Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Lake Michigan Wine Shore Trail - Day 2

Day 2 started with a whimper rather than a bang, as rain and strong winds cooperated to down power lines across the region (we heard an estimate of 17,000 without power). Happily, we're early risers, so it was post-breakfast and, with some candles, we enjoyed the stormy hours awaiting daylight.

Some internet research later, we had an optional place to stay for the night and we phoned the wineries, wondering if any were open. With good fortune, the ones that had opened early all reported a problem-free night and we were on our way.

Our first stop was Hickory Creek Winery, which actually did not have power, but were open for business anyway. We tried 5 wines each, with Laima predictably leaning towards drier wines, while I opted to try the sweeter. We both agreed that the winery makes some good wines and ended up buying a bottle of their 2008 Gewurztraminer, which only lasted through the evening - "A deep amber gold shade gives way to a burst of roses, pear and lychee. Big boned in structure, but clean and long in the finish." We also tried the 2009 Gentil, a blend of Riesling, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, and Chardonnay, followed by the 2009 Pinot Gris and 2008 Riesling - "With a scant smell of sweetness, honeycomb and lime zest present an unexpected freshness. Minerals, apricot kernel, and acidity on the palate are emblematic to the Lake Michigan Shore. The 2006 and 2007 Melanges were a nice study in contrasts, with the 2007 being deeper in color and fruitier. The winery itself is a pretty barn-type building next to a house, surrounded by rolling farmland and vineyards.

Along the way to our next destination we espied a gorgeous winery atop a hill surrounded by netted grapevines in orderly rows. Truly my idea of the perfect-looking winery. We've since found out it was the Old Shore Vineyards, a place to add to the agenda next trip!

Photo courtesy of the winery

Next up was the Lemon Creek Winery, which turned out to be the only winery that charges for tasting, which was what we had expected. They did allow us to share a tasting, which was great, as it limited the alcohol we had to ingest. With 4 wineries planned that day, we were a bit worried about over-imbibing. The wines we ended up tasting were the '09 Gewurtztraminer ("aromas of spice and rose petals, deep tones of star anise and a delicate passion fruit flavor"), the '09 Riesling ("lush and crisp with succulent flavors reminiscent of melon, mango and grapefruit"), Silver Beach Sauterne ("richly sweet, fruity, lightly golden wine that can be enjoyed chilled or with fruit and dessert"), '07 Cabernet Franc ("Structurally rich, full bodied wine, with smooth tannins, raspberry and spice flavors and a long clean finish"), and the Demi-Sec Spumante ("bright, shining deep golden color and a nose with an intense range of aromas. Full and rich on the palate, with plenty of texture"). I thought the descriptions were right on. Lemon Creek seemed the most commercial and industrial of the wineries as we approached it, perhaps showing its fruit farm origins.

Basically across the road is Domaine Berrien. On tap were the 2010 Viognier ("creamy flavors and aromas of apricot, melon, and peach. This wine will fill your palate with lush complexity and a lingering finish of peach and mango"), the 2010 Steelhead White ("Seyval Blanc, Chardonnay, and Pinot Gris give this refreshing table wine it’s wonderful citrus flavor"), 2010 Vignoles ("Light yellow color with refreshing tropical flavors"), 2008 Cabernet Franc ("medium body, fruity flavors of black berries, and a smooth, graceful finish"), 2009 Lemberger ("toasty oak aroma, light nutty flavors, and a spicy dry finish"), 2007 Crown of Cabernet ("blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot, and Malbec is rich & fruity with a smooth, dry finish"), 2009 Wolf's Prairie Red ("Deep red color, with smokey aromas and flavors of jammy fruit and truffles. An earthy blend of deChaunac & Chelois grapes"), and the 2010 Grandma's Red ("Made from the same full-flavored, deep red grapes as our Wolf's Prairie Red, but in a sweet style"). Once again, overall a collection of well-made wines - we purchased the Viognier as a gift for relatives watching our 4 kids while we enjoyed our weekend. The winery and tasting room are located within what appear to be several buildings or perhaps a building with an addition. Really neat to be able to overlook the stainless tanks, where a cap was being punched down by the owner/winemaker. Another thing we liked was that they are "Environmentally Verified," which means they use green farming practices- bravo!

An early afternoon lunch had us at Tabor Hill Winery and Restaurant, with a final tasting preceding the meal. Once again, we enjoyed most of the wines, tasting a 2010 Traminette ("floral bouquet of citrus, and grapefruit. A lush mid-palate that follows the nose with flavors of peach and apricot, and slightly white pepper"), 2010 Dry Riesling ("elegant floral aromas and a clean crisp finish" -- too dry for me), 2010 Gewurtztraminer ("no sugar was added to achieve the sweetness you find in this wine"), 2009 Kerner ("juicy peach, apricot, ripe pear, melon, with subtle mineral notes"), 2008 Cabernet Franc ("dark cherry, raspberry, spearmint and cigar box aromas which are accented by herbal tones and layers of vanilla"), Spumante ("special blend of our sweetest grapes makes this sparkling very crisp, very clean, and very sweet"), Blanc de Blanc ("just a touch of sweetness our winemakers model this flavor profile after an Italian Prosecco"), and the Cabernet Franc Port ("aromas of blackberry, spice, fig while giving way to flavors of dark cherry, hints of raspberry and chocolate with a tiny touch of oak, leaving a silky lasting finish"). A nice way to start the afternoon and a good intro to a repast in the restaurant.

The Tabor Hill Winery Restaurant overlooks the vineyards and, even on a cloudy and forbidding day, managed to feel bright and welcoming. The hostess made sure to write our name down for a table, directing us to the tasting area to start.

We thought about having more wine, but opted to take a break, and let our taste buds enjoy some food. First up was a Parmesan bread with butter (optional but free), followed by our appetizer, Squash Blossom Poppers (filled With Corn Green Onion Cream Garlic Asiago Cilantro with Peanut Mousse $12) - we both enjoyed those very much, definitely something to try. For lunch Laima opted for the Heirloom Lettuce Wraps of Seasonal Vegetables Mushrooms Boc Choy Garlic and Green Onion with Soy and Peanut Sauces ($15) - she added chicken, with tofu and shrimp other options. The wraps were great, well-seasoned and having multiple layers of flavor, with the crunchy lettuce leaves adding a nice textural counterpoint. I tried a daily special, the chorizo stuffed hamburger, which, unfortunately, did not turn out as exciting as expected. I prefer my hamburger buns toasted, to add some structure and texture to the sandwich, something Tabor Hill had neglected to do, to the meal's detriment.

Overall, we were very pleased with the meal. While not inexpensive, the food can be excellent (as evidenced by the appetizer and wraps) and the service was decent, leaning towards good.

Tabor Hill Winery & Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Returning to the cottage, still dark, we headed for the New Buffalo Inn and Spa, for a much-needed rest.

To see how we got here, read Day 1.


  1. Sounds like a fabulous couple of days. I think I might want to take up residence at Tabor Hills from the sounds of it!

  2. We'll have to make an appointment for Old Shore...