Unique Michigan Wine Tasting Experiences


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Brys Estate Vineyard and Winery on Old Mission Peninsula is one of my favorite northern Michigan wine destinations. The drive to the estate from downtown Traverse City is dotted with orchards, vineyards, and cerulean views of Grand Traverse Bay.

Walt and Eileen Brys acquired the former cherry orchard while looking through "rose-tinted glasses." After a ton of work and investment, they succeeded in converting the farm into a stunning destination for pure estate wines, flourishing vineyards, and elegant tasting experiences. Year after year, the wines are awarded medals in national and international wine competitions.

"We are very excited that 2011 provided an abundant harvest," says Eileen. Looking ahead to fall, she says they'll continue their popular Fall Harvest Celebrations where guests are invited to visit wine and food pairing stations set up in the barrel room, cask room, and winery cellar. In the meantime, sign up for a private tour and tasting, or simply visit and relax on the patio with a glass of wine and small food plate.

Red wine lovers, Brys has the wines for you! Summer releases include 2010 Merlot and Cabernet Franc, and 2011 Pinot Noir. If you like your summer whites on the dry side, seek out some of my all-time favorites in the new 2011 vintage: Pinot Blanc, Pinot Grigio, and Naked Chardonnay. In southern Michigan, Chateau Aeronautique Winery in Jackson also provides a unique tasting experience. Vintner Lorenzo Lizarralde's gazebo wine tasting room resides next to his airplane hangar. I chatted with friends about their fly-in experience (yes, you can fly to the tasting room). Jason Wickman and Amy Mitchell of Chelsea attended Aero Estates Annual Fly-In last September, riding with a friend who owns a 1956 Cessna 172. Jason described the fly-in as a show for classic airplanes. They landed on a well-groomed grass air strip, which serves as the backyard for the homes in the development. Once on the ground, Jason says they headed to the winery to find the building overflowing with wine and aviation enthusiasts.

"The staff was gracious and excited to share wines with us, taking care to educate us along the way," says Jason. "After a few tastings and a tour of the facility, we relaxed and enjoyed a wonderful bottle of 2009 Seyval Blanc. We hope to make a visit to the winery and the fly-in a perennial event."

Keep an eye on the winery's website for upcoming fly-in events. And, just so you know, you don't need to arrive by plane to visit. I plan to drive there to taste Lorenzo's Seyval Blanc, as well as his Aviatrix Crimson, a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Cabernet Franc. Lorenzo welcomes guests to call ahead to sign up for private winery tours.

Sharon Kegerreis is co-author of the award-winning From the Vine: Exploring Michigan Wineries and The History of Michigan Wines. Learn more and get autographed books at deliciousmichigan.com.

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