Everything’s up-to-date in Traverse City

After gorging on Spicy Bob’s pizza and desserts (thanks again, Rob and CJ) on Friday night, it was probably something of a miracle that we were able to get out of bed at all on Saturday, the second day of Spring 2012 Cabin Weekend. But get up we did, and, fueled by bagels and cream cheese (Thanks, Kristen!) we made our way to Traverse City.

I mentioned in the previous post that this spring’s Cabin Weekend differed a bit from our usual pattern. Not only did we have Roz and Sandi with us (and no Rikster) but our favorite restaurant, The Cooks House, was closed for the weekend, meaning we had to change up our dinner plans. Since we were already changing so many things anyway, we decided to hit some new (and new-to-us) wineries along with a couple of our favorite hot spots.

We started the day at Brengman Brothers, a family-owned winery operated by brothers with a legitimate interest and background in farming and hospitality. Their tasting room had a clean, modern feel, avoiding the hokey “barrel and grapevine” decor found in so many tasting rooms. The space was light and airy and open, a perfect place to taste Brengman’s lineup of whites. The standout here was the Black 65 blend, a refreshing mix of Pinot Gris, Voigner and Sauvignon Blanc (I know, I know – how surprising that I like something with a Sauvignon Blanc component). This wine had a hint of spice to it, along with refreshing citrus flavors. We also enjoyed the Runaway Hen Syrah, made from grapes grown in Washington State (no way can your grow Syrah like that with a growing season like Michigan’s) – this hit a lot of earthy, chocolatey notes at a relatively low price.

Girls at Brengman's - we actually took pictures of US and not just wine and food this time.

Our second stop was at Mawby, another usual suspect on our list of wineries. Mawby does amazing sparklers and visiting their tasting room is always fun. They even dug up some non-alcoholic sparkler for Miss Mietzel while the rest of us tasted the current vintages. Though most Mawby wines are available widely downstate, we always stock up on Sandpiper – a very friendly, accessible, and – at $11 a bottle – affordable sparkler only sold on the premises.

Why the ugly label?

(Note to Mawby: I love you guys. Really, I do. But these new labels are awful! I can handle the groovy design, but why is it paired with the “I’m trying to learn medieval calligraphy” font?)

From Mawby, it was on to another favorite, hidden treasure Willow Vineyard. Tucked away but offering the best views around, Willow is one of the friendliest tasting rooms we visit. They only produce four or five things, but they do them well, and we ALWAYS leave with multiple bottles of their Baci Rose.

At Willow

Post-Willow (and post lunch at a pub in Suttons Bay), we tried out Forty-Five North. Melissa alone had been there before. Good experience, and a very strawberry rose. Sandi, Diane and I managed to share three tastings between us and try more or less the entire menu.

Great pic by Diane

At the Forty-Five North tasting room

From 45 North, we headed to Circa Estate, which was supposed to be open…but disappointingly, was not. Maybe next time?

The last stop on the wine tour was at Black Star Farms, not so much for wine but to stock up on Leelanau Cheese aged Raclette. The Raclette is a Swiss-style cow’s milk cheese that pairs well with just about anything. While we prefer the stronger, more flavorful aged variety, the mild “newer” Raclette will not offend anyone’s palate.

With the wineries all closing up shop for the day, we headed back to downtown Traverse City for our traditional stop at American Spoon. The preserves, salsas, sauces and spreads here are all made in small batches with the best ingredients. American Spoon relies on good farm product to supply the necessary flavor – not adding disgusting amounts of sugar or weird preservatives. They also have the world’s most amazing gelato (sorry, Zingerman’s) and Diane and I could not help but spoil our dinners.

SO MANY CHOICES!!!

I went for a pistachio/hazelnut combo

We wound up our TC trip with dinner at Amical, a French-style bistro downtown. We ordered an assortment of entrees and small plates. I had a braised short rib that was literally falling apart on the plate. It had a wondrous melt-in-your-mouth texture. While we mourned our usual seven course tasting menu at the Cooks House, we were not at all disappointed with our choice.

The BlackBerry is terrible for food pics. I should get an iPhone.

Stay tuned for part three, when we stop at Dingman’s Bar in Kalkaska…where the REAL adventure begins!

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