Every vacation begins with a catalyst. That “thing” that makes you decide that you are going to go there… It could be a theme park, a museum, a fabulous hike, a concert, a beach – you get the idea. Or a winery. Let me explain… Back in the spring, I won a prize – redeemable in Manistee, Michigan. The value wasn’t much, but it got me thinking that maybe we could go visit the area. We were heading out to visit family in Michigan anyway, so a little detour might be perfect! A road trip was born…
In my last post, we checked out downtown Manistee – after our coffee we headed out to visit Douglas Valley Winery, just outside town. Douglas Valley’s tasting room is located in a historic building – an old bunk house along the railroad line at the turn of the century. The property is surrounded by apple orchards and vineyards.
UPDATE: My Dad, who grew up on a farm, let me know that the photo above is not a wagon. Rather, it is a manure spreader… So don’t go on a hayride in it, mmm-kay?
When we arrived, there was one couple wrapping up a tasting, and then we were all alone with our server. Tastings are normally $5 per person for 7 tastes (including a souvenir glass), but we had a certificate for a free tasting thanks to a prize from the Michigan by the Bottle blog. You can also opt for 2 complementary tastes, but $5 is very reasonable.
We picked out what we wanted. Here’s what I sampled (Jon and I tried to pick different wines and then shared, so there are more than 7):
- Bunk House White – A semi-sweet blend of un-oaked Chardonnay, Vignole, Riesling and Pinot Gris, with flavors of apricot and peach.
- 2013 Lakeview White – A semi sweet blend of Chardonnay and Riesling.
- Bunk House Blue – A tart blueberry wine with spice on the back of the palate. One of my favorites.
- Bunk House Cherry – A sweet blend of tart and sweet cherries. Also very good.
- Northeastern Sweet Red – A light, semi-sweet red wine; a blend of Foch and Chambourcin grapes. It had some Pinot Noir characteristics.
- Bunk House Red – A blend of Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir and Merlot with flavors of raspberry and blackberry.
- Stone House Sparkling Cider – A low alcohol (7%) sparkling cider made with several apple varieties from the Douglas Valley orchards. Excellent.
- Stone House Semi Sweet Cider – A blend of Jonathan, Macintosh, and Northern Spy apples. Fruity with flavors of apple (duh…) and honey.
- Caramel Apple Cider – One of two specialty ciders that they had on tap and available for sale in growlers, this had a nose of heavy caramel, but the caramel flavor was very light on the palate, with pleasant, light bubbles.
Our server was very friendly and offered information about the wine, and the history of the property. Currently Douglas Valley grows the fruit and grapes, and the winemaker from another Michigan winery, Black Star Farms, makes the wine. I think there is a plan to begin making their own wine at some point in the future, but this method seems to work well, as there were several good wines.
I purchased my favorites… The Northeastern Sweet Red, the Sparkling Apple Cider, the Bunk House Blueberry and the Bunk House Cherry. Thinking back, I should go find one of these bottles to open tonight…
Douglas Valley also had a large selection of local food products, and since it was close to lunchtime, we decided to get a picnic lunch to go. We picked out some Great Lakes tortilla chips, beef jerky, cajun beef jerky, Michigan made jalapeno pickled asparagus, asparagus salsa, and a big bag of fresh Winesap apples.
We said our goodbyes and headed out on our way to our next destination – Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. En route, we found a roadside viewpoint with a picnic table and enjoyed our picnic lunch. The weather was still cold, but had warmed up enough to allow us to sit outside for 20 minutes and enjoy our chips and salsa, beef jerky and asparagus. What a great lunch!
But we couldn’t linger too long, because I couldn’t wait to see Sleeping Bear Dunes!