Saturday, November 26, 2016

Michigan Wine Country – Old Mission Peninsula – November 25, 2016

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,



Sunday, July 17, 2016

July 2016 - In Our Town

Hi, everybody, and welcome to Cépage et Cuisine, Mary’s and Brian’s blog about wine, food, and culture.  In case you’ve wondered, that’s pretty much the translation of the name of our blog. Cépage et Cuisine is French and translates to Grape and Food.  Today we’re sharing a little of our town, Plymouth, Michigan.  It is a small town about 20 miles west of Detroit.  By the way, don’t believe everything bad you read in the news about Detroit.  It is a wonderful city that offers a high quality of life and many amenities.

This is a great time of year in Plymouth.  We have a small farmers market in our downtown area every Saturday morning, plus many interesting shops and restaurants.  I jog into town and Mary meets me there to shop the fresh items.  It’s not the Beaune market, but it’s not bad and going there has become a relaxing weekend ritual for us.  Mary totes me back home in the back of the pickup truck.

Here are a few photos of the local and fresh items that are available.

Fresh Michigan cherries … can’t beat ‘em.

Entertainment was provided by the Village Strings, local acoustic musicians who feature the hammered dulcimer, mandolin, fiddle and other traditional stringed instruments.  Enjoy this short clip.

Here’s Mary browsing the flower selection.

       Here’s our downtown Main Street … very Americana.
Boule Bakery supplies a large selection of fresh baked bread every day.  They even custom make my sugar-free whole grain bread for me.

Here’s the Plymouth Coffee Bean where we buy our whole beans for daily grinding at home just before brewing.  The Coffee Bean also exhibits local art and provides a venue for local musicians and poets.

Here are our fresh items for the day.  Fresh sweet peas are in season and they are wonderful.  We never got those fresh before we moved to Plymouth.  I think the climate in the hot and humid South was inhospitable to them.  They were always frozen or in a Green Giant can. 

Morgan and York, our favorite deli and wine shop in nearby Ann Arbor, conducts wine tastings many Saturday afternoons.

Taking in a Tigers game in Detroit is a fun, fun evening.  Gives Mary a great excuse to enjoy a hot dog and a cold one.

That’s our post for today.  We hope you enjoyed it.  With all that's going on in the world around us, we think staying in touch with the simple pleasures of community and family will help us keep perspective and priorities in place.  Thanks so much for reading us at Cépage et Cuisine.  Check back for more posts about wine, food, and culture, which we’ll try to add from time to time.  In the meantime,


Thursday, July 7, 2016

June 9, 2016 – Homecoming

Hi, everybody, and welcome back to Cépage et Cuisine, Mary’s and Brian’s blog about wine, food, and culture.  We returned home today, back in the USA.  We left Bernkastel at 6:15 a.m. to give ourselves plenty of time to get lost on the two hour drive to Frankfurt.  I'm happy to say we had only one short wrong turn diversion and made the drive in good shape.  Here’s a friendly auf wiedersehen on the way out of town.  I think it means “see you soon” in Bernkastel-Kues.
Here’s Brian at the Frankfurt airport.  We went to the food platz for breakfast and saw this place.  They had a sign that said Europa-frühstück, a European breakfast, so in we went.  It turned out to be this giant plate of sausages, bacon, eggs, potato pancakes, and greens.  The photo looks like I’m on the phone seeking help on how to attack this plate of food, but I’m actually calling Delta about travel.

Big Dee got us over here …

… and Big Dee will take us home.

A couple of movies, a little snoozing and here we are, back in Plymouth, Michigan, home sweet home.

By about 5:00 or so in the afternoon, 11:00 p.m. in France and Germany, we were ready for dinner.  As we have done the past couple of years, we went to a sports bar in Plymouth called the Box Bar and ordered up good old nachos deluxe.  And once again, that pitcher of Diet Pepsi is for drinking, not pouring.  It’s the American way.
We had dinner outdoors on the patio.  Here’s a big difference between the U.S. and Europe.  Here in Plymouth, the smoking ban at restaurants extends to outdoor patios.  In France and Germany, cigarette smoking is much more common than here and is allowed on the terrace at restaurants.  Mary and I commonly chose to dine indoors in France and Germany because of all the smoking on the terrace.

Here’s Kellogg Park in downtown Plymouth.  Yes, that Kellogg, from Battle Creek.

Sonoma was glad to be back home, but annoyed that we left her at the vet for so long.  I’m not really choking her in this picture.  She’s just a little anxious about the whole ordeal.

So, what are some observations and lessons learned?
Magny-les-Villers is a little slice of heaven in Burgundy.  We love it and always want to return.  Life is easy, the joie de vivre, the love of life, our friendship with Marie and Yves, it is unmatched in any of our travels.
The Beaune market on Saturdays is the most incredible spectacle of a farmers market we have ever seen and can imagine.  The energy and excitement are electric.  Don't miss it!  Go there!

Seven years in a row, Isabelle takes care of us at La Ciboulette. Like a community.

       The beauty and serenity of the Burgundy countryside …
             … simple food, expertly prepared …
… friendly, everyday folks, who speak not a word of English but who want nothing more than to share their craft and their history with American strangers.

Wine produced by the same family, from the same ground, for centuries, expressing a profound harmony of people and place, enjoyed over hours with exquisite cuisine.

Ancient vineyards, farmed in the old ways to produce the highest form of a noble wine.

The struggles of each new generation to carry on the family domaine in the face of weather disasters, war, and economic stresses largely beyond their control.

Good friends, good food, good wine … isn’t life all about relationships?
The unexpected discovery of ancient sites in small towns and villages, visited in quiet solitude, the visitors humbled by history and art.

Always being the first to arrive, even at 7:30 p.m.

Places that inspire spiritual reflection on the very site where slaughter and tragedy were visited.

                       To old dogs learning new tricks!

Boys and men, buried where they fell in battle 100 years ago.

Finding virtual perfection in a wine and food that leaves me speechless … which is quite hard to do!

Coming over a forested mountaintop and being awestruck by the beauty of the Mosel Valley below.

Again, in Germany, like in France, the same family farming the same soil, year on year, generation on generation, century on century.  It’s hard for Americans to grasp.

Villages along the Mosel, one after another, so beautiful that each looks like it was plucked from a fairy tale book.

Hillside vineyards that seem impossibly steep.

Understanding the very different cultural behaviors and cuisine in two countries that are next door neighbors.  Whereas we might describe the culture and cuisine of France as somewhat laid back and elegant, Germany might be described as stoic, focused, and hearty.
And the Mosel, it’s always there, defining the place, giving it life.
                       Family homes at water’s edge.
         And most of all, this sweet, sweet partner in life.

That’s our post for today, the final post of our 2016 wine, food, and cultural adventure.  Thanks for reading Cépage et Cuisine.  Thank you for your comments and likes.  Now that it’s over, let us know what you think and what you’d like to hear more about in future posts.  We hope we can keep it going from time to time with posts about wine, food, and culture right here at home.  In the meantime,