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Grape Picking in Berrien Springs


Kurt and I left Holland, stopping briefly in Saugatuck (love that place!), before scooting down to Berrien Springs for some grape picking. Since I discovered concord grapes a few years ago, I make an effort to come out every fall (sometimes more than once) to pick concords. When they’re at their ripest (around early October) you can smell them as you’re driving around. They are by far my favorite grapes and I’m so fortunate to have them available so close by.

Our first stop was at Pete’s U-Pick. It seemed like it’d be a big place on yelp (my go to source) but it ended up being one lady standing in front of her barn. She only had white grapes (I was bummed about that) and pointed us around the barn to get some. She gave us clippers which was cool. It didn’t take long. I was anxious to get to my concords so we didn’t stay long. But she was super nice and chatty and told us how the vineyard had been in her family forever.

From there we went to Lemon Creek Winery which was just around the corner. They had a farmers market and Kurt discovered that they had concord grapes we could pick. This lady drove us on her tractor, almost like a hay ride, out to the vineyard which wasn’t too far away but a bit of a walk. She pointed us towards the concords while she picked up another group to take them back. We were then the only ones out there which was nice.

Took lots of pics and picked a bunch of concords even though they weren’t really ripe yet. When she came back to collect us about 15 minutes later, we discovered red and small white grapes. We asked if we could pick those, too, and she said of course and drove away. The red ones tasted like ripe concords while the small white ones reminded me of champagne. We picked a ton of each then ended up walking back to the farm.

After buying our grapes (think it was under $10), we went into the wine tasting part of things. I wasn’t impressed by their lack of attention and acknowledgment when we walked in. Maybe we were looking a little grungy having just picked grapes and it being all humid out but still. Unfriendly which surprised me. We did do a wine tasting (at $8 a piece!!) and maybe bought a bottle but that was it. 

Drove the rest of the way home in the rain, getting stuck a bit in Indiana. Took route 12 most of the way through the bottom half of Michigan, stopping at John’s Farm Market right before the Indiana border to pick up green beans, peppers, apples and some more yummies that I didn’t manage to get before. Took route 12 past Michigan City and got on I-94 (into stop and go traffic) right before Gary. It was raining pretty hard, too, and we were both anxious to get home.

Heading back down to Holland


Today we left our cute little hotel room in Traverse City and ventured down to Holland. We stopped for brunch at Rolling Farms Cafe that sat on the top of a hill on the way out of Traverse. Again it was all vistas vistas vistas.

Kurt and I headed out of town a different way so we could see something new. Drove through Interlochen since I’ve never been. There’s not much of a town – like a couple shops maybe and a bar – but it was nice to go out a different way and see new things.

Passed by Crystal Mountain quite by accident. Had to drive Kurt through there since we were right there. It all looked the same – just less snowy. (I was last up there in February 2003.)

Stopped a bit in Manistee. I wanted to see this great big freighter that we passed on the way up. It was all lit up (it was nighttime) and I was curious what it was all about. Looks like they’re transforming it into some sort of haunted house. I’m sure that’s going to be very cool. Wish I could see it when it’s done.

Wandered around downtown Manistee a bit, too, taking pictures and doing a little shopping. I bought a vintage white and pink tablecloth that looked brand new. The sales lady told me it had been saved from a house fire in Traverse City and she had had it cleaned.

Stopped in Pentwater at Kurt’s suggestion. His dad’s cousin has a condo up there. Ate dinner at the Village Cafe (outside again – another gorgeous day) since we were hungry and it was about that time. We both got perch.

Drove by the Charles Mears State Park and took more pics. I do like that the houses seem accessible to the water – like its easy to go to the beach (something that’s always important to me).

Old Mission Peninsula


Today Kurt and I traveled up the Old Mission Peninsula (north of Traverse City) – one of my favorite places in the world. It’s all vistas, grapes, wineries and great big expanses of water as far as the eye can see. I love it.

We stopped for lunch at Bryant Park (which is at the base of the peninsula) with Jimmy Johns overlooking the East Grand Traverse Bay. Saw a cruise ship pull in. Don’t think I’ve ever seen that before. Kurt and I looked it up and it’s this German cruise ship that cruises around the Great Lakes from Chicago to Montreal with European tourists. We ended up bumping into them (before I looked it up) at the tip of Old Mission Peninsula. They must have docked and took a tour bus around. I think we also bumped into them at one of the wineries. I think this is something that happens about once a year (if that) and I wish I had known more about it BEFORE they departed. Oh well. I can’t seem to find anymore about it online (which is weird).

After lunch we started our journey up Old Mission Peninsula. 

Our first stop was 2 Lads winery. The view was gorgeous. They’re one of the newer wineries (maybe 5 to 7 years old) and I could tell. Kurt liked them and bought a bottle. They weren’t my favorite.

After that we went to one of my favorite wineries – Chateau Chantel. They’re views are beyond breathtaking and they do the whole wine tasting thing right by charging you only $3 for 5 tastings then rebating your money back if you buy any bottles, which we did. I get charging for the tastings since this has become the thing up here but I like the nod to comping the tastings if we’re actually buying bottles, which we usually do. We also bought some nibbles and a couple glasses of wine (a riesling for Kurt, their sparkler for me) and sat outside. It was another gorgeous day. Vistas as far as the eye could see. Took loads of pictures. Left just as tour bus (probably the Germans) descended.

