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Jul 13, 2010 10:39 PM

Old Mission Peninsula Wineries

I hear that Michigan wines are doing very well now, especially Rieslings. We'll be in the Traverse City area and it looks like the Old Mission Peninsula has some very nice choices. Peninsula Cellars and Chateau Grand Traverse stood out in particular. Do hounds have other recommendations, particularly for Riesling and other vinifera grapes?

Any recommendations for lunch nearby would also be great. For dinners in TC we already have a lot of recommendations from previous posts on this board.


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  1. For Riesling, try Left Foot Charley. It's not on the Mission Peninsula, and if you haven't been to Grand Traverse Commons, the old asylum grounds where it is located, you might need a map. Here is the link to their 'directions' page:

    In the same complex is Stella (good for lunch or dinner), a bakery, and a cheesecake shoppe.

    I also enjoy Black Star Farms (Leelanau Peninsula), not just for their Riesling, but to pick up some of their local Raclette and fromage blanc as well. They are one of the few wineries who charge for tasting (you keep the glasses and bring them back for free future tastings), but I don't mind.

    On the Mission Peninsula, Two Lads is worth a stop, and for lunch (or dinner), there is Jolly Pumpkin.

    4 Replies
    1. re: tokyo

      I second Tokyo's recs. 2 lads is a must stop-tell them The Wine Counselor sent you. Website for jollypumpkin isn't working.

      1. re: schaf1

        >> Website for jollypumpkin isn't working.

        Works for me...

        Speaking of which, the Michigan wine industry has a nice website at with maps and information about all of the state's wineries. Most of the information can also be found in brochures available at many of the wineries.

      2. re: tokyo

        There is also a nice Black Star Farms tasting room and vineyard on Old Mission Peninsula. They just don't make the cheese there. But it's still worth going to.

        1. re: tokyo

          Most wineries charge up there for tastings the last time I was up there a couple years ago. Black Star Farms has great cheese, their wines aren't my fovorite by a long shot, but it's always overcrowded. They bring tour buses in there. Chateau Chantal is the most beautiful location. My favorite is L Mawby but it's not on the Old Mission, it's on the Leleenau. I do love Peninsula Cellars on the Old Mission, though. I actually buy that wine downstate when I can find it. I wouldn't recommend Madonna's brother's place

        2. I really liked the wines at Black Star Farms (they also have a larger tasting room with a farm and area to have lunch on the Leelanau Peninsula). Chataeu Grand Traverse is very good. We didn't go to their tasting room but had a number of their wines (including Rieslings) at restaurants in the area.

          Another nice place to visit (especially around sunset) is Chataeu Chantelle.

          If you are looking for an amazing place to stay (even if it's one night) I highly recommend the Tesoro Inn. It's one of the nicest B & Bs I've ever been to. And Les (one of the owners) is an amazing chef---trained and traveled all over the world. Some of the best grits I've ever tasted.

          For a wonderful taste of all that the Peninsula has to offer I recommend lunch or dinner at Mission Table---everything is farm-fresh or made on site. Quite good.

          4 Replies
          1. re: Elyssa

            Btw I just posted a whole piece on Northern Michigan dining, including some good eats on Mission Peninsula that you might find interesting. This also includes contact information for the beautiful and delicious Tesoro Inn.

            1. re: Elyssa

              Fantastic - those pictures are brilliant. Thanks for plotting our next weekend getaway. :)

              1. re: tokyo

                You're so welcome. We really had an amazing trip and couldn't believe how delicious (and affordable...especially coming from DC) the food in Saugatuck and Traverse City was.

            2. re: Elyssa

              As someone whose family has been vacationing on the Old Mission Peninsula for over 100 years, since the early 1900s, I was excited about going to Mission Table as a way of sampling local food and supporting a local business. Boy was I disappointed.

