Leelanau wineries toast the season
By Sarah Harmon
EW Emma’s Writings
Leelanau Peninsula, MI-Between family gatherings, shopping, holiday baking, this time of year can get extremely hectic. However, the first two weekends of November, the wineries of the Leelanau Peninsula have the perfect antidote for all that holiday stress. Toast the Season features tastings and pairings at 25 wineries throughout the area and showcases the incredible diversity among reds, whites, rose, and cherry wine, not to mention hard cider, all made in the same region. At $50 per person or $75 per couple, you can hardly afford not to embrace your inner sommelier. Tickets also include a bag with a Toast the Season glass to be used for sampling wines, a Christmas ornament, and other goodies.
Even on a dreary, wintery day, it’s impossible not to be charmed by the panoramic views of the hills, lakes, and fields of grapevines in picturesque Northern Michigan, though when it comes to aesthetic appeal, Aurora Cellars was one of the most unique.
The exterior beckons you to imagine that you are no longer outside Traverse City, but rather have been transported to a centuries old Tuscan villa. In addition to delicious wines, Aurora rents its facilities for weddings and other events. Of the dozen wineries I experienced over the weekend, one of the best whites had to be Blustone Vineyards two time gold medal winning Reisling. While most vineyards are known only for red or white, Blustone has both award winning Reisling and Pinot Noir. For lovers of rose, 45 North, named for the line of latitude on which it sits, has a delightful Rose of Cabernet Franc that is sweet and fruity while still maintaining an elegant sophistication.
As for reds and cherry wine, my personal favorite was Black Star Farms. Their Artisan Red has the richness of a red with the sweetness of a white so that lovers of both colors of wine can be satisfied. The Vinter’s Select is also excellent if you prefer something a bit more dry, and a cup of their hot mulled cherry wine is perfect on a chilly day. Black Star also doubles as a charming inn. For the eco-conscious wine lover, Good Neighbor features organic wines and ciders. Possibly their most unique offering were the coffee and chai flavored hard ciders. Sparkling wine lovers can’t go wrong with L Mawby/M Lawrence. Their tasting room has a fun, almost rock and roll feel to it that matches well with the creative names and luscious tastes available there.
Since not everyone is a wine connoisseur, many of the wineries offer a range of hard cider options as well. Verterra Winery’s apple pie flavored cider is just the thing for the adults’ table at Thanksgiving dinner. The notes of cinnamon and sugar are the perfect complement to turkey and stuffing. If you prefer something a bit more dry, Tandem Ciders is the place to be. Their ciders are vaguely reminiscent of what one could find in Normandy, France as opposed to the light sweetness of many of the other hard ciders available in the area. While you can get bottles of Tandem Cider in stores around Michigan, It is most definitely worth stopping in for a visit. In addition to the regularly available ciders, you can buy a custom blend of any or all of the options on tap.
Wine and cider loving Michiganders, forget flying out to the Napa Valley for tastings; you need go no further than your own backyard to Toast the Season at the spectacular Leelanau Peninsula.
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