Northern Exposure

This past weekend, I headed up to the cabin with a few girlfriends. The idea was to relax and indulge in a little food and wine therapy. We took advantage of the cabin’s close proximity to Traverse City yet again for a little wineaux/foodie fun. Unlike the last time a group of us randomly ended up in TC, however, this was planned – and we went at it as a serious buying expedition.

Although Melissa and I had been to most of the Old Mission wineries, Diane and Riki hadn’t. This was a great excuse to do a whole day of tasting (not that we really needed an excuse). After fueling up on bagels and coffee (we might have over-indulged a bit on wine we had brought up the night before) we headed down 72 toward the city.

We decided we needed a little more grease and carbohydrate sustenance before we got into our wine-tasting groove, so we stopped at the Bad Dog Deli. The Bad Dog and the attached Peninsula Grill practically have a lock on the wine tasting traffic, being conveniently located on Center Road, but that doesn’t mean they slack on quality. They make delicious sandwiches from Boar’s Head meats and cheeses and a variety of accompaniments. The method is simple: you are given a slip of paper that lists the breads, meats, veggies, and condiments. You circle what you want. You circle “hot” or “cold.” They make it for you. Fairly fool-proof. (They also sell Better Made potato chips, including the new-ish kettle cooked variety – bonus!)

We decided to start with the farthest out and work our way back down the peninsula, so we began at 2 Lads. Because the weather was so fantastic – about 40 degrees but extremely sunny – we were able to fully appreciate the view from 2 Lads’ perch on a hilltop. (We feared that the beautiful weather would mean big crowds, but we were pleasantly surprised. Everywhere we went had plenty of visitors but we never hit a real crowd.) 2 Lads was tasting the Sparkling Pinot Grigio, a stony, citrus-y crowd pleaser. It was the perfect start to our adventure.

2Lads hilltop

We left 2 Lads loaded down with bottles (mostly the sparkler and Pinot Noir, though there were some Cab Francs and some Chards thrown in for good measure) and continued down to Bowers Harbor. Bowers Harbor is probably the friendliest winery on the Old Mission. Their staff is always so warm and informative, volunteering lots of info about the wine and answering questions. They also manage to come off as informal and welcoming, which I think really puts a lot of people at ease. The icing on the cake is a Bernese Mountain Dog running around the property, sometimes dragging along a lengthy piece of grapevine. Favorite wines here included the slightly spicy Cabernet Franc Rosé and their signature red blend, the 2896 Langley, a blend of Merlot and Cab Franc with a splash of Cab Sauv.

Wall of Wine (from the Bowers Harbor Facebook page)

We stopped at Chateau Chantal mostly for the view.

The Rikster contemplates the lake.

Chateau Grand Traverse proved to be a fruitful stop. I don’t usually buy a lot of wine when we visit the CGT tasting room because so many of their wines that I enjoy (mainly the dry Riesling and the Gamay Noir) can be found at stores in Ann Arbor. I did, however, taste and purchase several bottles of the Silhouette blend, a mix of Pinot Noir, Gamay Noir, Cabernet Franc, Pinot Meunier, and Merlot. It was a soft red but still had some spice and some bite. My thinking is this will be good to serve to people who don’t drink a lot of “big” reds, but it has enough character to not be brushed off by dedicated red drinkers. Good table wine, essentially.

Melissa and I tasting at CGT

I also purchased – without tasting, because they don’t taste it! – several bottles of the Gruener Veltliner Laika, an Austrian varietal that I am completely unfamiliar with. Melissa had tried it before and believed that I would enjoy it. The description certainly sounded like something I’d go for (“white pepper, celery seed and orange peel wrapped around a lemony apple core”) so I figured, why not?

We wound down at Black Star Farms. I had never been to their Old Mission tasting room before, so it was a sort-of new experience. We tasted a variety here, including several fruit-based dessert wines. In the end, I left with a couple of bottles of the 2009 Arcturos Riesling. This Riesling isn’t quite as dry as I’d normally go for, but the little hint of sweetness was subtle, and I think that Noe and several friends who prefer slightly sweeter wines will enjoy it. (Side note: we were a little sad that the Old Mission tasting room does not carry the Black Star Farms cheeses.)

Tasting at Black Star

When all was said and done, we managed to pack Melissa’s car to the gills with wine:

How will we get our luggage home?!

It was a great day for tasting. I don’t think I’ll ever get sick of wine tasting, even though I’ve been to many of these tasting rooms multiple times. It’s so different from just buying a bottle of wine at a grocery store. Our day was freakishly ideal with great weather and not a lot of people, but even with slightly less fabulous conditions, tasting on either peninsula is a treat.

Tune in tomorrow for the food portion of our Traverse City excursion!


4 thoughts on “Northern Exposure

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