Hello again. Let’s continue on our Michigan trip, as we explore some of the towns, scenery, and of course, Beer! First stop, Little Traverse Inn! While we did not stay here, we did visit the bar for a night cap. This quaint little location is a nice little stop to sit back and enjoy some great food as well as local beers. There’s indoor and outdoor seating, and occasionally live music.
A neat little feature of this Inn is they have rotating cask beer. Pumped from a cask, low carbonation, slightly warmer and full of flavor. The cask special for the night was a beer from Right Brain Brewery called Northern Hawk Owl. This 5% ABV American Amber ale was a perfect choice for this selection. With a sweet malty nose and a smooth, light body, it tricks your senses in that it characterizes a nitro infusion. A pleasantly balance beer fit for a nightcap under the stars.
If you want some good home cooking, a place to stay, or a simply delicious brew in a ducky little bar, Little Traverse in is the way to go. Now, if you want fresh wine, beer, spirits, or just a nice walk through local small towns, there’s much more to explore. The next few spots will not necessarily be in chronological order, but they will be a few of the places one can see within minutes of each other.
Fun fact: Leelanau County is on the 45th parallel. Oh, you don’t know what that means? Ha, I had to remember my geography too. Put it this way, Michigan and France are on the same imaginary line on the globe. What is the significance of that? Do you like French wine? The 45th parallel is supposedly a great parallel for wine. That being said, let’s talk about two wineries, shall we?
First stop, Blustone Vineyards. Not being a Wino, I really haven’t dove into the experience that is wine. My wife on the other hand loves good wine, and knows her stuff. So on many of these excursions, while we might not agree on our favorites, I trust her experience. And we were both pleasantly surprised. The aesthetics both inside and out are breathtaking, ranging from a wide open atmosphere in the building to the vast fields of grapes.
The wines are high quality, and their ciders are truly enjoyable. I took a fancy of Incognito, a crisp and refreshing cider. The nose portrays a hint of white wine, and the body is light and bubbly, a very nice compliment to a summer day outside. No lie, I had one of the best Pinot Noirs I have ever tasted (let the reader use discernment). This beautiful winery snugly settled in the hills of Leelanau county is worth seeking out.
Another vinous gem is 45 North winery and vineyard. which happens to be across the vineyards from Blustone. You name it they have it; jams, art, wine, cider, and food to pair. After turning down the gravel road at the chain-held “45” sign. Inside, you can purchase your samples of wines and ciders. After, you can purchase bottles and glasses filled with wine and enjoy them on the deck or inside. Try a meat and cheese wheel to pair with your wines for an added delight. As for a wine recommendation, the 2015 Cabernet Franc/ Merlot is totally worth the price. For ciders, try the Oakayzie, just the right amount of oak, perfectly paired with a dry juicy body.
As you can see from the pictures, the landscapes are beautiful and add to the atmosphere that is wine country. We also found while driving around the county, you experience a lot of local culture and scenery. From giant sand dunes of a desert persuasion, to miles of endless sea-sized lake, mountains and animals, both domestic and wild.
While exploring the local towns, we came across the town of Suttons Bay, MI. If you are looking for a well rounded local experience, with a bit of a tourist welcome, please stop into this little hot spot. Do you like fresh brewed coffee? Or Gelato? Or maybe some Italian Ice, you will find your share in Little Bees Italian Ice. Walk down a small flowered alley, to the back of the main store and you are greeted by friendly locals who would rather venture to Massachusetts than Hawaii. Free samples abound, and you need them because the variety can be a bit overwhelming. The ladies there will take care of your order and answer any questions you may have about their town and foods. While you wait for your brew or your scoops, you can take a gander at the art displayed in their little gallery. Afterward, sit outside in a mini out door “bistro” setting, or park yourself on benches along the sidewalk or by the street.
Exploring this town is a relaxing walk, filled with scenic sights, restaurants wine and art. When you’re ready to finish your day, however, I highly recommend visiting Hop Lot Brewing! Hand made soaps, memorabilia, visiting local cooks, live music and a fire pit, what else could you as for? Oh yea, Beer! Fresh local straight form their brewery to your glass (unless it’s busy, you may get a plastic cup). Their beer is top notch, and the variety is enough to satisfy the least experienced of palates to the more snobby of the beer drinkers.
In the next article, I will highlight the breweries and some of their beer, but for this will move onto the distilleries. To enjoy great spirits distilled locally, take a trip to Northern Latitudes Distillery! Coincidentally this is located across the street from Boathouse Vineyards. Which is a good thing, seeing as how there’s a plethora of samples at both locations (YAY! No driving).
Northern Latitude is a medley of local gifts, friendly faces, and home made spirits. They serve drinks too! In the middle is where the samples are served. Standing smugly behind the counters are workers who are more than happy to give you a history of the distillery, how the spirits are made, and some suggestions on pairings and mixes. Their rum, whiskey and vodka are pretty well done. I say, if you are looking for a place to visit and sample, Northern Latitude is definitely worth a shot (see what I did there too).
We also were able to visit a quaint little town called Leland. Between the bay, Leland river, the local food and stores, there is enough to keep you busy for a while. Right at the mouth of the river, there’s a few shops that give you a spectacular view of Lake Michigan. Nestled in these little shops is a branch of Grand Traverse Distilling, a tasting room to be exact. Inside you can try some smaller samples of drink mixes, and for a a small fee you can try samples of their spirits straight, and take a souvenir whiskey glass from Scotland.
Grand Traverse’s spirits are high quality, well rounded, smooth and delicious. I think I have a new favorite rum. Full bodied, dark charred but not overpowering. Their whiskeys are fine products as well. If you don’t like rum or whiskey (for shame), there’s vodka and gin too enjoy.
So I mentioned Boathouse Vineyards above didn’t I? Well, I won’t leave you hanging in this post. Do you like relaxing? How about wine? You will love Boathouse Vineyards. Go in, have a few samples, buy a glass or a bottle, then head outside and pull up a chair and relax on the green. Move down farther and you can sit down by the little channel , watching small boats pass on by. It’s great for a visit, an occasion, or something to purchase and bring home to share.
Well, I do hope you enjoyed this round of a sip of Michigan, stay tuned for the next article where we entertain the palate’s of our mind with some great breweries.
I love the history of beer and how its made, the whole beer experience. My philosophy is, finding your beer is like finding your soul-mate, you may have a long search, and learn some lessons, but there is a beer that’s just right for you.