Leelanau Peninsula is one of the country’s best-kept secrets! The small peninsula, known as the “pinky finger” of Michigan, juts 33 miles into Lake Michigan and hosts several inland lakes. The lakeshore lifestyle is evident as you make your way through quaint villages, including historic “Fishtown,” and boat-packed marinas. Home to the National Sleeping Bear Lakeshore, the peninsula boasts massive sand dunes that garnered the region the “Most Beautiful Place in America” by CBS’s Morning Show. Yep, Michigan!
Nestled within the beautiful landscape, 26 wineries create the Leelanau Peninsula Wine Trail, Michigan’s oldest trail and the Midwest’s largest. Each winery is known for its own unique character and ambiance, ranging from modern facilities with unparalleled lake views to cozy countryside nooks loaded with charm.
Although located close together, visiting 26 wineries is obviously not feasible in a day. To make your planning easy, the tour is divided into three mini-trails – the Sleeping Bear Loop, the Northern Loop and the Grand Traverse Bay Loop. Or, take advantage of the Leelanau Loop Adventure where local accommodations offer the third night free, allowing you an extra touring day. Details are available at www.lpwines.com/leelanau-loop-adventure. Or, visit the wineries on a slow-paced bike tour, or by snowshoe or cross country skis in the winter.
Whether you’re casually dressed from a day on the beach or all dressed up for an evening out, eager tasting room staff, or, very often, the winemaker him or herself, are ready to pour samples of wine into your glass. The region grows a variety of well-known wines such as Riesling, Chardonnay, Pinot Grigo, Gewürztraminer, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Franc as well as some lesser-known wines like Blaufränkisch, Grüner Veltliner, Auxerrrois and more. The region is also producing high quality dry Rosés and great blended wines.
First-time tasters and wine aficionados will both feel comfortable in a Leelanau Peninsula tasting room, where you are encouraged to “drink what you like.”Perhaps this attitude comes from the eclectic background of the vintners – doctors in horticulture, fourth-generation farmers, a dentist, corporate executives, an art professor and more.
The trail hosts several fun events throughout the year. Warm up in January with the Sips & Soups Tasting Tour, get casual with Sips, Chips & Dips where local wines are paired with everyday snacks, join the Sip O’de Mayo Hat Contest in May, run through the vineyards in September for the Harvest Stompede or Hunt for the Reds of October and discover quality red wines being gown on the peninsula. Coming up in August, Small Plates is a progressive dinner with a pairing of fresh, gourmet fare and local wine in the vineyards and tasting rooms.
This month is their signature event, the Traverse City Wine & Art Festival, being held June 25th and is a celebration and experience of everything local. Attendees can enjoy onsite varietal tasting tours with local winemakers, a cheese and wine tasting trail, a dessert and wine tasting trail, a fun winemaker education lounge, fresh fare created by local farmer and chef partnerships, live music and more. Lodging packages are available at TraverseCityWineFestival.com.
Whatever you do on Leelanau Peninsula, you’ll instantly note the northern Michigan charm of the locals and the laid-back, easy-going atmosphere that makes you feel like you’ve been friends forever. The peninsula has a way of drawing you in and making you want to keep returning for more. And, the wines, well, they will truly surprise you with their quality and the cool, crisp flavors of the region.
Be sure to take time to explore all this trail has to offer. If you want to experience the true taste of Michigan, start with the wineries on the Leelanau Peninsula Wine Trail. We promise you won’t be disappointed. For more information about the trail, go to www.lpwines.com.