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By Erin Rose
Assistant Executive Director
Leelanau Peninsula Wine Trail
While the Traverse Wine Coast is unquestionably producing some exceptional Riesling, Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay and a variety of other cool-climate white wines, there’s an entire richer and highly refined range of great tasting wines to be discovered in our versatile tasting rooms. Widely grown varietals such as elegant Pinot Noirs, bold Merlots and savory Cabernet Francs—along with lesser known but nonetheless delicious reds—are an integral part of the tasting room experience, particularly on the Leelanau Peninsula Wine Trail.
The Hunt for the Reds of October—a month-long event offering wine novices and mavens alike a featured red wine pour at more than 20 Leelanau wineries—highlights that experience.
Sniffing out the reds, so to speak.
“Although we’re in a cool climate where red wines often struggle to ripen due to a shorter summer season, Leelanau Peninsula happens to be situated in the same regions as Southern France and Northern Italy in terms of latitude,” explains David Albert of Boathouse Vineyards, a charming barn-red wine destination that sits uniquely on the Narrows of Lake Leelanau. This provides us with a similar climate where Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir, Merlot, etc. can thrive and provide great red wines.”
Boathouse, which will be pouring its Overboard (an estate-grown, easy drinking lighter red blend of 50% Cabernet Franc, 41% Merlot and 9% Regent) for each “Hunter” during the month of October, produces approximately 1300 bottles of Red each year, ranging from Pinot Noir and lighter Red Blends of Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Regent to bolder Red blends that encompass the those richer berry flavors of found in Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah.
David is just one of dozens of vintners both on Leelanau Peninsula and across the state growing easy-drinking red wines that continue to amaze and delight the palate—many of which garner both international wine competition awards and readers’ choice nods year after year. Pinot Noir, which thrives in cool climates like our Leelanau Peninsula, is the most abundantly grown red varietal in Northern Michigan, followed by Cabernet Franc (a grape which produces a naturally spicy, medium-bodied wine that pairs well with food) and Merlot. Our upcoming event encourages the opportunity taste all three varietals, along with flavorful blends, across 20-plus Leelanau Peninsula wineries. See the full wine list here.
“This trail event, more so than any other in the region, really gives you the chance to learn what Northern Michigan reds are all about,” David shares. “Whether you take just one day or the entire month to complete your winery stops, you’ll go home with a new outlook on what Michigan and the Traverse Wine Coast region, in particular, is capable of producing.”
“It’s also a great time to come taste and pick up some reds for Turkey Day,” adds Matt Gregory, owner of Chateau de Leelanau in Suttons Bay.
The Hunt for the Reds of October, which kicked off this past Monday, gives winery-goers the chance to taste a rich variety of the red wines being produced along the trail, with a generous giveback to The American Red Cross of Northern Michigan (who will receive $5 of each $10 ticket sold). Back by popular demand, the event also includes a fun commemorative wine glass stamped with the signature Hunt for the Reds of October logo. The hunt is completely self-guided: Pick up your glass and ticket during any weekday (9 am – 4pm) in October at our administrative office right off M-22 in Traverse City, then visit our wineries on any single day or group of days that you choose, Mondays through Fridays. Tickets are good for one featured taste at all 20-plus participating wineries on the trail during individual winery tasting room hours (weekdays only).