Monday, October 3, 2011

Lake Michigan Wine Shore Trail - Day 1

New Buffalo Beach

It being our anniversary weekend, we hied over to the closest wine country, which happens to be the Lake Michigan Wine Shore area, just an hour or so outside of the Chicago area. It is an interesting area, in that it is somewhat developed (owing to its close proximity to the big city), yet retains much of its agricultural feel. We have access to a small cottage in Union Pier, Michigan, which is a pretty good base if you want to visit the wineries who are members of this American Viticultural Area (AVA).

My job affords me the benefit of occasionally working away from the office, so we were able to head to Michigan on Thursday, with little traffic to impede our progress. Once work was done, we planned the following day's itinerary: 4 wineries, lunch and/or dinner out, and 2 properties as possible winery sites. This is an area that makes some good wine yet is not extravagantly priced, so I have dreams of moving the family and starting a vineyard of our own.

Bentwood Tavern entryway

Plans made, we headed over to the Bentwood Tavern in New Buffalo, MI, for dinner. Not a place we would have thought to visit on our own, it is mentioned as a dining option in the Wine Trail planning guide. From the website: "Harbor Country's only waterfront restaurant, Bentwood Tavern features "artisan comfort cuisine" crafted by local icon, Chef Jenny Drilon. Bentwood's sophisticated spin on pub fare features gourmet pizzas fired in a wood-burning oven, fresh seafood, Amish roasted chicken, steaks and chops. Everything is scratch made from only the highest quality, and whenever possible, locally grown ingredients. Eight craft brews on tap and a well-curated wine list are worthy complements to the fresh, savory menu." I believe this may be out of date, as the team from this restaurant have opened a new restaurant further down the marina, Terrace Room at the Harbor Grand.

We started off with wine (of course), but opted to wait for the next day to sample Michigan wines - Laima had the Joel Gott “815,” Cabernet Sauvignon California ($9.50 glass / $38 bottle), while I had the Segura Viudas, Reserva Brut Cava, Spain ($6 glass / $24 bottle) - both really good.

The appetizer was supposed to be Oven Roasted Mushrooms ($8) Stama Farms local oyster mushrooms with shallots, white wine, garlic, thyme and polenta, but our waitress forgot to place the order, so that was a no go.

For an entree, Laima tried the All Natural Flat Iron Filet ($20) - served sliced with chimichurri sauce, poblano potato gratin and seasonal vegetable (green beans). The meat was pretty good, though the chimichurri sauce was tomato based, which I'd never seen before, while the poblano potato gratin was spicy and also included corn kernels (tasty), and the green beans were great, lightly steamed, crunchy. I opted for the Prosciutto & Fig Pizza ($13) with asiago and garlic spread, interesting combo, also tasty, though the amount of dough overwhelmed the toppings at times.

With the appetizer having been forgotten, our server comped us a dessert and, while we were surprised to see NO chocolate items, we decided to try the Pumpkin Pie with whipped cream - I'm not sure why, but we expected it to be warm, and it wasn't, but still very tasty and spiced more heavily than we would have thought, but the better for it.

Overall, we really enjoyed our meal - the restaurant is located near the downtown, overlooking the marina with a gorgeous view. Not overly fancy, but definitely a step above the area's more typical bar and grills.

Bentwood Tavern on Urbanspoon

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