Harvest Stompede Winery Tour: Leelanau Peninsula, MI

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This weekend, my husband and I had an amazing winery tour of the Leelanau Peninsula in Northern Michigan (I'm calling it NoMI, let's make that catch on, shall we?). For more information on the Harvest Stompede via their website, click here.

First, I just want to say that I had only average hopes for the quality of the wine here. I had been told that it would be mostly sweet whites, which is not my favorite, so I wasn't sure what to expect. But, I was blown away - as was my husband - by the quality of the wine! The reds we sampled were delicious and had a very earthy, smoky, peppery taste to them. So, for those of you unsure about northern Michigan wine, jump on the bandwagon and join in on the red fun, too!

movin on to the fun part...

We drove up to NoMI on Friday night and stayed the night at my in laws' ski house. It was a bit of a hike from their place to this part of wine country, but we decided it would be easiest because it meant we could bring the dog with us.

Saturday morning, we drove over to Leelanau Peninsula. The drive, itself was absolutely stunning, and we had some fabulous panoramic views of the Grand Traverse Bay, which connects to Lake Michigan.

Shady Lane Cellars

My friend Kelli had been here before and I had seen pictures that looked intruiging, so it was our first stop! It was also one of the closest stops to my in laws' ski house and quite close to Traverse City, so it made logistical sense as well.
There is a really neat feel here - they have a newly built outdoor patio with an outdoor bar and gorgeous, manicured grass. They fed us my husband's favorite food of the day - a bacon, swiss, and carmelized onion tarte. We bought a bottle of red (which was not the main tasting promotion, but we asked for a few red samples at the bar and were pleasantly surprised) and left after taking a few pictures of the winery.

Willow Vineyard

This one blew my mind immediately, and here's why:

Going into this event, I wasn't sure which wineries would bestow us with gorgeous lake and grape views combined, but it was immediately clear that this would be one of the best views of the day. I mean, how could it not be? The West Grand Traverse Bay is in the distance, and the foreground is a steep hill covered in grapes for the harvest. The little quaint cottage in the middle doesn't hurt, either!

We tried a bright glass of white and they served a decadent peach cobbler with maple burgundy syrup to accompany it. The desert was amazing; the wine was nice and light, but ultimately not my style.

There was a quaint patio where we sat for a while, just soaking up the view and taking in the wine. My husband went back inside and tried a Pinot Noir, which he enjoyed, so we grabbed a bottle in honor of our immense enjoyment in their spot. And we also snapped our only picture of the day that has both of us in it and is not a selfie! Pretty sure that was a fabulous decision.

Ciccone Vineyard & Winery

Fun fact: Madonna bought this property for her family member as a winery (Madonna is from Michigan! Boom). This alone made it a pretty popular destination.

The location left a bit to be desired (this could simply be due to the fact that they had the unfortunate situation of following the GORGEOUS Willow Vinery), but their Red Blend was pretty amazing and they paired it with a simple but well executed bruscetta. We didn't stay long, but we waltzed out of there with an expensive bottle of red, so clearly Madonna won.

^As always.

L. Mawby

Based on what I could find online, L. Mawby was a MUST. DO. They operate under the assumption that it's better to be all-star at one thing than mediocre at five, so they specialize in sparkling wines ("bubbles!") and do nothing else.

I did not warn my husband. He does not love sparkles. BUT I DO! So in we walked, and my husband loved it in the end. They served a sweet and spicy popcorn with a semi sweet sparkling wine, and we enjoyed the rolling view.

In the end, I tried a few more bubbles and ended up asking for a bottle of dry (almost brut) champagne. My husband then insisted we buy two. 

Blackstar Farms Winery & Spirits

I also marked this place as a MUST. It is more than just a winery - it also has a bed and breakfast, vegetable farm, restaurant, and distillery. So, we went from the master of one thing (L. Mawby) to the eager experimenter of five.

Overall, the wine was decent - a sweet white - and paired with a butternut squash soup with goat cheese and toasted nuts. But, we did not feel compelled to buy anything, and it was quite busy inside, so we peaced out.