Went out to the Old Mission Lighthouse and was surprised and happy to see that the water is definitely up. You used to be able to really walk out there but now it’s all covered by water with trees and other vegetation jutting out here and there. I love seeing the water up.

Kurt and I had dinner at the Peninsula Grill. Sat outside again. Another gorgeous sunny day. The food was amazing. We had a relaxing time, sipping some local wine and enjoying the evening.

We watched the sunset this time from Bryant Park at the bottom of the East Grand Traverse Bay. Also got to watch the German cruise ship leave. 

Even though we were tired, I joked about going to the casino and we ended up at the Turtle Creek Casino just outside of town after driving around a bit in the Grand Traverse Resort. I thought they had a casino, too, for some reason. Drove some really dark and deserted roads to the casino and then it was all lit up. Played only slots. Won then lost some.

Exploring Leelenau Peninsula


Kurt wanted to check out the Leelanau peninsula today so that’s what we did. We started out with brunch at Patisserie Amie, a French place I found on yelp. We both had crepes and coffee which were excellent. I could have gone for champagne as well but knew we had a full day of wine tasting ahead and didn’t want to start too early.

We drove up the eastern side of M-22, stopping first at Brengman Brothers winery where we sipped some wine (our first wine tasting!!) but I’m not sure we bought anything. We ended up with two cases of wine after our trip so we bought some wine somewhere but I lost track of what from where.

Kurt wanted to stop at Black Star winery since he had tasted some wine from there at the Grand Rapids wine fest last fall that he wanted to see if he could find. I don’t think we found that particular one but I know we walked out of there with quite a few bottles.

From there we drove through Suttons Bay and up to Leelanau Cellars. They’re located right on Grand Traverse Bay tucked into their own Omena Bay. It was sparkling blue waters as far as the eye could see. Their tasting rooms by far have one of the best views – all lake and boats. You could eat here, too, but we didn’t. Bought about six bottles from here. All super yummy.

After that we cut across Leelanau peninsula and headed towards Leland, stopping to take some vista type pictures along the way. It’s seriously gorgeous out here. I love it.

Leland was quaint and just as I remembered. Bought some sandwiches from a place that was closing for the day at 5 PM. Also stopped in at Verterra Winery which is tucked down a side street in Leland. They ended up being one of my favorite wineries. I especially loved their unoaked Chardonnay. I’m not really a Chardonnay drinker but the very nice lady explained it could be that I don’t like the oak. Most Chardonnays are oaked but they had one that wasn’t and I loved it. Definitely bought some of that along with their Chaos Sparkler and Chaos Red (a super smooth easy drinking red). We’ll definitely be back!

On our way to Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive to watch the sunset (something we did on our honeymoon up here nine years ago), we bumped into the old abandoned Sugar Loaf Resort. Somehow Kurt thought it was the same one I found a couple years ago that was for sale for like $300K but I didn’t think it was the same one. Still took a ton of pictures and looked it up online and found that it’s still for sale for $8.7 million. It’s been vacant for 15 years. Yikes. Can’t afford that!

Made it to Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive tucked into the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park just at sunset. Got to watch the whole sunset this time. What a gorgeous location.

Road Trip to Elk Rapids, Petosky and Harbor Springs


Today we took a drive up the Lake Michigan coast to check out Elk Rapids, Charlevoix, Petosky and Harbor Springs. It’s surprising that I’ve never made it up to these places (that I can remember). It was another gorgeous sunny day and part of me wondered if we should be spending the day on the beach.

First stop we made was in Elk Rapids. We drove through the small downtown to the waters edge where we stopped and took some pics of the water.

After the pics, Kurt and I had lunch outside at TJ Charlie’s – this cute little diner. I loved that the older guy sitting outside knew everyone. Everyone that passed by said “Hey Joe” and stopped to talk with him. He was sitting with a younger guy (mid 20s) and talking about the history of the town (all the inside scoop) which I found fascinating. I wish I could have pulled up a chair and talked with him. I’m sure he wouldn’t have minded.

Inside a bunch of older ladies were playing bridge. It was like walking into someone’s grandma’s house. I loved it. I wish I could have pulled up a chair and played with them, too. It looked like the kind of thing that they did every week (or even every day). Monday bridge club or something. I want to belong to something cool like that. 

Kurt drove straight through Charlevoix and Petosky up to Harbor Springs. We made one stop off at a turn off so I could take more pictures of the water. I don’t remember Charlevoix at all and took zero pictures there.

Harbor Springs was small and you could tell it dripped money but in a subtle summer cottage sort of way. Everything felt a bit down played. We drove up the bay on the road literally right on the water, taking in all the expansive super green and perfect manicured lawns rolling up to super huge houses with gorgeous views and docks jutting out into the bay. Yes – I’d love to live here.

We drove back down to Petosky and stopped so I could browse some shops. By this time it was around 5 PM and shops were starting to close. Spent some time in an art gallery type shop (which I loved) and their hardware store that had a bunch of home type stuff.

For dinner we stopped at Knot Just a Bar just outside of Petosky in this cool newer development community. They had a bunch of condos hanging off cliffs and their own little bay and marina. We sat outside again. It was a gorgeous night. The sun was just setting. Ordered another chicken cherry salad and Kurt had fried perch (his favorite). Had some beers. It was nice to just sit and relax and watch the sun dip behind the mansions on the peninsula.