Monday, August 9, 2010

The Fruits of the 45th Parallel

The Peninsulas on the 45th parallel in Michigan (near Traverse City) have a unique climate. Sandy loam to loam soils with Lake Michigan tempering the Arctic wind in the winter and cooling the summer air. Apparently these are perfect conditions for growing two of my favorite foods: cherries and wine grapes.

The first cherry trees were planted on the Old Mission peninsula in 1852 by a Presbyterian missionary named Peter Dougherty. We don’t know why he planted the trees, but today Michigan produces 70 – 75% of the tart cherries grown in the U.S. – as well as sweet cherries.

Michigan has a 150 year wine making legacy, and 51% of the Michigan’s wine grapes are grown in the Traverse City region. Other wine regions on the 45th parallel include Italy, France, and Oregon.

My husband and I take an annual Michigan wine tour and stock up for the year. Below are the outstanding wineries that we visited in 2010. The vintners state that 2007 was the best year for Michigan wine ever. But, I’m wondering if this hot summer of 2010 may out do it.

Old Mission Peninsula

Chateau Chantal: We love to stay at this B&B winery. The views are spectacular. Our favorite wine is the Cerise Cherry Port. It’s made from tart cherries distilled and blended with cherry wine. Incredible with dark chocolate. We also enjoyed and purchased the Pinot Blanc and Semi-Dry Riesling.

Bowers Harbor: Their 2007 Cabernet Franc was voted best red wine in Michigan, and the very special 2007 “2896 Meritage” is one of the best Michigan-made Bordeaux style wines we’ve ever tasted.

Two Lads: Another must-see view. This contemporary tasting room overlooks the east arm of Grand Traverse Bay with Elk Rapids, MI off in the distance. They are a small winery with consistently good wines. We picked up the Semi-dry Riesling and Pinot Grigio – two wines that many local vineyards produce.

Brys Estate: This winery is one of my favorites. I just like the feel of it. Very sophisticated; friendly, knowledgeable staff. Recently their 2007 Artisan Pinot Noir was the first Michigan red wine to earn a metal at a recent competition in London.

Leelanau Peninsula

Good Neighbor Organic: As you travel to this winery, you understand the term “as long as a country mile.” To get here, it’s a beautiful drive through various fruit farms. The back-to-the-land – looking proprietors / vintners are friendly and knowledgeable about their ciders and wines. (A cider is around 7% alcohol; a wine around 9 – 15%.) Along with grape wines, they produce cherry, apple, peach, and wild berry cider. They also have a unique chocolate cherry cider that is cherry forward with a chocolate aftertaste.

45 North: This winery is using grapes from other local growers while they wait for their vines to mature. Due to the poor local growing conditions in 2009, they have used some Washington, Oregon, and California grapes. Their wine skills make up for the disappointing growing year. We enjoyed our tasting there.

L. Mawby: This winery makes sparkling wines. (Otherwise known as Champagne, but the term is reserved for sparkling wines from the Champagne region of France.) Proprietor Larry Mawby also has an electric car and a power-producing wind turbine. Our perennial favorite is the very yeasty Talismon. We also purchased the Conservancy wine - $2.00 per bottle is donated to the Leelanau Land Conservancy.

Circa: This winery has my favorite wine tasting room. It is set in an Old World style building. The wines are some of the best. We enjoyed the 2006 un-oaked Chardonnay and the Improvisation blend of 2008-09 white grapes.

Ciccone: Recognize this name? This winery is owned by Madonna’s father. She grew up in Michigan (Bay City area). We picked up the cherry wine here; the Gewurztraminer was quite good too.

Silver Leaf: This was the last winery that we went to after it was recommended by a fellow Chateau Chantal guest. It’s located on the northern end of Leelanau Peninsula adjacent to an Indian Reservation. We picked up the Purple Passion – a mixture of red grapes and cherries in a unique wine.

Thanks to Bob Reusch for the wonderful photography.


  1. What a beautiful place! I am jealous!!

  2. Can't wait to try our bottle of 2896. Thanks again!

  3. You might qualify for a new solar energy rebate program.
    Find out if you're qualified now!