsula in Michigan wine country offering unobstructed views for guests to take in. Our reservation was on the upper deck, which overlooks the eastern portion of the peninsula and offers convenient table service. At Brys, we had an extensive drink menu which let us completely customize our tasting tower. Each tower came with five 1.5 oz wine samples and we complimented that with their cheese & charcuterie board.
Our tower had the 2018 signature rosé, their 2017 cab/merlot, their 2017 merlot, the 2019 Brys bubbly and their 2018 cabernet franc. The sun had really started to heat up as we were finishing here. So, we topped off our tasting with a frozen rosé as well.
At Brys, it was the Merlot that kept us wanting more. So, we grabbed ourselves a bottle, snapped a couple of pics and prepared for the next spot. Below is a link and full description of the tasty 2017 merlot we brought home.
This Merlot is a complex wine with notes of dark berry, plum and oak which pairs well with wild game, lamb and beef.
Left Foot Charley
Our final stop of the day actually happened by accident. We were wrapping up our tasting tour and driving around when we stumbled onto Left Foot Charley. This Michigan style heuriger had a unique setup in comparison to the vineyards we visited previously in the day. LFC works with 18 local growers who grow exclusively for their wine and hard cider. So, there weren’t any jaw dropping views here but that was quickly countered by their exceptional products.
Of course, we both did another tasting by way of flight. This time mixing in both cider and wine. My flight included their 2018 Blaufränkisch, Henry’s Pippin Hard Cider, the Ginger Lee and the Cinnamon Girl.
Believe me when I say, the Cinnamon Girl is the best hard cider I’ve had the pleasure of trying. I had tried ordering a glass of this cider the night before but the restaurant was out. So, I was ecstatic when I I finally got my mouth on it. When it was all said and done we ended up with four bottles!
Cinnamon Girl is a bright semisweet cider made from select Michigan apples and Vietnamese cinnamon. You can actually drink this chilled or warmed for a chilly day.