Traverse City is located right on the water, halfway between the North Pole and the equator, in an ideal region for growing wine grapes. So, it’s no wonder that the area is full of artisan vintners.
As a result, the Traverse Wine Coast attracts seasoned wine drinkers who know all about grape varietals, residual sugars and tannins. In fact, The Travel Channel named Traverse City one of the country’s New Top 10 Cities for Wine Snobs.
But that doesn’t mean novice wine drinkers should feel intimidated when walking into one of the area’s 40 wineries. On the contrary, an upcoming monthlong celebration in Traverse City is the perfect chance to learn about the region’s wine.
Traverse City Uncorked runs throughout May with social wine tastings, lively winery events and discounted lodging packages. No matter how much or little you know about wine, the variety of events presents ample opportunity to do the most important thing you can do to learn more about wine: Taste it!
“Get to know what you like,” said Coen Saltes, general manager of a tasting room for Brengman Brothers, which has vineyards on the Leelanau Peninsula. “Taste wines you’re not familiar with. Taste wines you know you don’t like.”
Not sure where to start discovering your new favorite wine? Check out all the Traverse City Uncorked events here.
Lodging packages include a $30 winery gift certificate and a “Super Ticket” that you can redeem for one pour each, for two people, at every Traverse Wine Coast winery. While you’re in the area you can also enjoy the springtime majesty of Lake Michigan’s Grand Traverse Bay, the awe-inspiring Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore and the incredible beauty of cherry blossoms as they bloom in May.
5 Tips to Find Your New Favorite Vino
As you prepare to visit, take a look at these wine-tasting tips:
- Look – Hold up your glass and check out the color and clarity of the wine. The wine’s hue or shade foreshadows its taste. A lighter-colored white wine might be more acidic and taste crisp and refreshing, for example, while a deeper, golden color hints at a richer flavor. (Pro tip: Hold the glass by the stem rather than gripping the bowl. The heat from your hands can alter the temperature and taste of the wine, Saltes said.)
- Swirl – Shake your glass a bit to move the wine around and expose it to more oxygen. This coats the glass with the wine and releases its aromas, giving the wine stronger aromatics, Saltes said.
- Smell – Bring the glass up to your nose for a sniff. Then, dip your nose in a little deeper and inhale. The wine’s aroma, or nose, is an integral part of the experience and can clue you in to how it will taste.
- Drink – Take a sip, rolling the wine around in your mouth to taste the different notes of flavor. Be sure to ask your server questions: “Where is this juice coming from?” Saltes said. “That’s a huge question. Is this grown on-site or is it from outside of Michigan?”
- Discuss – Whether a wine is good or bad is entirely up to your own opinion. And the people you’re tasting with might have an entirely different opinion! That’s okay. It’s part of the fun. When and where you’re tasting can have an impact, too. You might like a dry, white wine in the middle of a warm afternoon, for example, and prefer a heavy red wine in the evening. “Wine is so situational,” Saltes said. “It depends on occasion. It depends on mood.”
The Traverse Wine Coast produces 55 percent of the wine grapes in Michigan and is the fifth-largest wine-producing region in the country. A big reason for that is the area’s ideal geography: the Leelanau and Old Mission peninsulas are located at the same latitude as major wine regions in France and Italy. Plus, the presence of Lake Michigan creates the ultimate micro-climate for growing wine grapes.Each winery along the Traverse Wine Coast puts its own touch on the grapes that grow out of the region’s blessed soil. That’s why a chardonnay at one winery tastes different than a chardonnay at the winery down the road, for example. Even a wine of a particular vintage will taste different than one from the same winery that’s made with grapes from a different growing season.
The artisan wine of Traverse City truly gives you a taste of the vine in Michigan.
“You’re tasting authenticity,” Saltes said. “You’re tasting a family’s land. That’s a beautiful thing.”
What Michigan wine will you discover this spring?
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