Tag Archive | Manistee Michigan

MI Road Trip: Douglas Valley Winery

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.

A rusty farm wagon at Douglas Valley Winery

A rusty farm wagon at Douglas Valley Winery

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.

The Douglas Valley Winery Tasting Room – inside a historic bunk house

The Douglas Valley Winery Tasting Room – inside a historic bunk house

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.

Apples at Douglas Valley – Waiting to be Picked

Apples at Douglas Valley – Waiting to be Picked

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!

A few of our Michigan Picnic Lunch items – YUM!

A few of our Michigan Picnic Lunch items – YUM!

But we couldn’t linger too long, because I couldn’t wait to see Sleeping Bear Dunes!

 

MI Road Trip: Manistee

If someone asked you what a car ferry is, what would you say?  Have you ever seen one?  I have to admit, I thought I knew, having grown up in Washington, where we have the largest ferry system in the United States, and the fourth largest in the world!  But I learned something new…  A car ferry is not, as you might assume, for automobiles, but rather it transported fully loaded train cars across the Great Lakes.

After spending the first night of our mini road trip in Manistee, Michigan, we got on our way – our first stop was at the historic car ferry, the SS City of Milwaukee.  This particular car ferry shuttled train cars from Muskegon, Michigan to Milwaukee, Wisconsin. It was built in 1931, and sailed until 1982 when she was permanently retired.  She is listed as a National Historic Landmark.

The SS City of Milwaukee – the last operational car ferry – built 1931

The SS City of Milwaukee – the last operational car ferry – built 1931

The ship is in her original condition, with the tracks in the cargo bay to drive the train cars in, and the original woodwork and brass fittings. Of course, continuing with our theme for the trip, we saw none of this, because we only got to view her from the outside.  The SS City of Milwaukee was, you guessed it, closed for the season…

Still, she was quite impressive to see from the outside – with its 354 foot length and 56 foot width, she could carry between 30 and 32 loaded coal cars. She was steam operated, with two triple expansion steam engines, and is the last operational railroad car ferry on the lake.

The SS City of Milwaukee in silhouette

The SS City of Milwaukee in silhouette

The ship is also used for haunted house tours in October (but only on the weekends and we were there on a weekday) and is currently being preserved. There is some talk of turning her into a bed and breakfast, but I don’t know how real that is. The website does say there is an overnight tour – but doesn’t offer any details.  Our visit to the SS City of Milwaukee was a brief stop and we were on our way.

Next up – the Manistee Pierhead Light!  The first light was built in 1870, but unfortunately, it promptly burned down in an 1871 fire that also destroyed much of Manistee.  Coincidentally, that was the same day as the Great Fire of Chicago, and major fires in Peshtigo, Wisconsin, Holland, Michigan, and Port Huron, Michigan.

The light was rebuilt and moved several times; the current tower was constructed in 1927 of cast iron.  It is 39 feet tall with a fifth order Fresnel lens.  This light has a unique feature – an elevated catwalk on the pier makes it easier to walk from the mainland to the lighthouse in bad weather.  It still looks rather precarious.

The Manistee North Pierhead Light – built in 1927, with a Fifth Order Fresnel lens

The Manistee North Pierhead Light – built in 1927, with a Fifth Order Fresnel lens

The Manistee Light through a ship's propeller.

The Manistee Light through a ship’s propeller.

The south pier in Manistee has a 37 foot navigational aid, also built in 1927. We stopped to take photos of both, and enjoyed the view for a little while, at least as long as the cold wind allowed…

A bird perched near the Manistee Pierhead Light

A bird perched near the Manistee Pierhead Light

While we were in Manistee, we walked along the river walk that runs right through downtown Manistee just behind the row of buildings on the main street.  It was quaint, with benches for sitting and stairs to take you back up to the street.  It would be the perfect place to sit with an ice cream cone in the summer and watch the boats go by.

The beginning of the fall color change – the Manistee River Walk

The beginning of the fall color change – the Manistee River Walk

Even though it was cold when we were there, we got to watch a sailboat go through the two drawbridges!  There’s is something about a drawbridge that gets me every time – I love the idea of the hustle and bustle of traffic stopping to let this little boat through.

A sailboat going under the drawbridge in Manistee, Michigan

A sailboat going under the drawbridge in Manistee, Michigan

We also walked along the main street and took some photos of the historic downtown buildings. The entire downtown area is listed on the National Register of Historic Places! We found an outdoor clothing store that also happened to have a coffee shop. So we were able to get a warm up and a warm hat in the same place!

A historic hotel in downtown Manistee, Michigan

A historic hotel in downtown Manistee, Michigan

Have you been to Manistee, Michigan?  What was your favorite part?