The Harvest Stompede is upon us! This annual weekend event kicks off the fall harvest season along the Leelanau Peninsula Wine Trail September 7–8 with crisp and bright cool-climate wines and culinary delights that reflect the season’s bounty.
This Northern Michigan event includes a self-guided tour along the trail, where you’re free to visit any of the 27 participating wineries in any order you choose on both Saturday and Sunday.
Tickets are $40 and include a souvenir wine glass, along with a featured wine and small-bite food pairing at all 27 participating wineries. After your featured pairing, most wineries offer two additional complimentary tastes. Select a starting winery when you purchase tickets, where you will check-in to the event and pick up your supplies before charting your own wine adventure.
With so many routes, stops, wine, food and fun to coordinate; insider hints are always helpful! We put together our top five must-know wine tour tips for your Harvest Stompede celebration.
1. Have a Driving Plan
While two tastes at each winery don’t sound like much alcohol, it adds up after a few wineries and extra glass purchases. Instead of cutting your day short or putting yourself and others in danger, plan on having a designated driver. If there’s someone in your group who is just excited for the delicious food offerings at each stop, they have the option to purchase a designated driver ticket that includes everything but the wine at a discounted price. Your group is full of winos? Private and group transportation is easily accessible on the Leelanau Peninsula Wine Trail! Check out Traverse City Wine & Beer Tours or Brew Bus to book a bus tour for your group. Designated Driver TC offers a unique and affordable driving service from the comfort of your vehicle. Uber and Lyft are available in the area but are less reliable especially on wine trail event days.
2. Don’t Go Hungry
Your scrumptious pairings at each stop will be a nice snack along the way, but not enough to replace lunch and dinner. Plan for a lunch stop at a winery that offers a heartier regular menu like French Valley Vineyards (hello, stone oven pizza) or take a break from the vino. Hop Lot Brewing Co. is right in the middle of Leelanau wine country and has a menu full of amazing beer, crave-worthy sandwiches, ice cream and more. Knot Just a Bar shares a building with Leelanau Wine Cellars (a stop on the tour!) and is a waterside bar and grill with a nautical vibe. Of course, a cooler of snacks in the car along the way is never a bad idea.
3. Pick a Loop
With 27 wineries on the tour, it’s impossible (and not recommended) to hit them all. The Leelanau Peninsula Wine Trail makes it easy to plan your route, as the trail is split into three different loops: the Sleeping Bear Loop, the Northern Peninsula Loop and the Grand Traverse Bay Loop. Pick the loop that begins or ends closest to where you’re staying for the night, pick a starting winery from that loop when you purchase your ticket and hop from winery to winery with minimal travel time.
4. Know Winery Etiquette
Northern Michigan wineries are popular for their unpretentious and approachable atmospheres, but there are still some things to keep in mind while visiting. Remember to carry cash and always tip your server at least a couple of bucks. While you’re not paying for the product at the winery, your ticket doesn’t include a tip for your servers. Avoid wearing strong perfumes and smoking in or near a winery building as the scent can seriously affect the tasting environment. And while you’re visiting lots of wineries, it’s ok to dump the rest of your glass into a spittoon after a small taste. They know you have to pace yourself! If you’re not sure about something, other wine tasting etiquette tips are a quick Google search away.
5. Embrace the Region
One of the best parts of a wine tour is getting to know the region for its growing environment, specialties, history and products. You don’t have to be a wine connoisseur to learn about how your new favorite riesling or pinot noir came to be. The staff in each of the tasting rooms is ready and willing to share everything there is to know about the Leelanau Peninsula Wine Trail and the wine you’ll be enjoying for the day, so be sure to ask.