Traverse City, Michigan is so diverse that every visit can conjure special new experiences making you yearn to return. While Grand Traverse Resort is a sure bet with accommodations, restaurants, onsite golf and off-site casino, there are many boutique hotels for unique stays. This trip, we stayed at two of them, enjoyed Lake Michigan and played Danny and Alice in Wineland.
On the monopoly board of Traverse City, Park Place Hotel is placed downtown, right where it belongs. City streets are filled with restaurants, shops and the cherry store to explore. In Park Place’s Beacon Lounge at happy hour colorful sailboats against the dark blue lake water and light blue skyline disappear as the sunset hues take over the view. It is one of the best places in Traverse City to meet up and catch up with old friends. Another great place is Apache Trout Grill on the shore. They do not take reservations but there is no problem waiting for a table on the peaceful deck as fishermen might load up their boat for a shot at luck. Cocktails are readily served, and photo ops are plentiful.
By happenstance we lunched at the West End Tavern on the patio overlooking the water before proceeding to the Mission peninsula for wine exploration. Our waiter Joe gave us a few tips since he works the wineries as well. On the same latitude as Piedmont and Bordeaux, he believes the Cab franc and merlot do well. Hit up the Two Lads first on the furthest point of the peninsula he suggested. Ok, we don’t pass up local advice by a connoisseur. It turned out that one of the Two Lads was a South African winemaker named Cornell whom we had met at Chateau Grand Traverse years back. In high demand, he had already left for another winery. We’ll save that reunion for another trip as we had an appointment at Chateau Chantal.
Wine makes for good romance and Chantal has quite the romantic beginning as owners Bob and Nadine Begin, a priest and nun left their colony. Nadine would cook for the B&B several days a week and made pillows and gifts for the shop before passing last year. She penned her recipes for meals and memories of a lifetime in a cookbook, “Feed my lambs Feed my Sheep.” It’s a good read with or without a glass of wine.
Their beloved daughter Marie is now the CEO and her husband is the vineyard manager. Every inch of the estate is very impressive, holding many tastings, dinners, events and weddings. The first planting was in ’86 and now their 22 products yield 22,000 cases of wine. 10 -15% the grapes are still harvested by hand. Dry, sweet, red, white and sparkling run the gamut of flavors to savor, topped off by a cherry port, Cerise.
Next up was a visit to Mawby Vineyards and Winery where we had Sex with Mike Laing. Easy now, that’s the provocative name of their Brut Rose which is not too sweet but quite refreshing. As they say, sex sells and the so named wine is doing very well.
Mike’s career jumped from briefly teaching math to teens who were only 4 years younger. His first week at school coincided with 9/11, not a good omen. As luck would have it, his wife, a chemistry teacher grew up on the Mawby property and his family started growing grapes in ’09 and worked a deal with Mawby. Math and chemistry pair well in the wine industry. At the oldest winery on Mission peninsula Riesling is the primary product while they experiment and expand, from classic bubbly which greets guests at the door, to the trend of wine in cans with infusions. Mike grew up golfing at Crystal Downs and they got married there. The rest is history and wine in the making.
Let’s not forget about golf. The Traverse City area has 16 championship courses, 3 of them at the Grand Traverse Resort – Jack Nicklaus’ Bear, Spruce Run and Gary Player’s Wolverine which was in primo shape in August. On a sunny Chamber of Commerce day, the water tower with a big bear insignia was emboldened in the sky. The sweet summer breeze made us happy we were nowhere else. The course has numerous large rEPmarshes filled with tall reeds to carry and contouring that requires every shot in the bag, always a fun play. The cherries had already been picked from the orchard of trees on 14-15. It is the cherry capital of the world after all.
That brings us to the Cherry Tree Inn which is lakeside just out of town. It has its own beach with boat rentals, waterfront pool and jacuzzi, spacious suites and breakfast included. The nominal fee to upgrade a room to the lakefront is well worth it for the water views from every angle and the private balcony to watch the boats and birds go by. Awnings are cherry red against the white building and a colorful bus offers shuttles to town.
July and August are two solid months of summer golf in Traverse City with bonus weeks in the spring and fall. Property owners say it’s worth it to endure the winter but how much easier it is to fly in and out at will year after year. Nobody likes the actual travel part of traveling but Traverse City Airport, aka Cherry Capital Airport, is so efficient it makes it a piece of cake, cherry cake of course. Traverse City is a most repeatable destination. www.michigan.org/golfing