As I have mentioned in a previous post, we have been workamping at Indigo Bluffs in Empire, Michigan since the middle of May. On our days off, not only have we been golfing and exploring, but we have visited some of the many wineries located in northern Michigan. To date we have tasted at ten of them, and with still a month to go before we leave this area, chances are we will add several more to our list. I wanted to share them and encourage you to visit all of them when in the area. If you didn’t know better you’d think you were in Napa or Sonoma!
Our first stop was at Mari Vineyards on Mission Peninsula or the castle on the hilltop as I referred to it. As we began our tasting, I asked our server how new the tasting room was, to which he replied, “We’ve been open for five days now!” The building is gorgeous and the art work behind the tasting bar is remarkable. An artist from the Grand Rapids area created a picture of the winery out of 15,000 corks! That may sound tacky but it really is beautiful! Mari Vineyards is a delightful spot to not only taste but also to sit outside on the hilltop and enjoy a glass of their wine – I preferred the Row 7 red!
That same day, we also stopped at Black Star Farms in Suttons Bay. We had actually tried their wine at the annual Asparagus Festival in Empire and had also imbibed a bottle at a restaurant in Glen Arbor – the “most beautiful place on earth!” – having been named such in 2011 on Good Morning America! Now, back to the wine – the tasting here was relaxed and informative and you even got to keep your wine glass – a small stemless logo glass, which we now use at home for those ocassions when we just need a nip!
Bonobo Winery is also located on Mission Peninsula and is a lovely setting. Nothing extraordinary about the wine – for our tastes – but the small plates available are Mario Batali recipes. Mario has a house on Torch Lake and spends as much time as possible in northern Michigan during the summer – maybe when The Chew is on hiatus! The porch at this winery is filled with picnic tables which are functional yet not my choice for comfort with a glass of vino.
Perhaps the closest winery to Indigo Bluffs RV Resort is Rove Estate, a relatively new vineyard. Sitting way up on a hill, the location is awesome, the patio perfect, and the wine is tasty! The owners are part of the local Gallagher family, noted for cherries and their farm market. The vineyard is the result of eliminating a section of the cherry orchard and dedicating it to grapes instead. They also offer a small plate menu which completes the total experience.
On a subsequent day off from the campground, we stayed on Leelanau Peninsula and visited an additional five wineries – almost too many to do in a day, although I can’t believe I’m saying that! Chateau Grand Traverse has an awesome gift shop and there are several wine selections that came home with us! We went on to 45 North Vineyard which is worth the trip not only for the wine but for the building. It’s a post and beam construction with a beautiful tasting bar and if you’re lucky you can sit on the saddle bar stools – which we did of course! From there, we continued on to Aurora Cellars, also a beautiful location and a popular venue for weddings. They have weekly Pizza Night with local entertainment. Blustone Vineyards was our next stop which is also located atop a hill but I found the building stark and almost too modern for my taste. They also have entertainment throughout the summer which of course is a draw to the vineyard. Moving on, we visited Boathouse Vineyards which is located on the water. After our tasting, we enjoyed a glass of Sunset on the porch – delightful! Our last stop of the day was Chateau Fontaine where we experienced the best and most informative tasting ever. It was a free tasting and included ten different wines. Of course we didn’t refuse any even though all were not our favorites. We even broadened our wine horizons, discovering that even dry reisling can be tasty!
So that is our winery experience to date. If you notice I did not dwell on my favorites as you need to visit and taste and determine your best tastes! With a month left for us here in northern Michigan, there is so liitle time…and so many vineyards, but we’ll give it our best shot and will surely visit many more!