Traverse City: Water, Wine, Local Foods and Caring Companies

Traverse City has always been beautiful and a lot of people have worked hard to keep it that way. Now, with its storybook downtown, fabulous restaurants, events, music, art, The State Theater and so much more, Traverse City is making "must visit" and "must live" lists all over the country. Here’s a few reasons why.

Backyard Wine Country

Bets are, living in Traverse City, you have a steady stream of houseguests. And bets are those houseguests know you’re just a cork’s throw away from a pair of renowned winegrowing peninsulas. Hence your weekend job as Leelanau and Old Mission wine tour guide for your siblings, friends, clients. Not a bad gig, really. (As long as you don’t have to drive.)

Allison Beers of Traverse City’s Events North, who plans the Traverse City Film Festival fêtes, weddings and corporate meetings in Northern Michigan, gets loads of client requests to weave a little wine touring into an Up North weekend. And when she finally has some downtime come November, she plans a wine tasting event for herself and two dozen of her far-flung college girlfriends and cousins.

They have a good old-fashioned sleepover at her house near Long Lake and hit three or four wineries the next day. “We set a rule that everyone buys a bottle at each winery, so we are gracious wine tasters. But we end up buying wine by the case—I’ve turned them all into Northern Michigan wine snobs,” says Beers. “Then I get phone calls around March. ‘You’re doing Girls Weekend Away again this year, right? Because I am running low on wine.’ ”

Plan your own weekend away in wine country, houseguests optional. Find great info at lpwines.com, wineriesofoldmission.com. Get inspired and watch MyNorth’s videos about Northern Michigan’s Wine Country.

Wine Tips, Tours and Travel in Traverse City, Old Mission and Leelanau

Small Companies, Big Hearts

Give and you shall receive. It sounds like a woolly-headed notion, or something reserved for church, but Traverse attracts entrepreneurs who prove benevolence and principled ways help, not hinder, success. A favorite example: Higher Grounds Trading Company, a fair-trade coffee roaster and café based at Grand Traverse Commons.

Co-Owner Chris Treter did his master’s thesis on developing a fair trade organic coffee business connected to the growers in Chiapus, Mexico. Fair trade basically means cutting out the middleman so more money goes to the growers. And it means fresher, better coffee beans for Higher Grounds customers.

Founded in 2001, Higher Grounds’ formula of good heart and great coffee is still ramping up revenues at 30 percent a year. In the meantime, the company is raising funds to provide fresh water for Chiapus communities and is forming a new nonprofit to build a school for a community of Ethiopian growers. “Consumers want to believe in a product they are purchasing and vote with their dollars. Consumerism is a true form of democracy,” Treter says. 806 Red Drive, 877-825-2262, highergroundstrading.com.

See and hear more about Higher Grounds in this video…and be sure you let them teach you how to make the perfect cup of coffee.

Water. It’s Everywhere

Two molecules of hydrogen, one molecule of oxygen. Put them together and you have the elixir that Traverse Citians crave. They sail it, motor-boat it, paddle it, drop lures into it, float flies on top of it, snorkel it, deep-dive it, swim it, surf it, wade it and just plain gaze at the liquid play of light. On Great Lakes and diminutive ones. On waters fast and still. And all that H2O flows within minutes of home. Give thanks. Get wet.

Here are some ideas on how to get on the water!

Fresh Groceries from the Farm

This town’s near maniacal appetite for fresh things grown right here in Northern soil demands a twiceweekly, burgeoning downtown farmers market. Even the parking meter patrol leaves the Wednesday morning farmers market shoppers’ cars alone while they get their goods.

Saturday mornings, the busiest at the market, you’ll dart in and out of a sea of like-minded freshness seekers. Pick up petite pattypans at Nancy Heller’s stand. Wade past the line of children in Nan “Miss Nana” Horstman’s Chef School for Kids buying plump cukes for gazpacho salsa.

Bump into Linda Trippe, from Oklahoma, who is pulling off an Old Mission wedding dinner for 150 using the market’s gleanings (potato-green bean salad, sour cherry lemonade, fresh corn salsa), or Joan Dewey of Interlochen, who can’t wait for her teenage nieces to come up from Beverly Hills to buy pumpkins at the market. “It’s a ritual,” she says. “That and skinny dipping under the full moon.”

Sara Hardy Farmers Market behind Grandview Parkway, 8 a.m. to noon, Wednesdays through September 30 and Saturdays through October 31.

Check out MyNorth’s recipe section for lots of ideas for using Northern Michigan’s local bounty.

Cold is Cool

The forecast might call for snow, but you can never be sure, right? So Reni Dengel pulls out his snow globes, shakes them and chants an ancient incantation to the Nordic snow gods. If friends are around, he makes them do it too. Dengel came tothe Traverse realm seeking winter back in 1978, and he hasn’t lost the love. He glides groomed runs at Crystal Mountain and Nub’s Nob, telemarks through fresh powder on forested dunes in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, hikes upbackcountry hills on snowshoes and snowboards down, skate-skis the Vasa Trail, and come March, skis wilderness lakes. He even likes shoveling snow.

What if it’s cold and there’s no snow? “I know this little pond that freezes fast and is great for just skating or playing hockey.” Now at 57 he’s a retired teacher, and he’s playing in the white stuff more than ever. “I skied 100 days last year,” he says. That’s big cool.

Check out the MyNorth Ski Guide for all the info you need about hitting the slopes!

Quick Links to More Fun in the Traverse City region

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