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With its vibrant vermillion, ochre and tangerine hills against an azure Grand Traverse Bay, fall is the quintessential winery tour season, but I much prefer spring. When I lived in the Detroit area, getting Up North in spring felt like a special sneak peak. It was the early start to the summer, and made me feel like I was getting a special bonus.
Here are six excellent reasons to tour Northern Michigan's vineyards, wineries and restaurants in spring.
Spring Menus include Morels, Asparagus and Lamb
Lamb chops are a favorite in our house all year, but especially in spring when they just seem to fit our palates. Lamb is wonderfully paired with Northern Michigan asparagus. And the two together? Well you might have to have both a red and a white wine at dinner ... let us know which wine fits your menu.
Morel season is amazing. We like to put them in omelets with a lovely sparkling (my favorite is L. Mawby's Sandpiper, which you can only get at the winery). Or try some of the reds paired with beef and a morel ragout on top. Classic morels sautéed in butter as a side dish? Goes with just about everything including a nice martini from Northern Latitudes distillery in Lake Leelanau--no reason you can't slip a distillery or two into your tour.
Cherry Blossoms, Lilacs and Spring Flowers
Spring has a beauty all its own of chartreuse, canary and several shades of pink. There are miles and miles of white blossomed orchards. And the spring sun shows off those Caribbean aquas and blues in the lakes, bays and waterways.
Stand in front of the acre of lilac bushes near the public beach in Omena and discover new shades of purple, raspberry and lavender. If you're lucky, you might just get to see some of our Northern Michigan orchids. Last year on Mother's Day there were Moccasin flowers everywhere and I got some of the best photos ever. It's a native orchid of Michigan that looks like a lady's slipper, and is prevalent in the Houdek Dunes. Please, please don't pick or try to transplant them.
On the drive out to Northport's Christmas Cove, the floor of the forest is covered in white trillium. Upon a closer look, you'll see faint pink on the flower petals, as if someone has painted them with water colors.
Of course every Victorian neighborhood in Traverse City has yards of tulips and daffodils framed with exploding forsythia bushes and even a few blooming magnolia. This year in particular, they all seem to be blooming at once.
New Wine Releases-Great Every Year, Spectacular in 2013
The bounty of last year's magnificent grape season is finally ready for your wine glass. The weather that obliterated the cherry crop was great grape growing conditions. The long dry summer meant very ripe grapes full of flavor. Winemakers also had time to take time to harvest and make the wine and we get the first sips of that labor, now. Plus, no one is out of anything yet.
On video, MyNorth Media takes a taste of the 2013 wine releases and shares the notes from the winemakers themselves.
Spring Rates on Hotels
Most hotels have spring rates through Memorial Day and some have bargains into June. So you get the same great rooms, same service, same glorious view, restaurants, shopping and hiking, all for less money. Of course the bay is a little chilly for swimming yet, but the pool at the hotel or the jacuzzi tub in your room is warm enough.
Better Hiking Conditions
On cooler days, you won't have mosquitoes or black flies. And many of my favorite hikes have better views of the water through trees that haven't leafed out yet. I also find that the cooler weather is more comfortable overall, especially for some of the more strenuous dune climbs. Finally, you'll have first crack at the petoskey stones that winter storms have washed up on the beach.
Enjoy the Quiet Before the Storm
I've heard reports of wineries with crowds 3 or 4 deep during peak fall color tour season. In spring there are no crowds at the wineries, hotels, restaurants or anywhere else. The kids are still in school and even some of the snowbirds don't show up until after Memorial Day. You'll get your pick of winery tour times from two companies that will drive for you (By the Bay Wine Tours & Grand Traverse Bay Chauffeured Tours), leaving you to sight see and enjoy the wine safely. Pretend you're a VIP with a private preview tasting.