Begin your wine tasting tour by heading north up Leelanau Peninsula on Cedar Road (C-651), cruising on the twist-and-roll two-lane past farmhouses, barns and crew-cut fields. At the yellow blinker just north of Cedar, pull into Longview Vineyard and Winery Tasting Room (8697 Good Harbor Trail, 231-228-2880, longviewwinery.com). Swirl a glass of Riesling and hear how the vineyard earned its name: when vintner Alan Eaker’s wife expressed concern during their courtship that the relationship wouldn’t work, he asked her to take the long view.
Follow Schomberg Road a short distance to Lake Shore Drive. Head east (right) and absorb views of South Lake Leelanau that open up on your right. When Bel Lago Vineyard and Winery (6350 S. Lake Shore Dr., 231-228-4800, bellago.com) appears, duck into the airy tasting room for a sip of prizewinning Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, or try the Pinot Grigio Ice Wine, a dangerously sweet vintage with flavor that blooms in your mouth.
For more of that gorgeous view, continue north on Lake Shore Drive as it snakes up Leelanau Peninsula. Enjoy glimpses of Lake Leelanau and wonder at the fruitfulness of nature’s serendipity – the steady temperature of the water in Lake Michigan and Lake Leelanau extends the growing season, affording Leelanau one of the best grape growing climates in the country.
Turn left on Duck Lake Road and after a mile or so steer south down French Road. Chateau Fontaine (2290 S. French Road, 231-256-0000, chateaufontaine.com) is tucked behind a thicket of trees. You’ll find a tasting room and vineyard filled with delicate Pinot Gris and Woodland Red grapes from which owners Dan and Lucie Matthias produce award-winning wines.
There are plenty more tasting rooms to peruse in these parts, so take your time and keep enjoying the view (lpwines.com). On the return trip, set a lazy pace back south down the peninsula. French Road unfurls like a long black ribbon through the rolling fields, and from the hilltops, the glacier-carved topography spills out in great hummocks of patchwork greens and browns.
Katie Holland was an intern at Traverse, Northern Michigan’s Magazine.
Note: This article was first published in May 2007 and was updated for the web February 2008.
There are two other “wineries with a view” that come to mind … Willow, off of M-22 turn left on Hilltop as you approach Suttons Bay. You can see all of Grand Traverse Bay, including Power (Marion) Island as you taste a complicated Rose. The tasting room is nestled among glacier carved boulders, covered in lavender.
The second is in Omena. There isn’t a prettier bay to be seen. The tasting room of Leelanau Cellars is perched at the northmost end of the bay. (Take M-22 north from Traverse City). And if you decide you just can’t tear yourself away, there’s a restaurant right next door, but you may have to wait awhile to get a table by the edge of the deck. And if you just can’t stand to leave, you might try the Omena Sunset Lodge up the hill behind the Tamarack Craftsman Art Gallery.