Embrace the cold on the Leelanau Peninsula
Updated: Aug 24, 2021
With full winter now upon us, it’s time to embrace the cold and get some snow time scheduled. In my family, only one of us likes to ski or be outside at all in the cold. As a result, we needed a weekend escape that combined my husband’s love of sitting by a warm fire, wine glass in hand, and my desire to get my schuss on. Luckily for us, Northern Michigan offers both.
We decided to head to the Leelanau Peninsula, above Traverse City. The area features an entire wine trail for my husband to choose from, and to check out my ski legs, I could spend some time at the small, eight-run Hickory Hills Ski Area.
While we like the larger resorts of Crystal Mountain and Boyne, I hadn’t skied at Hickory Hills before, and it seemed like a good compromise location. Hickory Hills began operations before I was born, on 12 acres owned by Traverse City. Now it occupies nearly 125 acres. I knew I’d get a workout, since the hill only offers rope tows instead of chair lifts.
For sustenance, we stopped for fondue at the Hearth & Vine restaurant on the Black Star Farms estate. The cheese in the fondue was Leelanau Cheese Company’s raclette cut with a cherry brandy to ensure the right consistency for dipping the bread.
I’d like to come back up to the farm for one of their harvest dinners, a six-course extravaganza paired with their wines. How about a Valentine’s weekend stay, in our favorite suite with a fireplace and enjoying the root vegetables and chocolate tasting menu? The chocolate sounds perfect, but I’m not sure about root vegetables. I would just have to trust Chef Jonathan Dayton to make turnips, parsnips, potatoes and carrots into six wonderful courses.
In the meantime, we sampled just a few wines from the extensive list of varietal wines and unique spirits at the Barrel Tasting Room.
We did a quick tour of downtown Suttons Bay before heading to our overnight stay with friends. Next weekend, Jan. 30, will be a great time to visit this charming town, as they are having their annual YetiFest, in honor of that mythical snow creature. There will be a Yeti Variety Show, with a look-alike contest, a Yeti Stew cook-off and a Library Yeti Discovery program. This is not to be missed for all big, hairy Yeti aficionados.
While in the area, my husband toured two of his favorite wineries, L. Mawby and Ciccone. Ciccone Vineyard and Winery has the distinction of having been founded by pop singer Madonna’s father, Tony Ciccone. The Old World tasting room features wines bottled on the estate.
Larry Mawby’s tasting room sports a sign saying, “Welcome Bubbleheads,” and the charming tasting room offers at least two sparkling wines for tasting, free of charge.
Coming up Feb. 6-7 along the Leelanau Peninsula Wine Trail is “Taste the Passion,” an annual celebration of wine, chocolate and love. Participants pick their own course on the wine trail between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. on Saturday and 12 p.m. and 5 p.m. on Sunday.
You might have noticed I haven’t written much about the skiing. It turns out I wasn’t quite yet ready for ski season. After a run down the intermediate slope, I ended up sitting by the fireplace, nursing my knee. The good news is that I have several more months of the cold white stuff, and I can hit the slopes again. My husband has more wineries to visit, too.