Hi, everybody, and welcome back to Cépage et Cuisine, Mary’s and Brian’s blog about wine, food, geography, and people. Mary and I are visiting the northern Michigan wine country for the first time. We’ve tried a few Michigan wines since we moved to Plymouth a few years ago, but have found them uninspiring. The holiday weekend was a good opportunity to go to the source and see the possibilities.
Wineries are surprisingly common in Michigan with many in the northwestern area of the state around the Leelanau Peninsula. This map of the lower peninsula of Michigan has a circle around the area we’re visiting.
This second map is a zoomed-in version of the first map showing the geography more closely. The larger peninsula is the Leelanau Peninsula and the much smaller is the Old Mission Peninsula, which is the area we visited today. To the left in the map is Lake Michigan. The largest town in the region is Traverse City, Michigan. It’s a beautiful area, very scenic, popular among vacationers with lots of lake-house second homes.
Armed with a list of suggested wine producers, we went first to Peninsula Cellars on the Old Mission Peninsula.
The tasting room is an old schoolhouse.
One of the old chalkboards shows a cute marketing spin on school detention.
Some of the varietal wines that attracted us were sold out and what remained was not very good, I’m afraid. They were pouring some unusual blends that were either too bold and overripe or thin and without much character or complexity.
The other Old Mission Peninsula producer we visited is 2 Lads, housed in a modern steel and glass structure built into a hillside. Walking into the interior, we looked at each other and said, “Just like California.”
Here's the apparel, gifts, and wine shop at 2 Lads. Would not see this in France but is part of the typical business model in the U.S.
We were pleased with the sparkling rosé and the Cabernet Franc, however, and picked up a couple of bottles to take home. The Chardonnay and Pinot Noir didn’t show much. My guess is they are both overcropped and underripe, even for my palate which appreciates a leaner, elegant style.
The view from 2 Lads is spectacular. The day was drizzly and gray, but here’s the view through the vineyards with a little snow to Grand Traverse Bay.
Hard cider production is also common here in northern Michigan. Both of us are completely uninformed about it, but we heard Tandem Ciders on the Leelanau Peninsula is well regarded and we wanted to check them out.
Tandem Cellars is not in the middle of nowhere. It is on the northern edge of nowhere, out in the country far from town, but the number of people in there was amazing. The vibe was much more like a bar than a tasting room, lively, boisterous and crowded.
The server said hard cider is like a wine but everything about it seemed like beer to us.
It is dispensed on draft from kegs and servings are in pint glasses and jugs. The bottles are also in pints with crown caps, not corks.
The tasting flight was in two ounce pours, much larger than a wine tasting pour. We liked a couple of the hard ciders but not enough to buy any.
After checking in at the B&B, dinner was at Martha’s Leelanau Table in Suttons Bay.
Martha’s is a cute house on the main street, nicely decorated and cozy.
The cuisine was creative with very high quality fresh ingredients and expertly prepared. I enjoyed a first course of fried green tomatoes.
The main course was seared salmon, sautéed Cajun shrimp, roasted vegetables and red-skinned mashed potatoes, all delicious.
Mary had lamp chops, roasted vegetables, and potatoes au gratin and raved about the dish. The before and after says it all.
The wine list is limited but this Oregon Pinot Noir was fine for both of us, unremarkable but paired with both the salmon and the lamb.
Martha joined us for a nice chat. What a nice person! We talked about her cuisine and her travel. Martha leads tours to various countries in Europe, having just returned from Italy. Martha’s Table is a jewel of casual but expertly prepared and interesting cuisine in Suttons Bay. For our Michigan readers who venture to the Leelanau Peninsula, we hope you’ll visit her. Martha, thanks for a nice evening.
That’s our post for today. We’ll be here again tomorrow, so look for another post at Cépage et Cuisine. In the meantime,