Seeing as we're stranded in southeastern Michigan, MBTB fan Kathleen Swinehart volunteered to be our correspondent at the 2010 Leland Wine & Food Festival June 12 and kindly contributed a guest post detailing her experiences.
The 2010 Leland Wine & Food Festival, held near Fishtown on the Leelanau Peninsula, marked the annual event’s 25th anniversary. It was my first time attending and surely won’t be my last.
After reading online that thousands of people make their way north to participate, we decided to leave early for the event, which ran 12 to 6 p.m. Being this was our first time, we weren’t sure what to expect.
Upon arriving at Leland, we made our way down to Fishtown. To our surprise, we walked up on hundreds of people waiting for the same thing we were. Families and friends filled the streets. The local shops were buzzing. You could smell smoked fish coming from Carlson’s of Fishtown smokehouse.
Arriving early gave us a little waiting time before entering the festival. With the lake to the north, shops all around, friendly people to talk with and the aroma of grills loaded with food, it seemed to make time pass quickly.
The admission cost included a glass and tasting tickets; for those not wishing to taste, the cost varied. We picked up our souvenir glass and tickets and away we went. This year’s event had two giant tents of food and wine vendors, nestled near the harbor park. A hill to one side of the tents allowed people to sit their lawn chairs and blankets near the band, creating an outdoor concert effect. Of course, being our first time, we didn’t know what we would encounter, so chairs weren’t part of our traveling needs, but they sure will be next time.
It was hard not to immediately go see what was cooking. Choosing from the mouth-watering ribs, brats, fish, shish kabobs, cheeses and desserts was not an easy task. I wanted to taste them all. It was pleasant to see the local Michigan food establishments I have heard of or have been to before. While walking around and taking in the wonderful aromas, trying to decide where to begin, we passed by The Redheads with their scrumptious brownies, Stone House Bread and Drive Thru Bar-B-Que, just to name a few.
We strolled behind the food vendors and watched the cooking process firsthand. The chefs were so interesting and struck up conversations with us, which made us feel right at home. It was great.
So now with food in hand, it was time to decide on some great wine pairings to go with our treats. I was delighted to see wineries from both peninsulas. I came across a booth representing Raftshol Vineyard, located near Suttons Bay. I had only heard of this vineyard and have yet to visit. This was a plus and it was great speaking with ladies. Of course, I had to make my way to Gill’s Pier to see what décor Jill had created and to get a sip of their impressive Whitewater wine.
So many Michigan wineries were present — Black Star Farms, Bowers Harbor, Chateau Chantal, just to name a few. I had tried a majestic Riesling from Good Harbor Vineyards that required a second sip trip.
For those wanting something other then wine, Shorts Brewery was on hand to quench those thirsts. They had three different types of their beer to choose from. Their booth was decorated with unique tappers of a pair of shorts with legs.
The staff on hand serving at all the booths was so cordial. I felt I could ask anything and they were so happy to fill us with knowledge. The music was fantastic. Even children were out dancing to the jazzy beat. With it being an overcast day, I felt it made it a little more comfortable, taking the heat down a notch.
I took so many wonderful pictures to entice my family and friends to come next year with us. Once my camera went off accidentally at my side and I got a picture of the sandals people were wearing. Well, that started something. As I looked around, I saw so many kinds of footwear. I started snapping more pictures. It reminded me of the diversity of people present in one place enjoying good food, wine, entertainment and — most of all — each other’s gracious company.
The pours were generous, the food was plentiful and the atmosphere was so down to earth. I was overwhelmed by the friendly people. One couple offered up their lawn chairs to us for a bit, while they went back down to the tents for more sips and savors.
Mark your calendar next year for this fine June event. Bring the whole family. Oh, and appetites too. It is a wonderful event, in a memorable place you won’t forget.
Have you attended a Michigan wine event or had a great experience at a Michigan winery? Interested in writing a guest post? E-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org.