Josh and Casey Kessler are regulars at the Corks wine tastings and have contributed their tasting notes in the past. They spent their Memorial Day weekend up in Traverse City enjoying the wonderful scenery and wine. They filed this great report about their visit to the Old Mission Peninsula Wine Trail.
The lower half of the highway at the beginning of the peninsula was closed for a marathon when we started the trail, so we started in the middle, went up, and then worked our way back to the bottom.
Bry's Estate - This place has a wonderful tasting room. It is an old renovated farmhouse with some top-notch wines. Their winemaker is from South Africa and has won them many medals. I liked most everything, but I didn't want to jump into buying several bottles since this was our first stop of seven. Casey bought a bottle of Pinot Noir Riesling because it was unique. I remember a fruity taste with a hint of sweetness.
Bower's Harbor - This is a smaller, lesser-known winery. The Pinot Grigio really shines here. I ended up buying a Cheritage wine, which is a blend of sweet, tart, and tangy cherries. It was unlike any fruit wine I had tasted before. I was surprised at their selection. They make their wine from multiple vineyards within both the Old Mission and Lelanau peninsulas.
2 Lads Winery - We drove up looking at a building that resembled something you would see in the Jetson's. It was very unique. Their selection was thin but very good. They claim to have the best overall view on the peninsula. I took home a bottle of Rose of Cab Franc, which is one of their best sellers.
Chateau Chantal - This is one of the largest and aesthetically pleasing wineries. The place was jam packed and what an incredible selection! They were in the middle of a large addition, which the entire building sits in the center of acres upon acres of vines. We were only allowed six tastes. This made it very hard, due to the selection available. I found myself tasting the same wines previously, so I decided I needed to change things up. I started with the Pinot Blanc. In a blind tasting, I would have guessed this to be a semi-dry Riesling. It was wonderful. Next, I chose the Chardonnay. This is probably one of my least favorite wines, although I was flattered by this one. It had just a hint of sweetness, which I what I really like. All of the others I tried were great as well. You have to go to the counter and ask for what you want. I told the guy I wanted a bottle each of the Pinot Blanc and the Chardonnay. He laughed and said that it was an odd request. He said, "What you're liking there is the result of a cold summer last year. You must appreciate a very fruit-forward character."
Chateau Grand Traverse - One of the largest, oldest, and best in my opinion. Once again, I like just about everything I tried. They were the only ones to have a Gamay Noir on their list. All I remember is that it was a little smoky or peppery with great flavor. I purchased a bottle of Silhouette. It is a red wine blend of Cabernet Franc, Pinot Meunier, Gamay Noir, Merlot and Pinot Noir. It is very fruity with a rich body. CGT is probably the most affordable winery as well. Here, Casey chose the Merlot Reserve (which I'm taking the description from their site). Classic oak and earthy undertones make this wine ideal for wild game dinners or simple steaks on the grill. Flavors of cherry, black pepper, and light plum combine for a smooth and captivating finish. Aged for 15 months in small oak barrels, this wine is ideal for heartier meats, pasta marinara, or most smoked fare.
Peninsula Cellars - is an old renovated schoolhouse. I couldn't see much for vines growing around this place, but was surprised by the variety they offered. The wines are named after a school theme. I chose a bottle each of Old School White and Detention. These were both made from hybrid grapes that no one else offered. Though both were semi-sweet, I thought they were great! The Detention consisted of: a blend of Baco Noir, Lemberger, and Cab Franc. The Old School White was a blend of Cayuga, Riesling, Pinot Blanc, and Pinot Grigio. I was very impressed with this little winery.
Black Star Farms - With this being the last stop, we were hungry and "wined out". They charged $5 for their tasting and we didn't see anything on their list that enticed us or was anything we hadn't already tried. I guess this wasn't fair to them, but we had had enough. (Publisher’s Note: On our last visit up north we went to Black Star as our first stop and had an enjoyable visit. Timing can be everything…)
It was an overall amazing experience. We want to go back and do the same thing on the Lelanau Peninsula in the future.
Josh and Casey, an outstanding story. Thank you. If you have a winery visit you’d like to share, send it to firstname.lastname@example.org…