Add the Leland Wine & Food Festival to your list of must-go-to Michigan events next year.
Held at the Leland Township Harbor Marina – next door to historic Fish Town – the festival celebrates the wines of the Leelanau and Old Mission peninsulas as well as some of the best food from area restaurants. It’s small by most standards – drawing nearly 3,000 enthusiasts most years – but that means there’s plenty of elbow room to wander among the vintners and eateries and sample their notable creations.
Familiar wineries — Chateau Fontaine, Chateau Grand Traverse, Black Star Farms, Verterra, Bel Lago and Bowers Harbor Vineyards — offered sometimes generous pours this past Saturday, and their volunteer staffs eagerly shared their knowledge about the wines and vineyards. I was pleasantly surprised by the pinot noir from one of the region’s newest wineries, Blustone Vineyards, which sits between Leland and Suttons Bay. The winery’s 2012 Pinot Noir won a bronze medal at the annual International East Meets West Wine Challenge in February (several other Michigan wineries fared well, too). I couldn’t resist another sample (or two).
Among the restaurants, the Bluebird, just down the street along the Leland River, sold whitefish tacos, blackened whitefish and tortilla chips with asparagus guacamole. There were plenty of plates of cheese, fruit and crackers, grilled bratwurst and sandwiches, berry pies, chocolate-dipped strawberries, brownies, and so much more.
Add live music to the mix and, well, you get the picture. What makes this festival stand out beyond the wine and the charms of Leland is the stunning scenery. The locale offers mesmerizing views of Lake Michigan and the Manitou Islands.
The Leland Wine & Food Festival, believed to be the oldest wine festival in the state, will celebrate its 30th anniversary in 2015. Be sure to reserve the second Saturday in June on your calendar.