I’m about done with winter, but a unique approach to wine tasting outside Traverse City may lure me back to the snowy north one more time.
On the Leelanau Peninsula, wine enthusiasts can slip into a pair of cross-country skis or strap on snowshoes and follow a groomed trail through vineyards and orchards to taste the samplings at a pair of wineries and a hard cider maker. The trail is about 7.5 miles round trip and connects Blustone Vineyards near Lake Leelanau, Forty-Five North Vineyard & Winery, about a mile a way, and Tandem Ciders, north of Suttons Bay.
At Blustone Vineyards, skiers and snowshoers can unwind and ease the chill with samplings of riesling, pinot noir, gewürztraminer and other wines. Blustone is relatively new. Its oldest vineyard celebrates a decade this year and its wine tasting room has been open only about 18 months. The tasting room boasts floor-to-ceiling windows offering panoramic views of winter-dusted vines.
“We’ve had quite a few people coming through,” says John Molenhouse, Blustone’s vineyard operations manager. “People seem to really enjoy it. It’s an opportunity to get outside and do some of the winter activities and a little bit of tasting.”
If you don’t have cross-country skis or snowshoes, you can drop into Suttons Bay Bikes for rentals.
“It’s a really cool idea,” says Nick Wierzba of Suttons Bay Bikes. “You can get out and explore the vineyards, then go inside to warm up by the fire and taste some wine, and move on to the next place. We’re getting a lot of calls from people and groups who want to find out about it.”
Wine touring, of course, is extremely popular on both the Leelanau and the Old Mission peninsulas, and getting into tasting rooms can mean enduring crowds in the warmer months. The vineyard-to-vineyard ski and snowshoe trail sounds like the perfect alternative — a chance to visit a few wineries and get some exercise at the same time.
The trail will remain open as long as there is snow to groom – and that seems likely for awhile.