There’s not a day that goes by that I am not grateful to live in such a beautiful part of the Earth. Grateful to have access to all of the activities that Lake Michigan and Traverse City have to offer, as well as have the opportunity to eat and drink my way through the best food and libations around. However, as grateful as I am for it, I still need to remind myself to actually take the time to enjoy so many of these wonderful things. It’s so easy to get caught up in everyday life, work, routine, etc. A friend of mine posted her ‘Summer Bucket List’ the other day and mentioned that she hadn’t even cracked the surface of what she wanted to do this summer and it got me thinking…neither have I! So, to hold myself accountable, here is my first blog in an upcoming series called "A Day in the Life".
It makes sense that I would start on Old Mission Peninsula because it has so much to offer. I had some friends visiting from downstate so it was a perfect excuse to escape responsibility and be a tourist.
We began our day here at Bowers Harbor Vineyards (surprise, surprise), playing cornhole (AKA bags) and life-size Jenga while enjoying snacks with our wine and Spirit Cider samples. I love the atmosphere here, the view is beautiful and it's a great place to kick back and enjoy life. The cherry salsa and tortilla chips went down WAY too fast. My friends absolutely loved the cider flights, with their favorites being Watermelon-Apple and Pineapple-Apple. I sipped on my favorite, the Blanc de Blanc sparkling wine. The bright green apple flavors and medium dry finish are right up my alley.
After BHV we ventured on to Brys Estates Vineyard & Winery for their famous "Frosé" (think rosé slushy) and their gorgeous patio setting. It’s the perfect place for a photo op. The Frosé is deliciously sweet and such a refreshing change of pace for the wineries out here. I could literally drink one every single day. Brys’ deck has to be one of the most peaceful places ever. Next time I visit, I’m going to take a ride on the Wine Wagon down to the Secret Garden.
Next, we headed to Mission Table for a plethora of delectable small plates. OMG the food they have you guys - it’s incredible. The flavors are interesting, fresh, local…you get the idea. Since there were six of us left at this point, and we all wanted to try everything, we just ordered a bunch of stuff and shared it all. Are you ready for the list (don’t judge us)? We had the flash-fried cauliflower, goat cheese/lamb ragout ravioli, wild mushroom risotto, short-rib tacos, beet salad, lamb rack AND the loma grain bowl. Jealous? Kidding aside, it was the best meal I’ve had in Traverse City in at least a year. Every single thing was perfection with the loma grain bowl and the lamb rack being my personal favorites. I’ll be back soon, like tomorrow.
And to end the night, we had a nightcap at The Boathouse. We ordered everything from the perfect Manhattan, full-bodied Cabernet, Tito’s/soda and a gin martini with blue cheese stuffed olives. Cocktail Heaven. As we sat and watched the sunset drop down behind the boats, I couldn’t help but feel, well, so dang lucky.
Whether you’re planning a trip north soon, or you live here and need a little stay-cation day, I highly suggest following my "Day in the Life" – Old Mission Peninsula style.
Stay tuned for my next adventure and if you do come visit, please let me know how you enjoyed it!
Here at Bowers Harbor Vineyards, we're a pretty passionate bunch. We're passionate about the wines we produce. We're passionate about the land and water we have the privilege of stewarding. We're passionate about offering exceptional hospitality to the guests who visit our vineyard. And, we're passionate about our team – the people who introduce you to our BHV wines.
That's why – when one of our team members accomplishes something extraordinary – we like to celebrate!
Rachel Van Til began her journey with wine working in the BHV tasting room during her summers home from college. She earned her Certified Sommelier pin while working at Trattoria Stella here in Traverse City, and in 2016 was recognized by Wine and Spirits Magazine as "One of the Top 8 New Sommeliers of 2016". She moved to Detroit the summer of 2016 to open and serve as Beverage Director and Front of House manager for Mabel Gray, named "2017 Restaurant of the Year" by the Detroit Free Press.
Last year she moved to Dallas to serve as a sommelier at Pappas Brothers Steak House in Dallas, TX. On July 11, Rachel traveled to Phoenix to take the grueling 3-day Advanced Sommelier Exam. She passed with flying colors, and we're proud to say she got her start at Bowers Harbor Vineyards. Kristy McClellan, our Director of Operations, continues to be a mentor and a role model for Rachel.
Congratulations, Rachel! Here's to pursuing our dreams with passion and excellence!
