Sipping, Sampling, Dining, and More!
By: Charlene & Richard Mixa
On the shores of Grand Traverse Bay sits the captivating unique town of Traverse City. Glacier-sculpted landscape created miles of sugar-sand shoreline, rolling hills, and a majestic peninsula. Located on the 45th parallel halfway between the North Pole and the Equator the climate flourishes with lush vineyards, as well as, cherry and apple orchards. Today this amazing town welcomes visitors with a plethora of activities from wineries to breweries to a savory culinary cuisine and eclectic activities of swimming, sailing, paddling, hiking, fishing, golfing, and shopping. On our quick visit, we squeeze in a wonderful wine tour, a visit to a lighthouse, a stroll through town and even visit a former asylum.
Cheers to the Sunday Safari Supper! Gathering with two other couples outside Bower’s Harbor Inn on the Old Mission Peninsula, we hop in a van to begin an enticing afternoon of wine tasting finishing with a gourmet dinner at Mission Table Restaurant and Tasting Room. This all-inclusive wine event is carefully coordinated by Traverse City Brew Bus.
Our first stop on the Sunday Safari Supper is a short drive to Brys Estate Vineyard & Winery, a family-run boutique winery, featuring panoramic views of Lake Michigan’s historic Bowers Harbor. Perched on 43-acres and close to the water, the estate has ideal conditions for growing Vinifera grapes. Massive oak barrels of aging wines surround us in the private tasting room, as our host Kevin, entices us with Brys’ wonderful variety of premium wines. Beginning with the aromatic 2015 Dry Riesling with hints of fruit, our next tasting is the smooth 2015 Signature Rose, a blend of 100% estate grown Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Pinot Noir. A Cheese & Charcuterie Board of Smoked Gouda, Manchego, Prosciutto, petite dill pickles, and a crusty bread complements the wine tasting. The 2013 Cab/Merlot is a full bodied red aged for 14 months in French oak while the 2012 Artisan Pinot Noir is smooth with dark cherry oak flavor. Complex berry flavors with oak is found in the 2012 Merlot. Sipping the lush silky 2013 Artisan Chardonnay it boasts hints of the tropic and vanilla. Outside, we stroll the new Upper Deck and extended walkway, elevated six feet above the vines, creating spectacular views of the vineyard and East Grand Traverse Bay. Great wines, great views and more!
Meticulously manicured vineyards and flower gardens entice us as we enter Bowers Harbor Vineyards, the second vineyard on the tour. On this cool, clear afternoon we savor the wines and ciders of Bowers Harbor Vineyards. Lindsey, our hostess, shares the intriguing family history of the winery and how Brix, the family dog, became infamous in the winery. Our first tasting of a medium sweet sparkling wine is aptly named “Brix.” Moving to samplings of dry whites and roses, we are impressed with the 2015 Pinot Grigio, their #1 best seller, boasting hints of pineapple and citrus. The 2013 Riesling-Smokey Hollow brings a taste of pears whereas the 2013 Shiraz blends spices of pepper with currant and plum. Totally fermented in stainless steel, the 2015 Unoaked Chardonnay expresses fresh fruit flavors followed by a crisp, clean finish. Bowers Harbor Vineyards also offers a wonderful selection of ciders including Blueberry-Apple, Cherry-Apple, and Peach-Apple. Delicious! Our favorite is combining the Blueberry-Apple and Peach-Apple. An hors d’oeuvres tray provided by the Boathouse Restaurant enhances our tastings. Afterwards we stroll and delight in the serenity of these beautiful serene vineyards.
A fitting finale to our Sunday Safari Super is the dinner at the former Bowers Harbor Inn Restaurant. Originally built in 1880 the Bowers Harbor Inn sits peacefully along West Grand Traverse Bay amidst majestic oaks and pines of Old Mission Peninsula. Today the remodeled former Bowers Harbor Inn Restaurant is now home to the Mission Table Restaurant & Tasting Room that carefully blends historic charm with a superb culinary cuisine. Seated in a warm cozy private dining room, we peruse our menu with each course carefully paired with a local wine or beer. Choices! Choices! Choices! For his first course Richard has the rich flavorful Risotto paired with the Jolly Pumpkin Ora de Calabaza beer. My flash fried Cauliflower with a garlic aioli and jalapeno vinaigrette is flavorful and pairs perfectly with the Bonafide Peninsula White. Selecting the second course the Mission Salad has Richard thrilled with the farm greens, chunks of buttermilk blue cheese blended with a light red wine vinaigrette accompanied by Northpeak Archangel Cherry Wheat beer. While I delight in how the Bonafide Chardonnay compliments the healthy and tasty Farro Salad consisting of arugula, feta cheese, pickled onion, English peas and green herb vinaigrette. Richard says when trout is on the menu, I will order it. Yes! I order the Lake Trout accompanied by toasted cous cous, kale quinoa, roasted red pepper and ramp butter pairing well with the Two Lads Pinot Noir. Just as I am predictable with trout, Richard is predictable with pasta selecting the Fettucine with tender beef tenderloins, succulent wild mushrooms, cherry tomatoes, and spinach all blended with a demi glace, cream, and asiago. The Northpeak Siren Amber Ale melds with the flavors of this rich and tasty dish.
