Michigan Wine Country: Unexpected and Beautiful

Michigan, wine, Leelanau Peninsula, Traverse City, Sip and Savor, wine tasting

I was looking forward to visiting Traverse City, Michigan and exploring the neighboring areas but little did I know my timing was going to be SO good.  You see, that weekend, the Leelanau Peninsula Spring Sip & Wine was taking place (check here for other events!).  Over 20 wineries participated and the ticket included a small appetizer and several tastings of wine at each participating winery.  Heaven!Michigan, wine, Leelanau Peninsula, Traverse City, Sip and Savor, wine tasting

I did have to mind how many places I visited as I only had one afternoon and I would not want to rush just to score more wineries!   (<- crazy talk)  Plus, it was my first time in the area so I wanted to also admire the scenery.

Upon entering Leelanau Peninsula, our first stop was the Ciccone Vineyards.

Michigan, wine, Leelanau Peninsula, Traverse City, Sip and Savor, wine tasting, Ciccone, Madonna

If the last name sounds familiar, it is Madonna‘s last name:  it is her Dad’s winery.  I don’t know the full story but I know at some point (and maybe still) they are not close.  The “savor” part at this winery was the homemade chili by the owner.  It was delicious and perfect given the rainy weather at that point in the day.  We enjoyed chatting with the staff!

Michigan, wine, Leelanau Peninsula, Traverse City, Sip and Savor, wine tasting, Ciccone, Madonna

The grounds of the Ciccone vineyards

My partner-in-crime, er, fellow traveler and I moved on to Blustone Vineyards which stole a piece of my heart…  Why?  They were serving CUBAN PERNIL (pork)!!!!  As a 100% Cuban-blooded human being and cook of Cuban pork myself I was impressed with the quality of the pork.  The pork was from Georgina‘s in Traverse City (I looked at their menu online and I immediately started salivating!!  Next time in TC, I will HAVE to visit!).  Kudos!

Michigan, winery, vineyard, Traverse City,  Blustone winery, Leelanau Peninsula, wine tasting, wine tasting room

Plus, the wine at Blustone was the most impressive of the whole lot I sampled on this visit.  I also did love the space:  modern, spacious, and well lit with natural light.  It got quite packed after we arrived but there still was plenty of space to hang around.  Good job, Blustone!

Michigan, winery, vineyard, Traverse City,  Blustone winery, Leelanau Peninsula, wine tasting, wine tasting room

Random driving led us to encounter 45 North winery.  “What’s with the name?,” you may say?  Well, it is near the 45th parallel, halfway between the Equator and the North Pole!

45 Parallel, Michigan, road sign, halfway

The place was festive on the inside and out as you can see!  We enjoyed being served our tastings there and watching the “hat scene”.  Good job, 45 North!

Michigan, wine, vineyard, winery, 45 North, wine bottle, Leelanau

The tasting area and the bottle tree that greets visitors – pretty cool!

Michigan, wine, vineyard, winery, 45 North, wine bottle, Leelanau, food, white wine

What greeted us upon entering the testing room!

Michigan, wine, vineyard, winery, 45 North, wine bottle, Leelanau, hat, clever

One of the cleverest hats I saw!

It was time to keep on trucking along and we decided to go to Old Mission Peninsula to try a winery that was recommended, Brys Estate.  I enjoyed their reds – and the view of the east bay.  Though there was a great outdoor seating area with Adirondack chairs, because of the slightly weather, we did not partake of the outdoor.  But that was fine because we enjoy chatting with our server and some of the other visitors.

Brys, Estate, winery, vineyard, Old Mission, peninsula, Traverse City, Michigan

Brys, Estate, winery, vineyard, Old Mission, peninsula, Traverse City, Michigan

A view of the east bay

So, after this Saturday spent driving around these and other Michigan wineries, I can safely say it is a GREAT way to explore the beauty of Michigan – and enjoying delicious food and wines!  I do hope to return as there were many wineries I did not get to check out.  I love having a reason to go back to places I like!

The Grand Traverse Resort and Spa: Something for Everyone!

Grand Traverse Resort, Traverse City, Michigan, view, vista, hotel, travel, photo, blue sky, East Grand Traverse Bay

I had the opportunity to head north to Michigan recently to explore the town and area around Traverse City.  Mind you, I had only learned about Traverse City a couple of years ago when I read about it from one of my favorite travel blogs, The Working Mom’s Travels.  So, always ready to explore new places, I did not hesitate to make the trip even though I could only go for a weekend.

Getting there required a connection for me coming from Atlanta but, frankly, it was easy as a Michigan cherry pie as Detroit is a great airport, easy to navigate and with many flights in and out to my place of origin and my destination.  Traverse City is but 10 minutes away from the airport, a straight drive in.

I arrived at my place of stay, the Grand Traverse Resort and Spa in no time.  The courtesy airport pickup was excellent and my driver, Aaron, did a great job of giving me an intro to the area.  His friendliness was just the first one I experienced after arriving but it was not to be the only one at the GT Resort and Spa!  (I like the GT abbreviation they use because I went to university at another GT:  Georgia Tech!)Grand Traverse Resort, Traverse City, Michigan, view, vista, hotel, travel, photo, blue sky,

When I arrived, the place was packed as there was a convention that weekend but everything flowed smoothly, with check-in being lightning fast.  The Grand Lobby is large and has multiple seating areas (so many hotels these days forget to make their lobby inviting; I like it when they feel almost like a living room) including one in front of a fireplace, another in front of a piano, and a couple of others, including a small bar area.

