Alternate Wine Tour – WineMaker Magazine, Traverse City, Michigan

The Contra Costa Wine Group has placed about 80 entries into the WineMaker Magazine International Amateur Judging that happens soon.  We’re hoping to garner our 5th in a row Club of the Year.  It’s likely our last chance for a while as one of our members is moving to El Dorado County, taking his 15 future entries and multiple awards per year with him.  That’s quite similar to when Rex Johnston left our group and the Sacramento Home Winemakers then became Club of the Year in the years 2012, 2013 and 2014.

The primary reason for this email is that a pre-conference opportunity has arisen that some of your members might be interested in.  One of our members, Mr. Tom Anders is a former V.P. at Scott Laboratories in Petaluma.  He has recently retired.  WineMaker Magazine is offering limited one day tours of wineries in the Traverse City, Michigan area at a cost of $200.00 per day all to visit 2 wineries!  Tom’s sales area included all of the wineries in Michigan.  He personally knows the winery owners and winemakers and is offering a unique opportunity.  On Wednesday, May 15th and Thursday, May 16th, Tom will serve as a tour guide to several of the best wineries in that area, if we can get enough people to sign up. 

Interested?  Please contact directly:

Al Turner, Secretary, Contra Costa Wine Group  (925) 837-9384

We currently have 3 1/2 people that are attending the conference on Friday, May 17th and Saturday, May 18th and are interested in having Tom drive us around the area.  If we can come up with one or two more people, we can make it happen.  I don’t have the exact costs yet as we don’t know how many people would be interested but, I can guarantee you that it will be less than the $200.00 that WineMaker Magazine is charging for their one day tours. We would either rent a Full-Sized car or an 8 Passenger van and split the costs among everyone on Tom’s tours.

Please get back to me (Number below) ASAP if anyone in your group is interested and is going to the conference.  They may need to adjust hotel and airline reservations.  I already know that I’ll be flying in on Tuesday, May 14th and staying at the conference hotel for 5 nights.  The 3 1/2 of us currently going to the conference will use Tom’s winery information and visit them ourselves, without Tom.  Of course, we would much prefer to have him take us around to the best wineries in the Traverse City, Michigan area.

Here’s the proposed itinerary per Tom Anders:

 SUGGESTED ITINERARY:  DAY ONE   Leelanau Peninsula has 14 significant wineries.  I have set-up visits to my favorite four, one with a distillery, one in the Commons Development of Traverse City, an Urban Winery.  Also a visit to the artist community village of Suttons Bay at mid-day (lunch on own), and possibly a walk along the Main Street of Traverse City (dinner on own), to end the day.

11:00am – Begin at Aurora Cellars (26 miles).  This is a newer small winery owned by the same family that owns the long-established Good Harbor Winery and the major vineyard management company in this area.  One of the owners has asked our group to come for a winery tour and tasting.  Dawn Bardenhagen, Tasting Room Mgr. is our contact:  tasting  231.994.3288  Winemaker:  Drew Perry *(Blaufrankisch)

Noon – Forty-Five North Vineyard & Winery (just a few minutes from Aurora).  Our group is invited for a winery tour and private tasting.  Two separate buildings but just a very short walk to the winery.  Tasting event I noticed when I was there is under an awning associated with the Tasting Room building.(or in the building depending upon weather I presume)  Seems quite thorough.  Many good wines.  *(Chardonnay, Pinot Gris Reserve, Riesling Reserve)  Contact is Tom Balazs, Tasting Room Mgr.,  231.271.1188  Jay Briggs, Winemaker

1:15pm  Short drive back to the village of Suttons Bay for a quick lunch.  Go to one as group or choose your own.  There are quite a number along a 4 to 5 block long portion of the main street.

2:30pm  Black Star Farms Winery and Distillery.  Tour of winery and distillery with tastings for our group.  Our contact is the Winemaker, VP Winery and Distillery, Lee Lutes.  231.2714882.  This is the largest premium winery operation of Leelanau Peninsula.  It has a B&B and riding stables along with extensive vineyards.  *(Arcturos Wines, Riesling, Gruner Veltliner)

4:00pm  Shady Lane Cellars  Tour of winery with possibly barrel tasting as this winery does a number of good red wines.  Tasting of wines at Tasting Room location.  Contact: Kasey Kierzba, Winemaker  231.947.8865.  GM is Rick DeBlasio.  *(Pinot Gris, Gruner Veltliner, Gewurztraminer, Chardonnay, Blaufrankisch, Franc ‘n’ Franc, Cabernet Franc)

5:30m  Left Foot Charley, an Urban Winery located in the Commons Development of Traverse City.  I suggest we say goodbye to our tour bus company van here if we use a van service.  This would give us about 6.5 hours of costs for the van.  The van from the Cherry Tree Hotel I am certain will make a couple of trips to get us either downtown for dinner, directly back to the hotel, or to dinner and then back to the hotel later.  I know they will come as far as the Commons, located just beyond downtown from our hotel location direction, as I have already asked this question.

