This weekend, I had the opportunity to take my stepmom and soon-to-be sister-in-law up to Michigan wine country to celebrate my stepmom’s birthday, and share a little bit of what I love so much with them. Neither had ever been to northern Michigan before, nor had they ever been wine tasting, so I got to introduce them to a whole new world.
It was so much fun to see and experience everything for the first time with them – I got to see what I can sometimes take for granted through fresh eyes. I was reminded how lucky we are to live in Michigan – there isn’t anywhere more beautiful, especially in the fall.
Ok – on to the trip itself! I’ve broken it down into sections to help me keep it short, though each part is certainly deserving of its own post.
We booked a spa package at the Grand Traverse Resort & Spa. I hadn’t stayed there in many years, and wasn’t sure what to expect. From the moment we pulled in, we were blown away. The property is absolutely stunning, and the staff could not have been nicer.
We stayed in a beautiful Terrace condominium. It had a gorgeous kitchenette, 2 bedrooms, 2 balconies, and a fireplace. The views from the balconies were breathtaking, especially when the weather cleared up.
The Spa at Grand Traverse did not disappoint – all of the treatments we had were top of the line. The space is beautiful and calm and relaxing, and the therapists were fun and friendly and very professional.
We could not have picked a better place to spend our weekend together. Everything was perfect, and we’re already talking about our next trip there!
Daytime and Sunset views from our balconies at the Grand Traverse Resort & Spa
Boy, did we eat on this trip. It was hard for me to plan out the restaurants, because of all the great choices Traverse City offers. Here’s where we ended up:
Trattoria Stella – located in the Grand Traverse Commons, this was at the top of my list. The food is delicious, the wine spectacular, and the location in an old mental hospital is pretty hard to beat.
Boathouse Restaurant – This was the most beautiful place to stop and have lunch on Old Mission Peninsula. Cozy atmosphere, with incredible views of the West Bay and fall color through the floor-to-ceiling windows. The service was impeccable – we were in a bit of a rush, and they were on top of everything. The mushroom soup is not to be missed!
Aerie (at Grand Traverse) – Wow is all I can say. This was a last minute decision for us, and one of the highlights of the trip. From the moment we sat down, we were so impressed. The menu is to die for. We enjoyed short rib, crab cakes, and gazpacho to start, and filet and paella for entrees. However, the star of our meal was the dessert – a cappuccino crème brulee. Holy moly. I could have died right then, and been totally ok with it.
This was the most fun part of the trip for me. I did a lot of thinking about which wineries to visit, and took a lot of feedback from our Facebook fans. We only had time to visit 3, and narrowing it down was tough! I wish we could have visited more, but I guess that’s another reason to do this again! Here are the 3 Michigan wineries we visited:
Black Star Farms – I don’t think I’ve ever been to the Traverse City area without visiting Black Star Farms on the Leelanau Peninsula. It’s my favorite stop – the tasting room is beautiful! More than that, though, is the staff. Chris Lopez, tasting room manager, is one of my favorite people in the world. He took us through the tasting, explaining each wine, offering tips, and did it all without ever making my family feel dumb for not knowing. He was funny, and charming, and he treats every guest the same way. I knew I wanted him to open the day for us, and he didn’t disappoint. There is absolutely not a better tasting experience in Michigan.
Dessert wine tasting at Black Star Farms
L. Mawby – I couldn’t show off my favorite wineries to my family without a stop at Mawby. I love bubbles! We were able to get in a half hour before they opened to the public, and enjoyed a tour from Don Hartwig, the tasting room manager and a visit with Larry Mawby himself. We tasted the Sandpiper, the Wet, and the Blanc de Noir. After making our purchases (I’ve never left Mawby without buying!), we were on our way!
Beautiful view from the backyard of L. Mawby
Chateau Chantal – This was our last stop, and totally worth the drive from the Leelanau Peninsula to Old Mission. This winery offers the most stunning views I’ve ever seen. Marie Chantal (daughter of the founders) was kind enough to take us on a tour that included a visit to the vineyard to learn about the history and the harvesting process, and a trip to the cellar to see the entire winemaking process. This was the absolute highlight of our wine tasting – it was so cool to see, and you can’t ask for a better guide than Marie! We ended the afternoon with a tasting of some of their finest wines. The highlight for us was their Unoaked Chardonnay – absolutely perfect.
Experiencing Chateau Chantal: From top to bottom – Marie Chantal Dalese teaching us about the history of the winery; Learning about the winemaking operation; The spectaular view from the tasting room balcony.
This trip was the best I’ve ever taken to northern Michigan. The company, the food, the wine, and the resort all combined to make it a weekend I’ll never forget. If you’ve never been wine tasting in that area in the fall, I suggest you change that. Words and even pictures don’t do it justice – it’s absolutely stunning. The tasting rooms are full, the colors are beautiful, and the weather is just right for a full day of eating, drinking and enjoying. And if you’re looking for a relaxing place to stay after all that wine tasting, Grand Traverse Resort & Spa is the place to go!
I also had a delicious lunch (and beer!) at 7 Monks Taproom with my good friend and new dad Nick Perez, and a delicious after-dinner beer (or 3) at North Peak Brewing Company with my good friend Nick Nerbonne.