Mission Point Lighthouse Friends and Bowers Harbor Vineyards announce the release of their specially labeled 2018 Lighthouse Wine. Produced with Bowers Harbor Vineyards’ light and refreshing Pinot Grigio, a portion of the sales are dedicated to the preservation of the peninsula’s beautiful lighthouse.
For the third year, Mission Point Lighthouse Friends invited artists to submit their work to be featured on the specially labeled Pinot Grigio. Each April, the public is invited to Bowers Harbor Vineyards’ Tasting Room to help select the winning artwork. This year’s winner was Ruth Kitchen, whose beautiful watercolor is featured on these lovely bottles of wine.
To date, Bowers Harbor Vineyards has counted it a privilege to be able to donate over $4,300 to this beloved local landmark. The Lighthouse Pinot Grigio is available at Mission Point Lighthouse and at Bowers Harbor Vineyards; this wine is also available to ship. To view more of Ruth Kitchen’s work, go to her website. Click here to purchase the Lighthouse Label Pinot Grigio.
The BHV team had an amazing experience recently! We were treated to a food and wine pairing event at Trattoria Stella’s, given by the general manager and sommelier, Alfiero Silveri! It was a private experience, a 5-course meal, where we learned about which foods paired best with Bowers Harbor Vineyards wines, and why. At this point, we all have gone to a lot of these types of events, had tons of training on flavor profiles, learned all about our wines, etc. and there is still SOOOO much to learn! It’s fascinating! Pairing wine with food has to be one of the greatest joys in life. I love wine, and I love food, and I double love them together.
Another thing I love, is to learn from passionate people. I’ll never forget the first time I learned how important it was to do work that you loved. I was in my senior year of college and I had a recreation management class where we toured different facilities and learned about what it takes to manage them, from the manager of the facility. The one that I will never forget about was the ice hockey rink where we learned about ice management from the Zamboni driver. He made ice management sound like the most interesting and technical process and his passion for it was literally radiating off of him. It sounds crazy, but I truly remember thinking, “Wow, I hope I love my job someday as much as he does!” And to this day, I firmly believe that people should ONLY do what they are passionate about. Life is simply too short not to. And the wine industry is no exception. It not only requires hard work and dedication, it requires PASSION.
It was such a treat learning about the food and wine pairings from Alfiero because of his…can you guess it? Yes, his passion! As Alfiero says, “Wine is one of the most prized commodities in the world and we get to work with it every day!"
So now that I’ve already written a novel, it’s time to get to the moral of the story…the WHY behind the pairings!
Taste wine, eat food and then taste wine again to get the full food/wine pairing effect.
And now for the menu:
White asparagus, toasted almonds, lemon butter & thyme
2017 Unwooded Chardonnay
Little gem lettuce, house pepperoncini, gorgonzola, herb vinaigrette
Beets, duck leg confit, goat cheese, strawberry-honey vinaigrette
Lamb spiedino, carrots, sweet potatoes, parsnips, brodo
Candied almond meringue, strawberry & pear compote, pickled black mission figs, orange zest, honey
You drooling yet? By looking at the cheat sheet, can you see why the chef paired these foods and wines together?
Wine enhances food and vice versa. To enjoy both to their fullest capacity we must explore and understand their relationship! Whether you’re new to wine, a sommelier, or somewhere in between, wine and food pairings should be fun and accessible. Great pairings truly take the dining experience to the next level. Tasting and smelling the different notes and nuances helps to train your palette, and you begin to notice small details. Once you get the experience of how wines work with different foods, you’ll take your dinner parties or Taco Tuesday nights to the next level!
It feels like wine and food pairing is a never-ending topic, which I know can seem overwhelming. Hopefully the pairing guidelines cheat sheet will help with future meal planning. I’m always here if you’d like any suggestions! Feel free to email me anytime at Alaina@bowersharbor.com.
I wrote another food pairing (wine and cheese) blog last Fall which also may help you for future cocktail parties, check it out here.
It's coming up on our favorite time of year here at BHV. Why, you ask? Pruning (yes, we really mean that!)! We spent February snowshoeing around, rolling through the vineyards, and checking on our vines. This time in the vines allowed us to fully see the quality of vine management from the previous vintage and make any necessary adjustments. It gave us a moment to pause and direct our attention to any new techniques that we may want to apply in the vineyard. It is also an opportune time to evaluate the position of the vines' shoots and anticipate changes we may want to make for not only the current growing season but for productivity of future vintages.
