After the success of our last Cabin Weekend, the Cabin Girls (Diane, Riki, Melissa and myself) decided that we needed to make the pilgrimage seasonal rather than just annual. Last weekend we headed up for our summer buying trip, hoping that by going the last weekend in June we could beat the fourth of July/Cherry Festival crowds but still take advantage of good weather and summer offerings at the wineries and at our favorite restaurant, the Cook’s House.
This time, we were much more organized. We headed up with specific assignments for food to bring, meals planned, and a Traverse City plan of attack already mapped out. We knew exactly what time we were going to get to Grayling, had mapped out a stop at Glen’s, made a list, and programmed the Spicy Bob’s number into our phones and decided ahead of time what we would order. We were on a mission.
Then we started talking about Coach bags in the car and had to take a detour to the outlet mall in West Branch, which in addition to a Coach Outlet also boasted new Ann Taylor and Ann Taylor Loft stores. After spending a portion of our wine money on things like purses and dresses, we were back on the road, slightly off-plan but happy with our purchases. (We veered from the plan once again to add something called “cheese-stuffed silly sticks” to our Spicy Bob’s order, also proving to be a good choice.)
The next morning, fueled up on bagels, scallion cream cheese (thanks, Rikster!) and coffee, we headed up to TC. Last time we focused exclusively on the Old Mission, so this time we began on the larger peninsula, the Leelanau, heading first to one of my personal favorites, L. Mawby.
L. Mawby focuses exclusively on sparkling wines. Some are made with the more labor-intensive “methode champenoise” under the L. Mawby label and some under the less-expensive but equally tasty “cuve close” M. Lawrence label. The complimentary tasting always begins with the M. Lawrence Sandpiper, a very middle-of-the-road, reasonably-priced dry-ish wine available only on the premises or via the winery website. (The first time we had Sandpiper, Noe and I decided that it was such a crowd-pleaser we actually ordered cases of it for the “Champagne” toast at our wedding – which reminds me…I should probably finish my wedding posts!)
From the Sandpiper, you can choose to go drier or sweeter for your second taste. Paid tastings – accompanied by small plates of crackers with either herbed chevre or whitefish pate (both delicious) are available for purchase, so we ordered a variety of those and effectively tasted every wine available in the tasting room. We left loaded down with boxes and fortified for our next stop.
Stop number two was Willow Vineyard. Willow is small and tucked away, but has one of the most fantastic views on the peninsula. We beat most of the crowds to Willow, so the extremely pleasant tasting room staff offered to let us do our tasting on their patio. We sat in the sun next to an outcropping of rocks, gazing at the bay and sipping wine…why, yes, it was as idyllic as it sounds!
We enjoyed all four wines – Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, rose, and Pinot Noir – with the Baci Rose, a light-colored strawberry-tasting wine made from Pinot Noir grapes being a real standout. We also enjoyed the company of Frankie, the winery cat, who navigated the rocks as I imagine a small grey mountain lion would.
Next we headed over to Black Star Farms, mostly for lunch and cheese (mmmm, Raclette!) but since we had glasses from our last visit, also did a free tasting. Nothing really grabbed our attention wine-wise, but our lunch in the cafe was FANTASTIC (more on that in tomorrow’s food post).
We had talked about visiting Bel Lago, but once again found ourselves deviating from the plan when we found out it would take us about half an hour to get over there. Instead, we decided to spend that time driving over to our “regular” stomping grounds, the Old Mission, and try to visit the elusive Brys Estate, which has never been open any of the times I’ve previously visited.
We were in luck- Brys was open for business and had their entire menu in stock. Even better – their wines were quality. I enjoyed a crisp, citrusy unoaked Chardonnay, but found their reds to be standouts. The Merlot and the Pinot Noir both had the depth that sometimes cool climate reds seem to lack. They also poured a Pinot Noir – Reisling combination that sounded strange, but was actually fairly dry, cranberry-tasting, and pleasant (I bought some to take to cook-outs). We all did the cheesecake and ice wine pairing, confirming what we knew all along: we all love cheesecake and do NOT love ice wine.
At this point, it was getting later in the afternoon and we figured we only had time to really “hang out” at one more winery – so naturally we picked 2 Lads, a continual favorite of ours.
Tasting Room Manager Stacey greeted us at the bar and led us through a tasting of all their current wines, and also gave us the heads up on what was going to be gone soon so we could stock up appropriately. We ordered some of the small plates, which we were delighted to see came with Grocer’s Daughter truffles (Rikster and I fell in love with these chocolates through Zingerman’s) that paired deliciously with the Cab Franc-Merlot blend. (2 Lads knows how to give already-tasty Cab Franc a punch, don’t they?!) We finished our tasting and celebrated the late afternoon weather and the view of Lake Michigan with sparkling lemonade, a fresh-tasting concoction of tart, delicious lemonade and 2 Lads Sparkling Pinot Grigio. YUM. It was the perfect finish to our wine experience.
From 2 Lads, we headed in to town for our seasonal seven-course meal at the Cook’s House…but you’ll have to wait until tomorrow for my account of that experience, because, quite frankly, I am burned out on typing right now and the farmers market is calling my name. Ciao!