It’s adults only on this tour of Leelanau’s wine country, where complex flavors and superb views are tailored to sophisticated tastes. Top it off with a stroll in downtown Suttons Bay, filled with specialty shops and many amazing eateries.
Start with a pleasant coast along the lovely, laid-back M-22. From Traverse City, point your designated driver northward, then, about 10 minutes up the highway, turn left onto Shady Lane Road a mile farther you’ll find Shady Lane Cellars (9580 Shady Ln., shadylanecellars.com).
Here, you can sip several wines, gratis, in an elegant tasting room housed in a 100-year-old fieldstone outbuilding. Then, for classy bubbly with intriguing names like "Sex" and "Fizz," backtrack east on Shady Lane Road, and then turn left onto Elm Valley Road – the fun is just ahead at Leelanau’s center for sparkling wines, L. Mawby Vineyards (4519 S. Elm Valley Rd., lmawby.com). Try the complimentary samples or sit on the patio and enjoy a tasting flight of two or three wines while snacking on gourmet cheese or whitefish pâté.
A more subdued but equally delish experience awaits just a few miles north on M-22 at Chateau de Leelanau (5048 S. West Bayshore Dr., chateaudeleelanau.com). Sip award-winning wines and snap up some decadent truffles in the gift shop, then head west up Hill Top Road for vivacious wines and sprawling scenery at Ciccone Vineyards & Winery (10343 E. Hilltop Rd., cicconevineyards.com).
Your last vineyard stop on this tour is a short drive east on Hill Top Road at Willow Vineyard (10702 E. Hilltop Rd., 231-271-4810), where the wine’s only rival is the positively stunning view of West Bay.
And that’s just a taste; find more Leelanau wineries at lpwines.com.
Emily Bingham is assistant editor of Traverse, Northern Michigan’s Magazine.[email protected]
Note: This article was first published in May 2006, and was updated for the web February 2008.