I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving! After a week of debauchery in Mandeville and New Orleans, including seventeen giant squares of fried dough known romantically as "beignets" and pans of various creamed vegetables that were each at least three square feet, we're back in Austin and ready to resume chatting with Boots.
And back to September it is!
After a lovely lunch at Frenchies Famous, we piled into Logan's enormous truck and headed up the Old Mission Peninsula, one of two spits of land that jut northward from Traverse City. The area, and its nearby sister the Leelenau peninsula (which we'd be checking out the following day) are known by Food and Wine as "B-List Wine Country" and also, importantly for us, as a locavore haven bursting with apples and pumpkins and berries and cherries and lakefish and all sorts of wonderfulness.
Not to worry, we bought several large bags of deliciously tart, crisp apples and ate them happily over the course of the next couple of weeks. These apples were so fresh, and reminded me so strongly of my Midwestern upbringing and its annual apple-picking trips, that I couldn't help but love them.
We visited three wineries on the Old Mission Peninsula, with varying levels of success. Two Lads was our favorite.
This was not just due to its beautifully designed building, immaculately maintained vines, and sweeping views of the bay.
Their cabernet franc was actually quite enjoyable! With its lilting flavor of green pepper and slight astringency, I'm sure it would be a great food wine. We got ourselves a couple of bottles. The cab franc rose, however, was not to my liking - a bit too sweet.
Wines get whinier, geography gets funner, after the jump.
Due to some odd Michigan law, all wines at these tasting rooms must be served with food. You can have a tasting by itself, but if you want to order a glass of wine at Two Lads it must come with something to nibble on. Today, Manchego. Sure.
From Two Lads, Old Mission wineries went rapidly downhill. There was Peninsula Cellars, whose award-winning (?) wines can be tasted in a very cool old one-room schoolhouse.
Sadly but unsurprisingly, almost all of their wines were way too sweet for our palates, though there were many fellow tourists around us smacking their lips with approval. We were lucky enough to taste Peninsula Cellars' ice wine, which was truly an outstanding example of its type - sweet, without being cloying, with all the brightness on the tongue you get from a balanced icewine.
We also walked into Chateau Grand Traverse, because with a pretentious name like that it's GOTTA be good, right? but the lines were ridiculously long and we had no interest in tasting their sweet red table wine. So we bailed.
It was definitely time for some dorky geography fun! So we drove all the way up to the tippy tip of the land-finger, where we found a lighthouse.
But that's not all!
(We also drove across the continental divide this summer in Colorado. More items to cross off my bucket list!)
The lighthouse was rustic and looked impassively across the water. You could tell that this solid building had successfully shepherded generations of boats through the dangerous shoals.
We teetered up increasingly steep steps to the very top of the building, where we had a picturesque view of a wedding taking place on the beach below. The bride and her bridesmaids went shoeless. Her very young, barely walking ringbearer made it 80 percent of the way down the treacherous aisle, with its shifting foundation of sand, before faceplanting with arms spread wide directly onto the white runner.
The grounds of the lighthouse also included an original 1-room log cabin built by the Hessler family sometime between 1854 and 1856. It's hard to conceive of overwintering in this small home in Michigan's harsh climate.
I was excited to be able to explore this small bit of history, but the oddly specific opening hours stymied me.
Guess I'll just have to plan to be there for the four hours a year this tourist attraction is open. What is this, the Ark of the Covenant?
Thanks for tagging along on our September trip to the Old Mission Peninsula! I'm starting to think I need a little addition to the sidebar explaining where we are at any given time. (Currently: Austin.)
Two Lads Winery is at 16985 Smokey Hollow Road on the Old Mission Peninsula. 231.223.7722.
Peninsula Cellars is at 11480 Center Road on the Old Mission Peninsula. 231.933.9787.
Chateau Grand Traverse (don't do it! No! Or do. Maybe you'll love it.) 12239 Center Road on the Old Mission Peninsula. 800.283.0247.
The Old Mission Point Lighthouse and the Hessler Cabin are at the top of the island - just stay on 37, or Center Road, and head north until you can't head north no mo'. It's $4 to climb the lighthouse and I'd say it's well worth it. 231.499.1787.