Welcome to Ride Along, where we invite guest bloggers out on tour to share their experience with you from a personal point of view. Let’s see what Kaitlyn – a beer girl on a wine tour – has to say about taking a Traverse City Join-in Wine Tour.
When traveling or visiting a new place, it’s always fun to experience what makes that location unique; in other words, “do as the locals would do.” For me, this usually means finding a quirky restaurant, local attraction, or a unique brewery.
With the richness of the 45th parallel, the Traverse City region boasts many award-winning beaches, restaurants, breweries, and wineries. This makes it a great travel destination, as there are many ways to enjoy local favorites.
Traverse City Wine and Beer Tours provides easy access to the best wineries and breweries in the area, and takes the hassle out of organizing a day trip with a group of people. Their join-in tours are an easy and simple option if you have a smaller group or if you’re making last minute plans. You can select and register for your tour online.
How a join-in wine tour works
Recently, a friend and I took part in a join-in tour along the Old Mission Peninsula, which is known for its wineries. Being more familiar with beer and breweries in the area, the guided tour was a nice way to explore the area’s wineries.
48 hours before our tour was scheduled, a pick up location was established. Traverse City Wine and Beer Tours will pick up and drop off at your specific location. If you’re staying at a hotel, this makes the afternoon enjoyable and hassle free.
Our tour guide picked us up at the Park Place Hotel in a black 14-passenger Mercedes van. The seats were comfortable and there was plenty of room for everyone. There were thirteen people total on the tour, including us and four other smaller groups.
The join-in tour was different than having the whole van reserved for people you already know and love. It was a fun way to get to know new people and hear their stories, experiences, and thoughts on different wines. Our group included a group of friends visiting for a fun girls weekend before a wedding, an older couple, and a newly engaged couple.
The older couple was from Clare and were simply enjoying a weekend away from home. Another couple had just gotten engaged the night before. The group of friends had visited the area before and were returning to enjoy the wineries. Each of them were staying at the Park Place for the weekend, and had searched for something to do while in the area. Leaving the Park Place Hotel, the ride to the first stop was quite quiet, but that quickly changed as the afternoon went on and we got to know each other.
Wineries visited on my join-in tour
The first stop of our tour was to the beloved Bowers Harbor Vineyards. With a more rustic/outdoor atmosphere and the sun shining, this was a very welcoming first stop. Of all of our stops, Bowers Harbor felt the most like a brewery, with it’s comfortable outdoor seating, firepit, and casual feel.
Our driver, Aaron, made sure the winery was ready and then lead us back to the tasting patio. From there, our group was guided through a tasting of five wines. We were able to sample a little bit of everything: their best reds, whites, and even some cider. Arranged ahead of time, we had about 45 minutes to enjoy the samples and atmosphere. Upon being given our time warning, we grabbed a growler of Spirit Cider and got back into the van.
A short drive along Old Mission Peninsula took us to Chateau Chantal, which is known for its gorgeous views and delectable wine. Aaron made sure the tasting room wasn’t too busy and again guided us in the right direction. The tasting bar at Chateau Chantal is a little smaller than others, so Aaron recommended ordering a glass of wine and enjoying the outdoor patio instead.
Chateau Chantal has an expansive patio that overlooks the vineyard and Grand Traverse Bay. My friend sampled a couple different wines and ordered a dry riesling while I tried Chateau’s cider. Per Aaron’s recommendation, we took our drinks outside, which gave us time to relax and enjoy views of the peninsula.
Our third stop took us to Peninsula Cellars, which is inside of an old one-room schoolhouse. The atmosphere here was a little more playful with the wine names following the school theme: Exchange Student, Detention, Homework, and Summer Vacation, to name a few. Here, we were guided through five tastings and again found a couple worth taking home.
Our fourth and final stop, Bonobo Winery, was a short distance from Peninsula Cellars. We were lucky enough to be escorted to our own private tasting room. Situated at comfortable tables, this was a nice change from standing at a crowded bar. We sampled some of Bonobo’s best reds and whites and were given background on their unique approach to winemaking.
Bonobo aims to be as true to the grape as possible. The Pinot Gris, for example, was drier than others. We also sampled two different Chardonnays: one which was aged in barrels and one that was not. The slight smokiness of the barrel-aged variety was quite enjoyable.
As the tour came to a close, we enjoyed the beginning of a beautiful springtime sunset. Back in the van we were offered snacks and water, and we relaxed and enjoyed the view. Once it was time to depart, we were safely driven back to the Park Place Hotel and dropped off.
Along the way, our driver gave us suggestions on how to continue to enjoy the Traverse City area. He provided good suggestions for everyone’s “post-tour” plans: dinner, drinks, and even places to find some good live music.
As someone who usually opts for an obscure brewery when traveling, this was a refreshing experience. Guidance, transportation, and planning were all accounted for by Traverse City Wine and Beer Tours. And, I discovered some places (and beverages) I might have otherwise overlooked.
Written and photographed by Kaitlyn Rickman // A Northern Michigan native, Kaitlyn is passionate about all the region has to offer: food, festivals, untouched lakeshore and craft beverages. A teacher by day and a writer by night, Kaitlyn also contributes to mittenbrew.com, sharing her Northern Michigan beer expertise with the world.