The gorgeous view here was on the drive in - a steep hill covered in vineyards and various other farming plots. There is something really neat about the height this has.

I also have to add that I seriously want to go back to Black Star Farms, stay at the inn, and eat at the on-site restaurant. Then, I want to bike to the surrounding wineries for the day.

Leelanau Wine Cellars

Tip for using social media during an event: check the hashtag name of your event (in this case, it was #harvest stompede) and see if any other people have posted an image that looks awesome -- then go there! That's how we ended up at Leelanau Wine Cellars. I saw another image that looked gorgeous and blue, so off we went.

This particular location is actually a tasting room for their vineyard, so you will not see rolling hills of grapevines. But, you will be blown away by the view of West Grand Traverse Bay. It feels immensely huge and completely private at the same time.

Here, we tried a white wine that was served with brie and mushroom soup. My husband is not a mushroom fan, so we "shared," a.k.a. we asked for one sample and I was the only one who touched it. It was decent, but whatever. This location was really all about the view, and there's no shame in that!

[Knot Just A Bar]
After finishing our wine, we decided we were ready for a meal. The same building also housed this place, which had amazing views and good enough food. We had a beverage, and I had mahi corn tacos while my husband ate a burger.

This wasn't actually part of the tour - it was just a regular restaurant in the same building as Leelanau Wine Cellars' Tasting Room - but it was extremely enjoyable to take a few minutes to sit down and eat a full meal with this view.

Good Neighbor Organic

Next, we headed northwest. We ended up at Good Neighbor Organic, which was modest in appearance but definitely interesting. I wasn't so sure about the idea of their hard cider or peach wine, but I quickly repented upon tasting. We walked out with a bottle of peach wine, but truth be told, it was hard for me to not order the cider. I keep thinking about it...

They paired it with a chicken salad on chips, which was unimpressive but I shoved it in my face anyway. The star of this show was definitely THAT FRUITY WINE!!

Gill's Pier

What do you expect from a place with a name as simple as Gill's Pier? It was a very simple location with a nice tasting room and patio, set on a small pond. The wine was so good, and I think we bought one of the more expensive bottles of wine here. Their featured red was amazing, and they served it with an asparagus brisket.

Food be darned (it was ok), that red was full bodied and goooood. My husband was set on getting one, so we sampled a few more reds before deciding to go with the original promo.

Verterra Winery

I picked this place because, on the map, it looked like a great location set on a thin strip of land between Lake Michigan and Lake Leeland. The building, itself was mediocre - it was a tasting room set up in a towny area of a place referred to as "Fishtown-" but the surrounding area was great. Within a block, we could walk to the river connecting Lake Leeland to Lake Michigan, walk to where it meets Lake Michigan (it was very rapid water!), or see some shops.

They served us a white and paired it with a "blue and maize" corn chowder. The soup was decent, and so was the wine, but as usual, we were kind of looking for red. We tried a few and grabbed a bottle, then walked down through the Fishtown area. There were a lot of cute, tiny stores built onto the boardwalk, and it was a very picturesque environment.

We did manage to snap another picture of the two of is, albeit a selfie. We stumbled across this huge tree (is it a birch tree? I need my aunt and uncle to weigh in) that seemed like a perfectly bizarre backdrop for a couples' selfie.

Boathouse Vineyards

This was our last stop, because it was getting late and this happened to be on our way back. They are located on the river (Leelanau? I'm not sure which one), and they have a walkway that goes all the way down to a dock on the river, which is lined with adirondak chairs (YES!). The wine was decent (white, I think?) and they served a pulled pork slider. It looked kind of boring, so I skipped it but imbibed in the white.

We were kind of ready to go at this point, so we decided to head home.

P.S. There was a huge swan. He was nice and hardly moved, but we were so close!


  • Have you ever been wine tasting? What did you think?
  • Have you ever tried Michigan wines? Do you like them?
  • What's your favorite part about wine tasting?

1 comment:

  1. These guys know what they are doing! The food at wedding reception is interesting and delicious - not boring wedding food, but elegant, fresh, American-Italian cuisine.


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