A toast to the Sunday Safari Supper! Excellent! We sampled an extensive selection of wines at two vineyards, as well as, with our dinner. Plus the hors d’oeuvres with our wine tastings definitely enhanced our tasting experience. The finale of a three course dinner with wine and beer pairings was superb!
Seeking other samplings activities in Traverse City, we drive through cherry orchards and vineyards to the very end of the Old Mission Peninsula. Here sits the Mission Point Lighthouse an icon for decades that stands as a classic piece of Michigan history. Commissioned September 10, 1870 to guide mariners through West Grand Traverse Bay, it was decommissioned in 1933. On this sunny day, the Lighthouse gleams on the lakeshore as visitors wander through to get a peek of life as a lighthouse keeper at the turn of the century. Strolling past the Lighthouse and down to sandy but rock strewn beach, it is a picture perfect day with the shimmering Lake Michigan as the backdrop. Tours of the Lighthouse are free but there is a small fee to climb the tower.
This town is made for walking! Traverse City is a town best seen on foot. Locating a good parking spot and with comfy shoes, we stroll the city’s tree-lined streets and ivy-covered buildings. Eclectic defines the downtown along Front Street with its cozy restaurants and coffee shops, antique stores, specialty clothing boutiques, two independent book shops, and numerous unique retailers. Traverse City is the Cherry Capital of the World so a “cherry stop” is a must. Samplings are encouraged at the Cherry Republic where every aisle offers a sample from chocolate covered cherries to dried cherries to salsas to jams and jellies and MORE! Microbrews are also taking off in the area so we enjoy a cool one at Mackinaw Brewing Company. Later we meet friends, Bo and Cindy who live in the downtown Traverse City area. After dinner, they prove “Traverse City is a walking town” as they take us on an exciting and enjoyable walk of their town. A quick stop at the new Hotel Indigo’s rooftop bar and restaurant has expansive views of Grand Traverse Bay. Continuing on we arrive at the beautiful and scenic Clinch Park on West Grand Traverse Bay. A favorite morning stop where Bo and Cindy sit, relax, and take in the beauty over coffee. Serene! Returning a different route, we pass The Little Fleet, a food truck park, packed with diners enjoying the weather and a great variety of meal options. A city to walkabout!
It is crazy! It is fantastic! Transforming the former Northern Michigan Asylum on an auspicious 63 acres including 27 buildings and 750,000 square feet into one of the Midwest’s most desirable locations of The Village of Grand Traverse Commons is a massive undertaking. The Minervini Group had the vision and drive to take on one of the largest, historic preservation and adaptive reuse redevelopments in the country. Unique historic residences from studio apartments to expansive luxury condominiums are elegantly designed in the magnificent century-old buildings of Victorian-Italianate architecture. We visited several years ago when the project was in its early stages. Amazing! Today, we find The Village of Grand Traverse Commons packed and teaming with its residences, as well as, visitors and shoppers. Definitely a solution to urban sprawl The Village truly has it all with upscale residences, a bustling Mercato – an indoor marketplace boasting numerous boutique retail shops and restaurants, plus a variety of service type businesses. What may have sounded like a crazy idea has proven to be a major success. It’s in walking distance of downtown Traverse City, too.
Our taste of Traverse City gave us a good sampling of the variety of activities. We definitely just nippled on the on the edge of this exciting and dynamic town. Visitors should definitely stop by Traverse City Tourism for ideas and suggestions for a great visit to this amazing city.
If you go:
Bowers Harbor Vineyards, 2896 Bowers Harbor Rd, Traverse City, MI 49686 231.223.7615 www.bowersharbor.com
Brys Estate Vineyard & Winery, 3309 Blue Water Road, Traverse City, MI 49686
Mission Point Lighthouse, 20500 Center Rd, Traverse City, MI 49686
Mission Table Restaurant and Tasting Room, 13512 Peninsula Dr, Traverse City, MI 49686
The Village at Grand Traverse Commons, 830 Cottageview Dr, Traverse City, MI 49684
Traverse City Brew Bus: Traverse City Winery and Brewery Tours
Note: Sunday Safari Super is listed as an event. Tickets include Transportation, all wine tastings and hors d’oeuvres at each location, and three-course dinner and pairings at Mission table. Gratuity and tax included at mission Table. In winter the tour is by snowshoe instead of by van. Umm! That would be fun and most interesting after wine tasting.
Traverse City Tourism, 101 West Grandview Parkway, Traverse City, MI 49684
231-947-1120 or 1-800-872-8377 |