Hop on the TART Trail in Suttons Bay and head to Hop Lot, Big Little Wines & Shady Lane Cellars on this self-guided beer and wine tour in Northern Michigan. We did this tour in the fall, timing our final stop to Shady Lane’s 5th Annual Harvest Party. But, party or no, hit the trail and taste some of the region’s best!

Stop #1: Hop Lot Brewing Co. & Beer Garden

After making sure our personal bikes were tuned up, our friend’s rental bikes, from Suttons Bay Bikes, were secured and we had the gear we needed, it was time to head out for our first stop on our fall Leelanau winery and brewery tour.

The entry to the Leelanau TART Trail is right in downtown Suttons Bay, just past Hansen Foods Grocery Store on 4th Street. Before we knew it, we were already getting off the trail to meander to Hop Lot on West Bay Shore Drive. We arrived to multiple bonfires going, the delicious smell of food filling the air and some new, fall-themed beers on tap.

Our friends Michele and Kris grabbed the seasonal brews while Matt, my husband, went for an IPA and I opted for the strawberry-lime seltzer. They were so good we decided on a second round along with the pretzel appetizer and some pulled pork sandwiches. We definitely spent more time here than expected, but we were really enjoying ourselves on this sunny, 70-degree end-of-summer day and we wanted to soak it all in. Everything at Hop Lot is done via phone, so we had already closed our tabs out and were ready to hit the trail for the “longer” part of the ride on this tour.

Woman on bike

Photo by Rachel Soulliere

Couple at Hop Lot

Photo by Rachel Soulliere

Man holding woman next to bikes

Photo by Rachel Soulliere

Related Read: From wine tours to recommendations, visit our Northern Michigan Wine page to start planning your trip.

Stop #2: Big Little Wines

After about 15 minutes of peddling on the trail, we exited and got ready for our next stop at Big Little Wines on Elm Valley Road. The final minutes of peddling included a hill that you may be able to scale, however, I chose to walk my bike up the steepest part since I had decided sandals were a good choice for this adventure: Spoiler alert they were not. But as soon as we got to the top of the hill, we were greeted by the Mawby and  Big Little Wines signs. A very welcome sight.

Our original plan was to stop by Mawby, however, they were full to the brim and only accepting reservations. Lucky enough for us their direct neighbor and still-wine partner, Big Little Wines, was open and had a spot for our party of four. This was my first time visiting Big Little Wines and I can confidently say I’ll be back. From the sprawling backyard with beautiful views to the no-frills outdoor seating, we quickly lost track of time while splitting a bottle of the 2019 Underdog, or as we now affectionately know it, the only red wine on the menu. After tasting, however, it didn’t matter if it was the only red on the menu, because we would all get it again. It was light-bodied, fruity, showed off some subtle oak flavor and was so incredibly easy and delightful to drink. I kept imagining myself with a bottle of it at my next bonfire, s’more in hand.

From Big Little Wines you can ride over to Suttons Bay Ciders (I’m not kidding when I say this is one of my favorite fall color and summer bay views. Enjoy the views with a sangria cider mix in hand) or bike across the street to Ciccone Winery (Madonna’s family winery, yes that Madonna, and if you’re lucky enough you might just bump into her). However, for this specific self-guided tour, we had to skip these favorites to make it to our next stop on time. We grabbed our check at Big Little, savored our last sips and realized we now had somewhere to be in 15 minutes… by bike.

Two people holding bikes at Mawby Winery

Photo by Rachel Soulliere

Couple at Big Little Wines

Photo by Rachel Soulliere

Stop #3: Shady Lane Cellars

The whole purpose of this self-guided tour was to end at Shady Lane Cellars for the 5th Annual Harvest Party and we got back on the trail looking forward to the party. It was an easy final, 10-minute ride over to Shady Lane. This has quickly become one of my favorite wineries in the area due to its delicious wines and outdoor setup. It feels like you’ve stepped into another world and the relaxed, laid-back feel hits you immediately upon arrival.

We were running a few minutes behind, but quickly parked our bikes and walked up to the hustle and bustle of the party. There was live music, the buzz of friendly conversations and the clinking of glasses. We dropped our gear off at a table and headed directly over to the fresh and delicious appetizers. I paired my appetizers with a glass of the Blaufränkisch Reserve 2016 and we settled into our table, which had gorgeous vineyard views and unlimited sunshine.

We took some time to wander through the vineyard with wine glasses in hand before it was time for dinner to be served. As we wrapped up our exploration, we headed back to the table and had just a little more time to wait before dinner was officially being served. In this small window of time, a few members of the extremely hospitable staff stopped by to say hello and talk to us about the party and the wines. One of those team members was the head winemaker, Kasey Wierzba.

Kasey came to our table with a bottle of their new Cabernet Franc in hand, ready to tell us all about it as well as what Shady Lane Cellars is up to next. This new vino was beautifully aromatic and incredibly easy to drink. While we sipped, she talked about new releases coming, like an orange riesling crafted with ancient winemaking methods, and how her favorite in-house wine (the Grüner Veltliner) pairs perfectly with asparagus, avocado and other funky dishes due to its notes of ruby red grapefruit, lemon peel, marjoram and garden herbs. It was truly exciting to hear her passion for wine shine through and I felt like I understood Shady Lane Cellars even more after our conversation.

This whole party represented the coming harvest, which Shady Lane Cellars fully dives into during late September and October. Their harvest process is completely done by hand and their wines are thoughtfully crafted from the fruit on their winery property and their other property closer to Lake Leelanau. 

Before we knew it, it was time to grab another glass and enjoy dinner, catered by Traverse City’s Dickey’s Barbecue Pit, very fitting for this beautiful fall day. We ended our winery and brewery tour with full stomachs, great memories and so much appreciation for the ability to hop on the local bike path and quickly explore some of the best wineries and breweries Northern Michigan has to offer.