We at Michigan By The Bottle, sad to say, couldn't make it to the recent Spring Sip & Savor event on the Leelanau Peninsula, so Kathleen Swinehart, an MBTB fan (and recent winner of our Michigan Wine Minute video contest!), was kind enough to act as our correspondent on the scene. Check out her guest blog post on the fun-filled festivities!
The Spring Sip & Savor is a two-day wine trail event held on Leelanau Peninsula and includes all 18 wineries. I had the opportunity to go the second day of the event. I have been on tours in this area in the past: From February's “Taste the Passion," with its delicious paired wine and desserts, to the November “Toast the Season” Christmas themed tour, they all present something different that makes you want to come back and see what the next one will offer.
With the blossoms out in full bloom, just the beauty of the ride around the peninsula is enjoyment in itself. Add good company, food and sips of extraordinary wines and you have a great time to tell your friends about. I wasn’t able to drop in on all the wineries, but I know I will make it to the ones missed on another tour or just a stroll on a summer day. For added fun, the Sip & Savor event had a contest going on for participants dressed in pajamas and also fancy hats. I was pleasantly surprised to see many people dressed the part. It was great! Anyone taking the tour received a monogrammed glass mug and a $10 coupon good at any winery that weekend toward their purchase. At the end of our tour, you were asked to vote on the best outfit by writing the participant’s number on your ticket and handing it in on your last winery stop.
My trip began at Gill’s Pier Winery, where gracious staff member Jill anxiously greeted us in the nostalgic side room with a wonderful sample of quiche paired with a glass of their fabulous White Water wine. As always, the ever-changing decor at Gill’s Pier was picture perfect. While we tasted other wines, a small group came in dressed in fancy hats to pay tribute to the Kentucky Derby, and of course, their P.J.’s. “Click” — my camera was already snapping pictures.
We then made our way to Circa Estate Winery, which is new to the tour. The Old World-style tasting room gave us a feeling of being in another country. We sampled a wonderful Pinot Grigio and took more costume pictures, of course. I took a picture of an interesting hat on a woman, and she proceeded to tell me a delightful story of the origin of the hat and its travel all the way from Greece.
Just around the bend was 45 North Winery & Vineyard. Waiting for us inside was a taste of their recently bottled 09 Pinot Gris. It went well with the scrumptious smoked Fishtown sushi Rolls.
The new tasting room is so unique. Before leaving, I had to try the Peach Apricot Mead. If you like to experience different flavors all contained in one wine, this is a good choice. Sipping the Peach Apricot wine, you distinctly taste the peach first, the apricot next, then finishing with the sweetness of smooth honey. Oh yes, and for your taking: the recipe for the Fishtown Rolls to add to your recipe box. I love it when wineries display the recipes for their great food pairings.
Next stop was the Black Star Farms. A wonderful Chardonnay was paired with a goat cheese garlic pastry and another recipe card. Before leaving, I had to try Black Star's pear wine (not to be confused with the pear dessert wine). It had such a wonderful aroma that caught my sense of smell as I lifted the glass, like a bowl of freshly picked pears setting in front of me.
Willow Vineyard was next on our list. They had a fantastic endive, orzo and asparagus salad that went so well with their Pinot Noir. Recipe cards for the salad were there for the taking. It was my first time in their tasting room. The music playing was fantastic. Even the owner was singing along. During winter tours, we are out back in the barrel room for tastings, which has its own unique touch. The view from Willow is fantastic, overlooking Grand Traverse Bay. I recommend you bring your camera.
Ciccone Vineyard & Winery had the whole staff dressed for fun in their P.J.’s. They definitely were having a good time. The visit was started with a 2008 Rose De Cabernet paired with the most delicious polenta round with marinara sauce, and to my delight, another recipe card. The staff was so cordial.
Ending my Sip & Savor tour was a stop at the ever so quaint Shady Lane Cellars. Served with a quiche appetizer was Shady Lane's 2006 Chardonnay. The aroma of almonds took my senses over. It was splendid. With the trip drawing to a close and the staff at Shady Lane feeling the effect of their busy two-day event, the remaining eight of us standing at the bar enjoyed great conversation. We all made sure we wrote the number of the participant who we thought had the best pajama or hat attire on the back of our ticket and turned them in.
To anyone thinking of taking a wine tour or just a weekday or weekend stroll through Northern Michigan wineries and vineyards, I guarantee you will be delighted, taking home memories of your picturesque trip. See you around in our stupendous state of Michigan.