This article was originally published in the April 2006 issue of Traverse, Northern Michigan’s Magazine.
Stretching toward the horizon, delicate rows of grape vines flourish in Old Mission Peninsula’s temperate climate. A stately 19th-century schoolhouse at Peninsula Cellars is stunning in this landscape; the vineyard’s tasting room is tucked sweetly inside.
Cruise north on the spine of the slender, fruit-sprawled Old Mission Peninsula, flanked by the vast blue of West and East Grand Traverse Bays, to find the five wineries of Old Mission. They are all along the scenic main drag of M-37 or just a quick dip off the road into the vine-covered hills. Sample wines that receive national and international acclaim and find your own best-loved vintages – to stock your cellar or sip this very night.
Taste Peninsula Cellars’ (11480 Center Rd., 231-223-4050) outstanding semi-dry Riesling inside the former Maple Grove Schoolhouse, built in 1893. Several of the whites are winners here – try the 2004 Select Riesling, which won double gold and San Francisco International and a gold at the Eastern International Wine Competition, as well as the dry, spicy 2004 Gewurztraminer, also a gold winner at San Francisco.
The view of West Grand Traverse Bay at the swank, European-style Château Grand Traverse (12239 Center Rd., 231-223-7355) will stop you in your tracks. German-born winemaker Bernd Croissant makes award-winning wine – try the dry Johannisberg Riesling and the citrusy Select Harvest Dry Riesling, perfect for sipping on a hot summer night.
Ascend the ribbonlike driveway of Chateau Chantal Winery (15900 Rue de Vin, off Center Road, 800-969-4009), wend past the rows of estate vines and end up at the secluded, sumptuous B&B and tasting room 400 feet above Grand Traverse Bay. Chateau Chantal’s fortified wine, Cerise, recently won a double gold in the cherry dessert wine category at the Eastern International Wine Competition.
Cooper, a Bernese mountain dog, and Otis, a yellow Lab, romp and welcome you at the family-owned Bowers Harbor Vineyards (2896 Bowers Harbor Road, 231-223-7615). A gracious, vine-draped pergola leads you into the cozy tasting room where you can sample the unwooded Chardonnay and the dogs’ namesake Chardonnay-Riesling blends. Spring 2006 brings the newest bottling of the fantastic red blend, 2896 Langley.
Spot delicate pale green clusters of European vinifera grapes out on the vines that surround a renovated 1890’s farmhouse at Brys Estate Vineyard and Winery (3309 Blue Water Rd., Traverse City, 231-223-9303), chill in the Adirondack chairs on the hill overlooking East Bay for a moment, then duck into the brick old-world tasting room. All of the twelve fully estate-grown Brys wines are award winning.