A Tang in the Air: Epicureans, Tall Ships and Runners in the Vineyards

By MIKE NORTON

There’s no sense in denying it. Although it’s a beautiful, balmy day in Traverse City, with the promise of more gentle end-of-summer warmth to come, the weather over this past Labor Day weekend served as a stern warning of cooler days ahead.

I’m not doing anything desperate like taking the boat out of the water – in fact, I’m pretty sure the best sailing weather of the year is still to come. But I have to admit that there was a certain autumnal tang to the air this morning as I rode my bike in from Old Mission. The sun came up over East Bay through a cottony mist, I could smell ripe apples in the orchards blending with the aroma of woodsmoke, and I passed groups of kids standing at the edge of the road waiting for the first schoolbus of the year.

Don't worry-- there are still a few days like this left!
Don’t worry– there are still a few days like this left!

Soon there’ll be leaves changing, and football games, and the wild geese winging south. It’s a sweet, sad thoughtful time of the year. My favorite time. I only wish it lasted longer – though if it did, I’m sure it wouldn’t be half as poignant.

But September is a busy month here in Traverse City, and this coming week is no exception. Food lovers know that it’s the week of the Epicurean Classic, the premiere “foodie event” that first put this town on the culinary map. Starting Thursday, the city’s Warehouse District will be the scene of tastings, dinners, demonstrations and other events geared toward those who love good food and drink — culminating in Sunday’s new “Tour de Terroir”.

It’s also the week of the Leelanau Vintners’ Associations annual Harvest Stompede, a two-day event that includes a spectacular foot race through the vineyards of the Leelanau Peninsula,  and a self-guided wine tour of the area’s wineries with local food/wine pairings.

Manitou (left) and Inland Seas in the 2010 Parade of Sail
Manitou (left) and Inland Seas in the 2010 Parade of Sail

But the most visible event of the week will undoubtedly be the Michigan Schooner Festival, which arrives in West Grand Traverse Bay on Friday afternoon with the Grand Parade of Sail, where 10 schooners and other talls ships will sail majestically down to dock at Clinch Marina. Saturday events include ship tours, food, entertainment, the Ring of Steel pirate reenactment troupe, artist vendors, kids games, and ticketed two-hour sailings aboard the Friends Goodwill, Appledore V, Armed Sloop Welcome, Denis Sullivan, Inland Seas and Manitou. (The $50 ticket is a pretty good deal under any circumstance, but it also includes a three-day pass to the festival.)

One new attraction this year (as if I needed one!) is a wine and beer tasting with wines from Leelanau Cellars, Black Star Farms and Chateau Chantal and a “Schooner Ale” from Right Brain Brewery. A three-day weekend pass is $5 per person. ( Children 5 and under are free.)

(Wait for it!) Fall colors from last year at Shanty Creek
(Wait for it!) Fall colors from last year at Shanty Creek

And here’s one more sign that autumn is on the way – over at Shanty Creek Resorts (where fall arrives a week or so before it reaches us pampered coastal residents) they’ve developed what they call the “King of Color Tour,” an itinerary that showcases the towns and sights of the Chain of Lakes region. It’s an area of rare beauty in any season, and where many of us locals go to get an early peek at the fall colors. The folks at Shanty Creek have put together several lodging packages that include unlimited golf, meals or spa treatments. For more information, call them at 855-UP-NORTH.

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About mikelovestc

These days, I’m the media relations guy for the Traverse City Convention & Visitors Bureau, but before that I spent 25 years as a reporter and columnist at the Traverse City Record-Eagle, a job that frequently took me out into the most remote backroads, forests, beaches and islands of the beautiful Grand Traverse Region. My strategy was pretty simple — just drive, paddle, ski or walk until you’re certain you’re lost, and then find somebody to talk to. It was a great job! I never intended to live in Traverse City. I grew up in Grand Rapids, spent four years in the Coast Guard in places like Miami Beach, Monterey and San Francisco, and when I finally graduated from college I took a summer job at the Miami Herald. To my surprise, I discovered I didn’t like the tropics nearly as much as I thought I would — and when the Record-Eagle offered me a job I took it, figuring I’d put in a year or two and head off to someplace like Seattle or Portland. What I discovered very quickly is that this place gets to you in a variety of unexpected ways. The beaches here are as lovely as anyplace else I’ve ever been, the weather is mild all year round — warm enough for swimming in September and cold enough for skiing in December — and just about the time you’re getting tired of one season you get another one every bit as pleasant. The people are laid-back and friendly, the music and arts scene is awesome, and the place still hasn’t gotten so sophisticated that a guy like me feels out of place.
This entry was posted in Festivals, Food & Drink, history, races, Shanty Creek and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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