              I knew we were in trouble when I asked to see the wine list and all that was available were three reds and six whites, all of which were from wineries on the Old Mission Peninsula. The Peninsula has lots to recommend it, but wine is not one of them. The whites are, to be charitable, highly marginal, and the reds are all but undrinkable--better suited for cooking wine than drinking. If I go out to a restaurant and spend some hard earned money, I at least want a decent bottle of wine. The inferior wines at Mission Table were a clear indication that the proprietors were willing to sacrifice quality on altar of localism.

              Instead of wine I went with a strawberry-rhubarb mojito, which, like the wine list also presaged the food to come. The mojito was a disappointment and a rip-off: the mint leaves were not crushed but merely placed whole in the glass; there was very little rum in the drink; and the tall, narrow glass consisted almost entirely of ice.

              As for the food, our party of four ordered a variety of small plates-- grilled vegetable terrine, taco, lamb chops, BLT, risotto, beets, smoked whitefish dip, and mission salad--and one large plate--Great Lakes whitefish. So here's the rundown.

              Grilled vegetable terrine. The terrine (tomato based) tasted as if it was made from canned tomatoes and the accompanying sauces/dips were largely tasteless: the "Warm douglas valley goat cheese fondue" was essentially a thick white sauce with only the faintest hint of goat cheese (rip off); the black olive tapanade could easily have come from a jar; and the basil puree tasted of over-the-hill, minty basil.

              Taco. The braised beef cheeks were dry and under-seasoned, and the remaining components--avocado and chipotle cream--were very pedestrian.

              BLT. The best of the small plates, which is not saying much. The bacon was very good, but the "zenner tomato" was sliced so thin (another rip-off) it was overwhelmed by the bacon.

              Lamb chops. Ordinary quality, but overcooked, which rendered them dry.

              Risotto. The rice was undercooked, which gave it an unpleasantly hard center. The truffle oil and reggiano parmesan were in such small quantities that they were barely noticeable (yet another rip off). Also, rice does not grow on the Old Mission Peninsula so this clearly violates the restaurant’s local in

              Beets. Roasted local beets were bland and appear to have been steamed or boiled, not roasted. Many varieties of beets are available locally--(e.g. golden, variegated) either on the Peninsula or at the wonderful Traverse City Farmer's Market, which is held from early April through early December--and would have, at the very least, made a more visually striking presentation that the red beets on which this dish was based. But perhaps the proprietors of Mission Table are too lazy to make a weekly trip to the Farmer's Market. Or perhaps they don't see the need since their commitment to local food appears to be more window dressing than genuine.

              Smoked whitefish dip. The dip consisted of so much dairy (cream and cheese) that what little whitefish there was (another rip off) was overwhelmed. This is more of a warm dairy dip with a hint of whitefish than the other way around.

              Mission salad. Ordinary and nothing to write home about.

              Whitefish (large plate): Overcooked, dry and tarted up with some distinctly non-local ingredients--Sesame crust, soy glazed pork belly, quinoa salad, pea shoots, miso vinaigrette.

              Our dessert selections were lemon-ricotta cheesecake and peach melba. The cheesecake had the faintest taste of lemon and the accompanying raspberry puree was unmemorable.

              The low-light of the evening, and which encapsulated all that is wrong with Mission Table, was the peach melba. The melba consisted of a single peach cut in half. Unfortunately, the peach was so unripe it was hard and sour halfway through, making it inedible (the biggest rip off of the evening). That an unripe peach would be served was all the more galling since delicious and ripe peaches were readily available at roadside fruit stands up and down the Peninsula, and one such stand was no more than 3 miles from Mission Table.

              I've rechristened Mission Table "Peach Melba Table" because this dish so perfectly encapsulates the restaurant and it approach to food: substandard quality, poor preparation, pretense, and rip-offs (largely non-existent, substandard, and undersized portions of ingredients) around every corner.

              Ordinarily, I would be prepared to cut Mission Table a break. After all it's a new restaurant with a noble mission, and its location in a place that is very special to me, and where my family has been going for over 100 years, made me want so badly for it to be good, or at least passable. Sadly, this is not the case. In fact, the polar opposite is. The restaurant is a rip-off (see above), and for this reason I unfortunately have to give it this review. While I will forgive an honest, if incompetent effort, I will not do so for a dishonest effort. Mission Table falls into this latter category.