Bryan Ulbrich, part owner and Winemaker at Left Foot Charley is looking forward to our visit.  He will show us the winery and the barrel room building for barrel wine tasting.  The tasting room with outside patio area does serve food plates, as quality appetizer plates.  It has a social atmosphere.   Bryan also specializes in apple ciders which he make here along with the wines.  Contact: Bryan  231.645.1644 mobile

Meridith Lauzon, OP MGR  231.633.1537 mobile  *(Blaufrankisch, Riesling, Pinot Blanc, Ciders)

DAY TWO Old Mission Peninsula:  There are ten wineries located on OMP.  All considered high quality.  I have visits planned for four of these.  Visits will include vineyard viewing, winery tour, private tasting for our group, possibly including barrel tasting.

11:00am  Begin at Brys Estate Vnyd. & Winery (16 miles)  Our contact here is the Winemaker, Coenraad Strassen.  He is anxious to show us the winery/vineyard site.  Tasting will include a private tasting he will present to us and will include barrel tasting as he specializes in the production of very good red wines of the area.  231.360.5705 Mobile  231.223.9303 main  *(Rieslings, Pinot Blanc Gewurztraminer, Merlot, Cabernet Franc)

12:30pm  Lunch at Bowers Harbor Vineyards  The plan is to stop at the General Store at the whistle stop spot of Mapleton.  Take this food with us just down the hill to Bowers Harbor Tasting Room which has great outside seating venues – hope for good weather.  Many excellent wines but no winery here.  Wines are made by noted winemakers of Old Mission Peninsula who probably also have some arrangement for grapes from this vineyard owner’s many special vineyards.  Spencer Stegenga, owner.  Contact:  Kristy McClellan, Dir. Of Operations  231.223.7615 office  231.620.1170 mobile  Kristy will arrange for a special tasting for our group. *(Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc, Riesling, Cabernet Franc)

2:00pm  Chateau Grand Traverse Winery  This is the largest winery on OMP.  It is also the first winery in the entire region to grow vinifera grapes – primarily Riesling to start.  The ownership remains the same – the O-Keefe Family.  Now just the second generation as things are not so long ago established in this relatively young wine grape growing region. (I think planting began in late 1960s.)  The winemaker is from Germany, Bernd Croissant who began in 1992.  He is a perfectionist in what he does to make wines.  He is from a German winemaking family in the Rhineland Pfalz.  Here the plan is to do a walking tour of the winery and do a tasting with our group.  The winery size physically is as Grgich Hills in the Napa Valley.  I think the annual case production is about 130,000cs.  Contacts:  Bernd Croissant,  Eddie O’Keefe, an Owner,  Hospitality Coordinator is Ann Ritzel, 231.223.7355 office *(Dry Riesling, Gruner Veltliner, Merlot)

3:30pm  Mari Vineyards  This is one of the newest wineries built on OMP.  And it is built on the grand style of a large Italian Villa Estate.  The owner is Tony Longoria who, if you look at the credits of the reality TV Series “The Mysteries of Oak Island” you will see that he is the Producer, and the main engineering character.  Mr. Longoria is from Traverse City and is indeed a Civil Engineer.  His office is in downtown Traverse City so we may not see him while we are at the winery.  This winery is built inside a hilltop and consists of many levels.  Our contact is the Winemaker Sean O’Keefe who was already making wine under the Mari Vineyard name while at his family’s Chateau Grand Traverse Winery.  Everybody knows everybody in this small winery, fruit-growing (mostly cherries and wine grapes) community.  Sean is energized to have our group come to the winery for a grand tour, barrel and bottled wine tasting.  He specializes in whole cluster pressing to make his white wines.

5:30pm Return to the hotel.

*() Wines I favored.

Tom expects very little cost per person for the tours and tastings we will be doing at the wineries.  In most cases he have already been told this will be the case.  However, there is an expectation that wine will be purchased.  It will all be at Tom’s industry discount which is generally 25%, sometimes 30%, and only occasionally at only 20%.  He would ask that each person signing up for this Pre-Trip purchase a minimum of 6 to 8 bottles over the period of the two days.  He suggests planning to travel with a suitcase that can accommodate this amount of bottles for your return trip. (Or you can consume some of the wine at the Conference.)  There is the choice to ship the wine as some of the wineries are registered to ship to California, but not all.  There is a shipping strip mall company in Traverse City that Tom has used and they use UPS that can ship to California.  During his visit earlier this September I used this and was a bit alarmed at the price of about $110 per 12-bottle shipper and the cost of $17 for the shipper box.  Also, there is the choice to purchase a shipper from a winery, as I know Brys does this, and return home with it as checked luggage.

So, as you can see, it’s well thought out and he’s selected the best wineries in the area. I see this as an incredible opportunity to try some non-California wines and see how things are done in Michigan. Our problem though is that we really need 2 or 3 more people (minimum) to have Tom act as our tour guide and point of contact at these wineries.  Please consider it and give me a call.

Al Turner, Secretary, Contra Costa Wine Group  (925) 837-9384

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