The steep water-cradled slopes that make Traverse City the “Cherry Capital of the World” are also producing some of the best wines in the country.
Michigan’s Wine Country
Traverse City is situated directly on the 45th parallel – halfway between the North Pole and the Equator – which is the same locale as the famous wine regions of France and Italy. The area’s two wine trails are located on the picturesque Leelanau and Old Mission peninsulas – both of which stretch out into the sapphire blue waters of Lake Michigan.
The water surrounding these peninsulas serves several purposes: In the fall, early frost is held at bay thanks to the water’s lingering warm temperature, while during the winter the vines stay cozy under thick blankets of lake-effect snow. In the spring, early budding is rare thanks to the still-chilly temperatures of the Bay. Because of this unique microclimate, Traverse City is fast becoming known for the clean, fresh taste of its wines, which hold their aroma and fruit flavors much more faithfully than those grown in hotter climates.
The region made its first international impact with white wines – Riesling, Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, Gewurtztraminer – but is now winning admirers for light French-style reds like Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc and Merlot. It’s also one of the world’s top producers of ice wine, an intensely-flavored dessert wine made from the juice of winter-frozen grapes.
Autumn in Wine Country
Fall is an especially popular time at the vineyards and tasting rooms. The vines are heavy with fruit, ripe for the picking, and the air is heavy with fruity goodness (not to mention a fair amount of honey bees and fruit flies!) Visitors can often see the grapes being pressed into wine during their autumn tasting tour, and the spectacular fall color on the Leelanau and Old Mission peninsulas rolling hills is beyond breathtaking.
The vineyards and tasting rooms are still abuzz with visitors straight through mid- to late-October, and the wine trails plan plenty of events to celebrate harvest time. On the Leelanau Peninsula, the annual Harvest Stompede is held in mid-September and features a unique walk and/or run through the vineyards, followed by a self-guided wine tour, complete with local food pairings. The aptly named Hunt for The Reds of October features (what else?) local reds including Pinot Noirs, Cabernet Francs and Merlots. The event also benefits the local chapter of the American Red Cross.
Looking for a way to sit back, relax and toast the True North wine country without having to worry about the logistics of it all? The Traverse City area has plenty of local tour operators who know the ins and outs of the area and can build itineraries that meet your individual needs – whether it’s just a few of you in your party or a full bus load!
TC Meets Reality TV
The wineries of the Grand Traverse region produce world class award-winning wines year after year, but rarely do we see the behind-the-scenes details of what it takes to make them. Until now.
Wine Warriors hopes to give viewers an up-close glimpse into the everyday obstacles, sticky realities and quirky personalities that make up the wine industry of the Grand Traverse area. The show, currently in development and being pitched to national channels, will showcase wineries from both highly recognized wine trails in the area - the Leelanau Peninsula Vintners Associationand The Wineries of Old Mission Peninsula. To see what the television executives are currently pitching, check out the Wine Warriors official trailer video!