March is here, and for Michigan grape growers that means pruning is just around the corner. For us, grapevine pruning is an annual practice where nearly 90 percent of the previous year’s growth is removed. This is how we maintain the vine form and control the fruit and quality.
Spencer recently took me on a pruning lesson and it was so interesting to see what happens to, and how much labor goes into, each vine during pruning. If you take a look at the photos above you can see what the vine looked like before it was pruned, the middle stage and after it was finished. I threw the fourth photo in there just to show you what the vine looked like the very next day. One day it was a beautiful, bluebird day, and then the next, a complete whiteout...which is exactly why we start pruning early here! Shoot thinning early in the season is one way to overcome the crowding in these areas.
When pruning, we are trimming the vines to select our best two canes that we will then tie down on the weight-bearing wire, and count out to eight buds (ideal vine). We are looking for a pencil-sized diameter for the canes, not the bigger ones, sometimes referred to as bull wood. We want the pencil-size diameter because it has more vigor and the buds are tighter together.
With over 25 years experience, it's safe to say that Spencer is a fast pruner but just pruning one vine took about 20 minutes! It's pretty incredible to think that this happens by hand every year, on each and every one of our 18,000+ vines!
Stay tuned for the next edition of Designing the Vine!
Riesling is what I would consider to be the heart of our wine country. It is such a dynamic grape with an astonishing diversity of styles, pure fruit flavors and aromatic qualities. The biggest misconception about Riesling is that Rieslings are always sweet. Actually, that couldn’t be further from the truth! Here at Bowers Harbor Vineyards we have FIVE different Riesling wines, and they range from crisp and dry to dessert-sweet.
Did you know that acid is a crucial component in a well-balanced Riesling?
Riesling is immediately pleasing, even to new wine drinkers. It’s ALL about the fresh fruit, with no oak or heavy tannins. Michigan wine country has been exploding year after year, and more wine lovers are not only visiting us, but finding out about our wines. While we have a lot of other wines to offer them in addition to Riesling, Riesling is what originally put us on the map. Some of the best Rieslings in the entire world come from our very own backyard.
Spencer Stegenga, Proprietor of Bowers Harbor Vineyards, was the first in the state of Michigan to grow and bottle single-vineyard Rieslings. A single-vineyard Riesling is a limited bottling of a Riesling harvested from only one distinct vineyard plot, rather than combining grapes harvested from a variety of locations. The beauty of a single-vineyard Riesling is its ability to reflect the characteristics of its unique terroir (the complete natural environment in which a particular wine is produced, including factors such as the soil, topography, and climate).
We did a Riesling staff training last week and I learned SO much! It was fascinating listening to our winemaker talk about the different techniques that went into the wines that he made. It was also very interesting to try wines from all over the world and taste the vast differences between them. Flavor profiles were all across the board, from petrol and ripe fruit to spicy and earthy.
Our winemaker, Bryan Ulbrich, was voted as one of the Top 100 Most Influential U.S. Winemakers by IntoWine.com, which is a website that offers expert wine recommendations, wine and food pairings and other industry-specific information from around the world.
The fact that we have five different Rieslings on our tasting menu, and that every other winery around also has at least one on their menu, and that they ALL taste different from the next, is (in my opinion) the coolest thing about this grape. Not only that, but Michigan Rieslings will taste completely different than Rieslings from California, Washington, Australia, Germany... you get the idea.
Every growing region has its own style and taste due to many localized factors such as: the climate, terroir, micro-climates of the vineyard, farming methods, cultural tastes and of course, the techniques of the individual winemakers. Even vineyards a few miles apart can have striking differences in style.
The 2016 Block II was the highest rated wine in a recent James Suckling report, at 93 points. This wine is very dry and really showcases what a single vineyard Riesling from our region can provide: acidity, minerality and spice. I love to serve Block II with buttery scallops or a sharp cheddar cheese.
2016 Smokey Hollow just took home Best of Class at the San Francisco Chronicle, which is the biggest wine competition for American wines. Hints of red apple and grapefruit on the nose while the palate mellows to suggest golden delicious apple and citrus zest. Smokey Hollow pairs perfectly with grilled salmon or lemon pepper chicken.
