Traverse City - Cherry and Wine Country

We spent a full day driving from Ahmeek to Petoskey, skirting the Hiawatha National Forest, stopping in Manistique for yet another lighthouse (I may have stayed in the car), and picking up jerky at Gustafson's Smoked Fish. The weather was cloudy until we reached the Mackinac Bridge, then the clouds parted and we had a lovely sun-dappled drive southwest along the Lake Michigan shoreline. It was getting close to late afternoon, so when we found the Bay Inn along a particularly pretty section of roadway overlooking the lake, we stopped for the night. Driving back to Petoskey-proper, we walked around a bit, and had a nice, early dinner at Whitecaps.

The following morning we wandered around downtown sweet and slightly upscale Charlevoix before making our way south toward Traverse City. Traverse City is home to the National Cherry Festival, which was going on while we were in town, so in that spirit, we stopped at King Orchards for some cherry-picking.

As we reached Rt. 37, we headed north up the Old Mission Peninsula. Deciding to work backwards, we visited the Old Mission Lighthouse, at its northernmost tip, first. We stopped for brunch at Old Mission Tavern, a nice little eatery that's half restaurant, half art gallery.I had a chicken salad sandwich on wonderfully thick bread and broccoli cheddar soup - we needed to eat hearty for the next part of our day!

Old Mission Peninsula is perhaps best known for its wine. This part of Michigan sits on the 45th parallel and is sprinkled with vineyards - Madonna's family even owns one. Typical of US and Canadian wineries outside the west coast, there are a lot of fruit wines and house blends, but you also get some drinkable Rieslings, Pinot Noirs, and Cab Francs.

Our first stop was at Chateau Chantal. It's one of the most commercial wineries in Michigan, with a sprawling tasting room attached to a bed and breakfast. They have a nice system where you're given wooden chips that you then trade in for whatever wines you'd like to tastes. However... this is the busiest I've ever seen a winery, and never hope to again. It was a tour bus sort of stop. Mom bought something pink.


From here, we headed for Brys Estate. Brys is a smaller winery, with pretty flowers lining the drive. They seemed to focus more on advertising the quality of their wines (they've won a few awards) than piling a lot of people into their tasting room. We left with several bottles, including a nice Pinot Noir. Returning to the car, we switched on Sirius XM radio to listen to the World Cup match between Spain and Germany. Listening to sports on the radio seems like such a throwback - before this trip, I'd never really done it, and it was interesting to compare the differences in announcing between radio and tv. A good tv commentator frames the action with his words rather than talking non-stop. Radio commentators have to try to paint a picture for you.

While the radio commentators did a great job with what they had, by the second half, I was itching to get to a television. We'd driven through Traverse City, heading up the western side of the Leelenau Peninsula. We decided to stop at one more winery for the day. Leelanau Cellars was the perfect third winery - commercial but completely unpretentious, with easy-to-drink wines. Doing our final tasting of the day, we found out that the attached wine bar was showing the game. After quickly purchasing a couple of bottles - a cherry wine and a Riesling - I headed over to the bar and ordered a Sangria. Germany seemed a little too awed by Spain to really play them, but it was one of my favorite matches of the tournament anyway.

Once the game was over, we drove over to the Leland Historic District - or as it's known, Fishtown - a cute old-timey fishing dock from the mid-19th century that's been largely preserved. Local fishers still use the docks today. Sure, it's a bit touristy and twee, but the fact that they've managed to incorporate tourism without completely losing Fishtown's original purpose makes it worth visiting.


We had one more stop to make - this one purely commercial. (Dad rolled his eyes and took a seat outside while Mom and I shopped.) Cherry Republic is the place you go when you need to buy the best kind of souvenirs - the ones you can eat, naturally. We stocked up on various types of cherry preserves and cherry candy, and even cherry tea. It was late afternoon as we finally headed for Sleeping Bear Dunes.



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