Leelanau Wineries Introduce a Loopy New Wine-Touring System

Winemakers Cristin Hosner and Charlie Edson explain what goes on at Bel Lago Vineyards.

Winemakers Cristin Hosner and Charlie Edson explain what goes on at Bel Lago Vineyards.

IMPORTANT NOTE: I’VE MOVED!

Dear friends and readers,

“Loving Traverse City” now has a new address. (It’s a lot easier to remember, too)  You can reach it easily by going to http://blog.traversecity.com/. Or just follow this link.

Thanks!

Mike

By MIKE NORTON

Over the past couple of days, spring seems to have made its definitive arrival here in Traverse City, so it’s weird to think that just this past Saturday we awoke to find a substantial amount of snow on the ground.

But that didn’t deter me or the dozens of food, wine and travel writers who had signed up to spend the day visiting the 25 wineries of the Leelanau Peninsula. After all, wine-tasting is something you can do in almost any kind of weather – and we were rewarded for our tenacity by mid-morning, when the sun made its first tentative appearance and began burning away that snow.

Each spring for the past five years, the member wineries of the Leelanau Peninsula Vintners’ Association have conducted this annual weekend get-together to introduce members of the travel media to the new wineries and new vintages of northern Michigan’s oldest and most densely populated viticultural region.

Fortunately for the participants, nobody was expected to visit all 25 Leelanau wineries. In fact, the LPVA has created a nifty new system to make wine-touring in their region easier, less confusing and more adventurous.

Unlike our other wine-growing area — the relatively narrow Old Mission Peninsula, whose geography makes its seven wineries pretty easy to find and visit – the Leelanau Peninsula is big enough to include several good-sized villages and a labyrinth of country roads that sometimes even confuse the locals.

Samp,ing the new wines at Good Harbor  Vineyards

Sampling the new wines at Good Harbor Vineyards

Couple that with the fact that this steep triangle of land contains one-fourth of all the wineries in Michigan, with more being added every year, and you can see what might happen. Nobody with any sense would try to tour 10 wineries in a day, and visiting 25 wineries is downright impossible. So vineyards close to Traverse City, where most visitors stay, tend to get lots and lots of business, while those located farther away, in the Peninsula’s northern and western marches, get fewer visitors even when their wines are superb.

I have to admit that I’ve done this myself, and I should know better.

This year the Vintner’s Association decided to do something about this growing problem. They divided their lengthy Leelanau Peninsula Wine Trail into three separate  “touring loops.”

The Grand Traverse Bay Loop stretches along the peninsula’s eastern edge between Traverse City and Suttons Bay, and features nine wineries and the Leelanau Bike Trail. The Sleeping Bear Loop includes six wineries in the western half of the peninsula between Glen Arbor and Lake Leelanau, plus the added beauty of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. The Northern Loop covers 10 wineries in and around the villages of Lake Leelanau, Leland, Northport and Omena, and includes destinations like the Grand Traverse Lighthouse and Leland’s historic Fishtown.

“The growth in wineries in Leelanau Peninsula has been amazing, and these loops should make it easier for visitors to plan trips through wine country,” said wine trail president Matt Gregory.

Jason Homa of Cherry Republic pours a sample of their Conservancy wine for Charlie Wunsch of Edible Grand Traverse.

Jason Homa of Cherry Republic pours a sample of their Conservancy wine for Charlie Wunsch of Edible Grand Traverse.

The system still seems a little lopsided –the Northern Loop’s 10 wineries and the Grand Traverse Bay Loop’s nine wineries are really more than a judicious wine-lover ought to try in a single day – but it’s a big improvement over the previous system. And the Sleeping Bear Loop (which I tried out on Saturday) was just about perfect. I got to see some old friends that I hadn’t seen in years (Bel Lago, Longview and Good Harbor) made another of my frequent visits to Cherry Republic, and was able to explore two wineries I hadn’t been to before (Chateau Fontaine and the brand-new Laurentide Winery).

Best of all, I think this loopy new system encourages visitors to take time to enjoy the special atmosphere and character of each area instead of scurrying around from one corner of the Peninsula to the next. Honestly, wine is one of those things you should enjoy in a leisurely manner.

Visitors can pick up a Leelanau Peninsula Wine Trail brochure with a handy map at any of the LPVA member wineries as well as a number of other store and businesses throughout the area. The brochure and maps are available online at http://www.lpwines.com. The trail has also released a free iPhone app for easy access to Leelanau wineries, lodging, restaurants and more.

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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.
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One Response to Leelanau Wineries Introduce a Loopy New Wine-Touring System

  1. Pingback: Sugar Beach Resort Hotel Traverse City | Mitten Hotels

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