American Nomad Blog
About this blog
American Nomad covers the best of U.S. travel—from vacation deals to festivals, weekend getaways, travel tips, and more. A seasoned traveler and Moon author, Laura is the perfect guide to help discover new gems when traveling domestically.
- A Southern Girl's Wintertime Adventure in Yellowstone
- One Novelist's Odyssey Across America
- Gearing up for a Family Camping Trip
- Mint Juleps and More at Oak Alley Plantation
- Avoiding Identity Theft While on Vacation
- Money-Saving Travel Tips from Nomadic Matt
- Fashion, Fun, and Convenience for the Modern Traveler
- In Search of Irish Museums Across America
- The Inspiring Journey of a Solo Kayaker
- Getting Fit for Treks in Yosemite and Elsewhere, Part 2
- Getting Fit for Treks in Yosemite and Elsewhere, Part 1
- Experiencing Yosemite with YExplore
- Two Travel Contests Worth Mentioning
- A Word About the TSA's No-No List
- A Reader's Advice About Airport Security
The Midwest’s Wine Country
Over the weekend, my husband and I took some friends on a tour of the Old Mission Peninsula, a picturesque stretch of land that divides the West Arm and East Arm of Grand Traverse Bay, just north of Traverse City, Michigan. It was a glorious day, warmer and sunnier than I would have expected by mid-September in northern Michigan, but you wouldn’t have caught me complaining. I relished every minute of the lovely weather.
Since our friends had never been to a winery before, we decided to visit a few while there. Surprising as it might seem for those more familiar with California’s Napa Valley, Michigan’s Traverse City region is an ideal place for vintners, vineyards, and viniculture. Divided into two areas – the Leelanau Peninsula and the Old Mission Peninsula – which lie on either shore of the bay’s West Arm, the region has slowly won acclaim for its grape growing and wine production. There are several reasons for such success, including the sandy soil, hilly terrain, moderate temperatures, and lake-effect snows that protect the vines during the winter months. Although Leelanau contains nearly three times as many wineries as Old Mission, the smaller peninsula is a decent place for beginners (especially since tastings are complimentary), which is why we chose to take our friends there.
Our first stop of the afternoon was Chateau Chantal (15900 Rue de Vin, 231/223-4110, 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Mon.-Sat., noon-5 p.m. Sun. mid-June-Aug., 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Mon.-Sat., noon-5 p.m. Sun. Sept.-Oct., 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Mon.-Sat., noon-5 p.m. Sun. Nov.-mid-June), a European-style winery that was established in 1983, when cherry orchards were replaced with grafted vinifera grape vines, and also offers an old-fashioned bed-and-breakfast on the premises. The tasting room was a little cramped with tourists on Saturday, but I nonetheless enjoyed sampling my six allotted wines, especially the Tonight and Celebrate! Champagnes.
Afterward, we headed south to Chateau Grand Traverse (12239 Center Rd., 231/223-7355 or 800/283-0247, 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Mon.-Sat., noon-6 p.m. Sun. June-Aug., 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Mon.-Sat., noon-5 p.m. Sun. May and Sept.-Oct., 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Mon.-Sat., noon-5 p.m. Sun. Nov.-Apr.), established in 1974. There, we toured the wine production facility, the largest on the peninsula. Despite the presence of bothersome fruit flies, it was an educational glimpse at the gleaming vats, oak barrels, and bottling room. Following the tour, we each sampled six more wines. While I wasn’t a fan of the cherry sangria, I enjoyed the award-winning 2008 Whole Cluster Riesling, which is curiously made without destemming or crushing “whole” grape clusters.
Our last stop of the afternoon was Peninsula Cellars (11480 Center Rd., 231/933-9787, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Mon.-Sat., noon-6 p.m. Sun. May-Oct., 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Mon.-Sat., noon-5 p.m. Sun. Nov.-Apr.), a converted, 19th-century schoolhouse that retains its original windows, slate boards, and bell. The school theme even inspires the wine list, which includes selections like Old School White, Old School Red, Detention, and Homework.
We ended the afternoon with a visit to Bowers Harbor Park, where the annual Old Mission Peninsula Wine & Food Celebration ($15 for admission, plus more for additional wine and food) was taking place. For the third year in a row, all seven of the peninsula’s wineries (including the four we didn’t visit: Two Lads Winery, Bowers Harbor Vineyards, Brys Estate Vineyard & Winery, and Black Star Farms) came together, along with several area restaurants and the Northwestern Michigan College Community Concert Band, to honor the region’s fine wine and cuisine. While I enjoyed my taste of Two Lads’ 2008 Pinot Grigio and a lemon tart from the Boathouse Restaurant, I must admit that I was weary of drinking by the end of our visit.
Still, it was a wonderful afternoon on the Old Mission Peninsula – and even better, our friends enjoyed their first wine-tasting experience in northern Michigan. If you’re ever in the area, perhaps you will, too!
As always, I’m open to ideas for future posts. If you have any suggestions, burning questions, or destinations that you’d like me to explore in greater detail, please comment below or contact me at laura [at] wanderingsoles [dot] com.