The northern portion of the lower peninsula of Michigan is blessed with a unique climate. The proximity of Lake Michigan to the western side of the area moderates the weather. This allows for a variety of grapes to be grown in what might otherwise be an inhospitable climate. Because of this, there are many wineries in Grand Traverse and Leelanau counties. In autumn, the grapes have been harvested and winery tours are an enjoyable way to spend a day or weekend.
Driving straight north out of Traverse City, up the Old Mission Peninsula, will reveal several award winning wineries. The peninsula’s oldest commercial winery is Chateau Grand Traverse. The winery was established in 1974 by Edward O’Keefe and is well known for its white wines, especially the Rieslings. Their Johannesburg Riesling Ice Wine has been served at the White House.
On the other end of the age spectrum on the Old Mission Peninsula is Two Lads Winery. The Two Lads, Chris Baldyga and Cornel Oliver love the winery’s excellent view of the East Bay. Although they bottled their first vintage in 2007 they are already building an excellent reputation with their wines.
Traveling west from Traverse City brings you to the Leelanau peninsula and more than dozen wineries. For those looking for a famous connection try Ciccone Vineyard and Winery. The winery was founded and is run by Silvio Ciccone, who just happens to be pop star Madonna’s father. Several of the vintages have label artwork that features the singer. They grow a mix of grapes, producing wines influenced by Silvio’s Italian heritage.
The iconic winery in northern Michigan could well be Boskydel Vineyard. The winery was started by Bernie Rink back in 1964. The tasting room is an eclectically decorated pole barn. Boskydel favors red wines made from French-American hybrid grapes.