Hand-harvested and lovingly vinified, the grapes for our Medium Dry Riesling are sourced from some of the finest vineyards on Old Mission Peninsula. Each vineyard, with its own unique terroir, offers something a bit different – some yielding tropical notes, some bursting with bright stone fruit aromas, some supplying gorgeous minerality and complex floral and stone aromatics. All those beautiful berries combine to make benchmark Old Mission Riesling.
I am so excited that this one is back in the tasting room! The 2017 vintage was just released this past week! Our most prolific Riesling, the Medium Sweet strikes a stunning balance between mouth-watering acidity and soft sweetness. You’ll be amazed at the initial flood of sugar on your palate, but just a moment later, it is whisked off by quintessential Old Mission acidity. This wine will wow Riesling connoisseurs and convert the staunchest of dry wine drinkers! Our winemaker said “this is the best vintage yet!”
Langley Late Harvest:
Late harvest Rieslings are among the most beloved of sweet white wines. Our Langley Late Harvest is grown on a beautiful west-facing slope dipping down toward Bowers Harbor. Not harvested until Nov. 1st, 2016, these grapes absorbed all those beautiful, sunny Northern Michigan afternoons and evenings and translated it into an ethereal, sun-dappled dessert-style wine. Novice drinkers will be drawn in by the smooth, sweet fruit-forward character, while aficionados will appreciate the fine balance of sugar and acidity, as well as this wine’s lovely age-ability.
The Riesling wines in this blog are listed (and pictured) in tasting order, dry to sweet:
There are even more reasons to love a Riesling. Because of its strong acid structure, Rieslings can age much longer than most other wines, white or red. Some of the best Rieslings can still be amazing after 100 years! That is longer than most people live! As the wine matures, the taste will drastically change. Young Rieslings are fruit-forward, very bright and fresh-tasting, but those characteristics soften and mellow after they’ve been bottled for 2-3 years. Then there can be a muted period for up to 10 years (the wine will still taste pleasant) before they gain even more complexity and depth. They become drier to the taste and develop a stronger expression of that inherent minerality, along with a unique petrol character.
Going forward, I’ll be thinking of Riesling as the diamond of grapes. It is so multi-faceted! At its simplest, Riesling is an easily accessible wine that can be enjoyed on its own or with food. But tasting a great Riesling can be extremely rewarding, both from a sensory and an intellectual perspective.
When I say Super Bowl, you think—what? Football? I think… comfort food, cool commercials, hanging out with friends and Justin Timberlake (halftime performance!). The snacks served on Super Bowl Sunday are typically comfort food on steroids. The flavors are spicy, salty, bold and vibrant.
While beer is the natural match for Super Bowl food, don’t discount the wine (I got you, wine lover!). The same qualities that make Super Bowl appetizers good with beer, also make the perfect pairing with fruit-forward, slightly sweet and bubbly wine. And since the food is easygoing, the wines should be, too. No need to break the bank supplying beverages for a crowd if you’re hosting.
Below are some of my favorite Super Bowl foods along with Bowers Harbor Vineyards wines that are guaranteed to make them taste even better.
Pair with 2016 Riesling, Medium Dry. The bright, green apple flavor and perfect acidity is a nice complement to the wings. And there is just enough sweetness to cut through the spiciness and cool the palate. Spicy wings would also be amazing with the 2017 Riesling, Medium Sweet, which we just bottled and will be available to purchase in the next couple of days!
Pair with our newly released 2017 Pinot Grigio. This is our #1 selling wine for a reason! We call it a crowd pleaser because it’s bright, tropical, citrus flavors pair well with just about any food (including all of the appetizers in this list). It is also the perfect pairing for this dip! Top Tip: avoid red wines with spinach dip since spinach can coax an unpleasant metallic note out of red win.
Golden Delicious apple and pear flavors with the crisp finish of 2017 Unwooded Chardonnay cut through the richness of the ooey, gooey, mouth-watering cheese.
50/50 Merlot and Cab Franc blend, the 2016 Claret, Wind Whistle, pairs perfectly with chili. It’s aged in French Oak barrels and the black pepper spice and toast from the barrels is sure to compliment the heartiest of chilis!
And here is my favorite combo on the list: potato chips and sparkling wine! There is just something so satisfying about pairing an everyday food item, like potato chips, with a glass of sparkling wine, which screams celebration! The bubbles of Blanc de Blanc will cut through the saltiness of the potato chip and be a match made in heaven in your mouth! If you are getting fancy and serving something like truffle potato chips (to DIE for!) then try pairing them with 2014 Cuvee Evan Blanc de Blanc for it's rich and creamy characteristics.