              Mission Table talks the talk of local ingredients and good food, but this appears to be less of a genuine commitment than it is a ploy with which to part you from your hard earned cash.

            3. Thanks for all these great ideas. Left Foot Charley looks like a good bet for the 3rd winery slot, and Jolly Pumpkin looks promising for lunch. Any other recommendations for smaller, local lunches in the area would be great (Stella for instance seems fancier than what we'd be looking for at lunch.)

              We've got a dinner reservation at The Cook's Table, which looks like just the type of locally focused place we're after. I'm not sure what we'll be doing our other night as we'll be going to at least one film at the Traverse City Film Festival, maybe more. But with so many good choices around I think we'll be fine.

              Elyssa, thanks for the more comprehensive Michigan posting link! We'll be headed down the Lake Michigan coast after our TC area visit, and I really hadn't planned that out too much chow-wise, but now I have several good ideas there. If you have any eastern UP ideas in the Pictured Rocks area, could you please let me know in the separate post on that area? I suspect that part of our trip will mostly be about lake fish, chow-wise.

              Thanks again,

              1 Reply
              1. re: mdg

                For lunch one day we drove over to the Black Star Farms winery on the Leelanau Peninsula. This is a lot bigger than the one on Old Mission Peninsula. Besides a large tasting room they also have an area where you can watch them make the cheese and a large farm.

                They also have a cool outdoor area where you can eat lunch. We had a (huge!) veggie pizza (I recommend getting a slice per person unless you are starving) and a delicious smoked whitefish dip.

                We had a rather late lunch...around 2pm. It was very relaxing to sit outside, enjoy a sunny day and the relaxation of a farm. We noticed only after we left that there was also a specials board that included an amazing sounding grilled cheese sandwich.

                Unfortunately I've never been to the Pictured Rock area (maybe next year?) so I'm not much help in that area. We did go to Petosky and Mackinac Island last year though if you need recs for that area.

              2. Our friends at gangofpour just recently did an extensive tasting and write up on Old Mission wines... don't this miss this before you go. Very well regarded wine folks, long experience and very connected. Reviews are extensive, well written and informative..


                1 Reply
                1. re: berkleybabe

                  Thanks! We're still a few days away from our tasting day, so this was good to see. We'll have to give those Pinot Grigios a try too!

                  I saw in one of those articles that Left Foot Charley was started by someone from Peninsula Cellars. I haven't seen as much about Peninsula Cellars lately as the others. Have they kept their quality up, allowing for vintage variation?


                2. Thanks again for the recommendations! We had a fun day of wine tasting. Chateau Grand Traverse and Peninsula Cellars were very enjoyable, with a wide range of delicious white wines. We particularly liked the Riesling, Pinot Grigio, Pinot Noir vin gris, and Ship of Fools at Chateau Grand Traverse, and the Pinot Blanc, Pinot Grigio, Gewurz, and Riesling at Peninsula Cellars.

                  Left Foot Charley unfortunately was serving nearly everything from the disastrous 2009 vintage. I had the reserve tasting and the Leelenau Gewurz was OK, but the Pinot Gris was barely drinkable, and the Pinot Blanc was absurdly sour and unripe. These wines were reminiscent of the bad old days of Michigan winemaking. The 2008 Riesling was quite nice, showing why this place was recommended for their past wines. For now though, steer way, way clear until they have 2010 wines on offer in a year or so - given the weather we've seen on our trip, that should be a far better vintage. (The one 2009 wine we had at CGT was also vastly inferior to offerings from other vintages.)

                  Jolly Pumpkin was a wonderful choice for lunch. The Bam Biere was by far the best Belgian style draft beer I've had in the USA - a real masterwork! The cooking was excellent too, with a stellar BLT - great tomatoes! - and a tasty bison sloppy joe.

                  Thanks again,