Grand Traverse Resort, Traverse City, Michigan, view, vista, hotel, travel, photo, blue sky,

Lobby at the Grand Traverse Resort & Spa

The hotel has about 600 rooms, a combination of standard hotel rooms, suites, and condos, some privately owned.  Wifi is free and it’s everywhere – now THAT scores high on my list of amenities, as I am sure does for everyone.  It gets so old to go to a hotel where you have to pay for it…  Come on, people, move on to the 2010s before the 2020s get here!

Since I arrived later in the afternoon, I decided to stay in and not go into town (I knew that would be on my agenda on the next day anyway).  So I opted to check out the health club facilities and explore some of the resort.  I guess I am not surprised their health club was larger and more complete than a standard hotel as this is not a standard hotel.  Plenty of treadmills, elliptical, rowing machine, etc. and not of the archaic kind (mental note:  add this to my hotel pet peeves list…).  The health club overlooks a large indoor tennis facility that apparently is well known.  I didn’t count how many courts but at least 5, if not more.  So if you pick the right piece of equipment and your timing is right, instead of watching TV, you may be able to watch a live tennis match!  Next door is a large indoor pool entertainment area with stuff for kids of all ages to enjoy.  Pretty neat place.

Grand Traverse Resort, Traverse City, Michigan, hotel, travel, photo, pool, recreation

Pool area

With the workout done ahead of eating a big meal (see how I plan ahead??), it was time to shower and get a cat nap in.  The bed and pillows were so comfortable it took me no time to get to that nap.

Grand Traverse Resort, Traverse City, Michigan, hotel, travel, photo, bed

Look at that bed!! All comfort!

Recharged, I decided it was time to discover some Michigan wines since I had never tried one before.  Yes, I had planned to taste some wines the next day as part of Leelanau Peninsula’s Sip & Savor festival but I am nothing if not a student and a learner, so no harm in pre-research :)  The resort’s up-high restaurant and bar, the Aerie Restaurant and Lounge, sits on the 16th floor of the tower at the Grand Traverse.  I really liked the openness of the bar and restaurant with great views of the East Grand Traverse Bay and the golf course at the resort. Unfortunately, it was cloudy that day so the setting’s incredible sunset views were not going to happen for me but I can only imagine how spectacular the sunset must be from up there.

Grand Traverse Resort, Traverse City, Michigan, view, vista, architecture, hotel, travel, photo

The Aerie offers great vistas 360 degrees

Having sampled a couple of wines, I proceeded to have dinner.  There is not bad table at the Aerie since they all have a window view.  In the area where I sat, the booths away from the windows are slightly raised above the floor so you also can get a pretty unobstructed view from them – and so I did.  I enjoyed a blackened trout and a spinach salad that were tasty and fresh.  I capped the meal with their version of a bananas foster which consisted of a small scoop of cinnamon ice cream, dark chocolate pot de crème, chocolate mousse chips, bruleed bananas, and banana cheesecake.  Pretty.  Dang.  Delicious.  I got to my room and in no time I had fallen asleep fully clothed…  That’s a good night!

Aerie Restaurant, dinner, bananas foster, chocolate mousse, Grand Traverse Resort, Traverse City, Michigan, hotel, travel, photo, bed

The awesome dessert that closed up my meal

Though some signs of the age of the wing I stayed were evident (other wings are newer), for the most part a good effort has been made to update the spaces, especially the rooms and bathrooms.  The room I stayed at had two double beds and was quite large with a side view towards the East Grand Traverse Bay with Old Mission Peninsula in the background – not bad!

Though I am not a golfer, if you are, this may be a perfect place for you.  Their main golf course, aptly named “The Bear,” is a Jack Nicklaus signature course and I hear it is for those who like a good challenge!  They have two other golf courses in the 900-acre property, one a Gary Player signature course (“The Wolverine”) and another designed by William Newcomb (the more pleasantly named “Spruce Run”).  Looking out the window of the Aerie, I was begrudging not having pursued learning how to golf!  (I did briefly try in the late 1990s but if you keep missing the ball when you tee off, you know it is time to pursue other interests…)

On the day of my departure, I went for a massage at the spa.  Work had been hectic the week before and my last massage was four months ago so I was overdue for one to help set me right.  A mid-morning massage, a couple of hours before heading to the airport, was the right thing to close up the weekend visit.  Using cherry infused oils (I was worried the smell would be too much but it was actually subtle), the relaxation massage was just what I needed before returning home to face the work week after such a fun weekend.

I am glad I invested my time and money to visit Traverse City and in an upcoming post, you will see what else contributed to making this such a fun and excellent weekend!

Have YOU been to Traverse City and its vicinity?  What is your favorite spot?  I leave you with the view from my room towards the East Grand Traverse Bay!

Grand Traverse Resort, Traverse City, Michigan, view, vista, hotel, travel, photo, blue sky, East Grand Traverse Bay

View towards East Grand Traverse Bay

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I was hosted at the Grand Traverse Resort and Spa during this visit.  Opinions all ilivetotravel’s.

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