No matter who you’re rooting for this weekend and even if you’re only watching to see Justin Timberlake at halftime….these food and wine pairings are sure to make for a fun night! Try a few of them and let us know which one is your favorite!
Planning a New Year’s Eve celebration? The New Year can be such an exciting time, full of fresh starts and future plans. It makes sense to ring it in with your closest family and friends. Popping open a bottle of bubbly is a surefire way to get the party started. But keeping the party going is another story, you don’t want to have to pour bottle after bottle throughout the night. Setting up a self-serve champagne bar will not only stretch your bubbly supply with the addition of juices and liquors, it will also leave you free to hang with your guests and actually enjoy your own bash.
So put some bubbly on ice, stock up on aperitifs and fresh juices, and gather up some other garnishes. Here’s how to set up the ultimate bubbly bar:
Skip the high-end vintage Champagne. Opt for a dry, domestic, sparkling wine. One bottle of bubbly is enough for about eight cocktails, so keep your RSVP list in mind when shopping. My personal favorites are:
Experimentation is half the fun of a self-service Champagne bar, so make sure to gather up a wide range of liqueurs and spirits. Some of my favorites include:
Dry Champagne works well with most juices, so encourage your guests to mix, match and try something they otherwise wouldn’t order at a bar. I suggest stocking up on the following:
Not only will a variety of garnishes make your bubbly cocktails look beautiful, booze-soaked fruit is always a treat to find at the bottom of your flute. Set up bowls of raspberries, strawberries and cranberries for guests to plop into their bubbly libations. Pre-cut lemon and grapefruit twists are also great flavor enhancers and a lot of fun.
Now that your bubbly bar is all set up, it’s time to make the cocktails. Fill a large bucket with ice to keep a few opened bottles on hand. Store the extra bottles in the fridge for later use.
Label your booze, mixers and garnishes with note cards, mini chalkboards or simply line a table with butcher paper and write ingredient names directly on the surface. Set out Champagne flutes, jiggers and bar spoons.
While I say go ahead and experiment with new flavors and inventing unique cocktails, here are a few of my favorite classic combinations to get you started.
Hope this inspires you to set up your own version of bubbly bar, I know that I have never NOT had a good time at a party where there’s been a self-serve bar...
Happy New Year everyone! Wishing you all a safe and fun holiday! Cheers to 2018!
This is one of the most fun things to do in the winter. Who doesn’t like snowshoeing through the beautiful vineyards and wine tasting with a group of friends or as a fun day date? This tour starts at Jolly Pumpkin where the Brew Bus will pick you up and drop you off at Brys Estate Vineyard and Winery. From there you will snowshoe a marked trail to Bowers Harbor Vineyards, and then follow the interpretive trail back to Jolly Pumpkin. Enjoy 5 tastes and glass specials at each spot!
Our brand new Spirit Cider Society is here!
Join in December for only $125!
*Starting January 1st, $150 one-time joining fee
Delight your family and friends with a special gift basket created just for them! We've curated a few of our favorite gifts inside the basket for them to enjoy. A gift basket is a unique wedding, holiday or housewarming gift! We have a few different options available, just click on Gift Basket above to check them out!
Our Brut Rosé came out on top in a recent poll as to what people would prefer to get under their tree at Christmas and we think it’s a wonderful gift to give or get all year long. There’s just something about bubbles that screams “Celebrate!”
Gift cards are the perfect gift for someone who has everything! They can be used on wine and merchandise both. We have two different gift cards to serve every gifting need.
There are some people who don’t think saving evidence of how many bottles of wine you drink is cool…but we aren’t one of them. We have a wide variety of decorative cork cages that you can use to save the corks from your favorite wines and remember the memories for years to come.
Our wine club membership is amazing. It is one of the few wine club memberships that is customizable to your liking! We pick our favorites each quarter but if you’d rather have something different, then we will switch them out! We have three different clubs to choose from and offer a ton of fun in the form of wine club dinners and tasting room perks.
Everyone can use a date night, right? Wow your special someone with a special night, just for the two of you. Click on the link above to view the menu, it is sure to impress!
There are few things I’d rather get as a gift than a case of wine….I mean WHO wouldn’t want that? Our mix & match options gives you the chance to choose your favorites, their favorites, some new ones AND a cider or two. All orders of a case of wine automatically get 15% off!
Because your pooch deserves it.
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