Cheers! Wine Consultants

We went north for wine, and discovered cider

By Dan & Krista Stockman


With Labor Day weekend upon us, it is a reminder that the summer days are quickly coming to an end. While wine is always part of our days, in the summer we try to take advantage of our time by visiting wineries while on vacation and branching out from our usual big reds to crisp whites and rosés.

This summer our travels took us to northern Michigan where we haven't been since 2004. It has changed quite a bit in 11 years with many more wineries and even more under construction.

When we were there 11 years ago, we just had two dogs and no kids. We spent days visiting wineries and enjoying what Michigan's vineyards had to offer. This time, with two kids and two dogs in tow, we limited our wine visits to just one day and tried to hit wineries we had never been to before – along with some favorites.

Michigan has 117 commercial wineries attracting 2 million people each year. Many of those visitors are heading to the Leelanau and Old Mission peninsulas near Traverse City where there are about 45 wineries.

With that many wineries concentrated in one area, there will be something for everyone. To prevent yourself from being overwhelmed by the choices, it's a good idea to take a look at what the area has to offer before you go. Both the Pure Michigan website and the Michigan Wines website are great resources and can help you map out your trip.

On our trip, we managed to hit Leelanau Wine Cellars, Forty-Five North, L. Mawby, Big Little, Left Foot Charley, Peninsula Cellars, Tandem Ciders and Chateau de Leelanau. Not bad for a day's work.

One trend we noticed immediately was the proliferation of cider available at wineries. For some, like Tandem Cellars, it is their signature product. The quality of the ciders varies considerably. Clearly, some wineries have taken time to develop quality ciders in a variety of sweetness ranges. Others, however, seem to have jumped onto the bandwagon with an eye towards quantity not quality.

Tandem Cellars, not surprising, has some of the more interesting ciders. They range from an earthier, more British type of bitter cider to ciders that those looking for more sweetness will enjoy. Left Foot Charley also is producing some interesting ciders, including their top-selling Cinnamon Girl, which is just what it sounds like – apple cinnamon cider. Yum. Chateau de Leelanau has also entered the game. Its original cider is pretty good, but the day we arrived, they had just released a strawberry cider, which was fantastic.

We expect the cider will be a passing fad where some who were never really into it will go back to focusing on wine or explore the next fad and others will add cider to their permanent lineup because they've put the time and effort in to make a quality product.

We hadn't been huge cider fans before this trip because we tend to think of most ciders as too sweet and too simple (New Day Meadery in Indianapolis is w wonderfully glaring exception). But the sheer variety available – and the many complex, dry ciders we found – made our exploration lots of fun, and definitely convinced us that ciders, like wine, are nothing to shy away from.