Women’s Winter Tour at Crystal Mountain

January 28, 2009

 Women's Winter Tour graphicCelebrate Women, Winter and Chocolate!

The Women’s Winter Tour returns this weekend, January 31st and February 1st at Crystal Mountain Resort. The Tour is a non-competitive event featuring cross-country skiing, downhill skiing and lots of fun. Forget about the SuperBowl, it’s time for a souper-bowl with wine and chocolate.

  • Dozens of events will take place over the two-day extravaganza including:
  • Snowshoe d’ Art through the Michigan Legacy Art Park
  • Brownie contest
  • Dancing to the Fabulous Horndogs
  • Women only Winter Ski Tour including 3K, 5K and 10K loops and snowshoeing

The Women’s Winter Tour benefits the local nonprofit Active Women Now, Inc. This organization has raised over $80,000 for the Traverse City women’s shelter and other local charities.

Online registration is available, but the easy printable registration form is the best way to sign up. Click here for the printable form.


The event is hosted by Crystal Mountain Resort. They will donate $3 for each woman staying at the Resort who signs up for the tour.

While you’re there check out the brand new Crystal Spa. Special discounts are available for Winter Tour participants. For details on the packages available from Crystal Mountain Resort click here.


Welcome Knot Just a Bar

January 27, 2009

Knot Just a Bar graphic Omena Waterfront Restaurant Joins Mealtickets Family

Mealtickets is proud to welcome Knot Just a Bar to our display of card advertisers. Their beautiful views and casual family atmosphere make it a perfect choice for area visitors and locals alike. Located in the same building as Leelanau Wine Cellars the restaurant is an easy drive-to destination for a great meal, and possibly some wine tasting next door. 

Their menu is filled with comfortable classics and Northern Michigan cuisine. But don’t let their stunning location fool you, the prices don’t reflect the view. Instead you’ll find a huge copper bar, complete with over 69 beers and a TV for watching the game. I often make a point to stop here on my way back from Northport in the summer to grab a lunch out on their deck overlooking Grand Traverse Bay.


So next time you’re taking a drive on M-22 on the Leelanau Peninsula, make sure to stop by Knot Just a Bar. On the weekends you’ll even be treated to some live entertainment, so sit back and enjoy. You can find more information about Knot Just a Bar on our Dining & Wineries page, or check out their website at www.knotjustabar.com.

Welcome Fustini’s Oils & Vinegars

January 27, 2009

 Fustinis Oils & Vinegars graphicUnique Downtown Tasting Shop Joins Mealtickets Family

If you’ve yet to wander down the streets of Downtown Traverse City and wonder what "Fustini’s" is all about, then now is the time to discover it. A hidden gem, located on E Front Street between Cass and Union, Fustini’s window always proudly displays their namesake, large stainless steel Fustini’s filled with imported Olive Oil and Balsamic Vinegar infusions.

So, what’s all the fuss about? Come in and try for yourself. Fustini’s offers free tasting’s for their imported oils and vinegars, allowing you to create a blend that suits your tastes or cooking preferences. Personally I can’t resist a fresh baguette drizzled with Meyer Lemon Olive Oil and the 18 Year Aged Balsamic Vinegar. But that’s the beauty of this place….to each his own.


With extra virgin olive oil flavors like Persian Lime and Tangerine, and Balsamics infused with Oregano or Pomegranate, the resulting mixtures are sure to liven up your meals. Their products are tasted and bottled on site and can be shipped directly from the store.


Next time you’re looking for a unique hostess gift, or a great way to jazz up a marinade or salad dressing, stop by Fustini’s Oils & Vinegars. You’ll find their cards in our hotel displays, or check out our Attractions page for details including a map for their downtown Traverse City location. For more information, or to order their products online, check out their website at www.fustinis.com.

Why Ice Wine is Divine

January 6, 2009

frozen grapes for ice wine at Black Star FarmsWhen the Temperatures Drop our Spirits Rise in Northern Michigan Wine Country.

Germany is known for their Eiswein, and so is Canada. But did you know that Michigan has been turning frozen grapes into liquid luxury since 1983? When you learn a bit about the process you’ll understand why ice wine is worth it’s weight in gold.

A true ice wine is made from grapes left on the vine until harvest and pressed while frozen. Each year winemakers must decide whether or not to gamble on producing an ice wine. Growers take quite a risk leaving grapes on the vine after the fall harvest. It’s not only a risk to the crop but to the vine itself. According to Chris Lopez of Black Star Farms, grapes left to ripen past harvest require so much energy from the vine and the roots which sustain it, that it can cause a smaller harvest in subsequent years or possible loss of the vine itself.


Black Star Farms ice wine harvestOnce the decision is made, winemakers must wait for ideal conditions to harvest ice wine grapes. According to Lee Lutes, winemaker for Black Star Farms, the temperatures must hold below 17˙F for three consecutive days. The calls go out at 2am for the dedicated staff and friends to join the harvest among the vines before dawn. With fluctuating temperatures in early December this year’s harvest began on December 8th and resumed on December 16th; a clear example of the importance of the harvest temperature.

Upon picking the grapes are as hard as marbles. They are brought to the winery and pressed outside in old-fashioned wooden basket presses. The frozen block takes days to squeeze a thicky syrupy liquid as each grape will yield not much more than a drop. The frozen block is then painstakingly removed from the basket by hand.


Black Star Farms A Capella ice wineThis year Black Star Farms harvested 6000 pounds of ice wine grapes, which produced 125 gallons of juice, or roughly 110 cases of ice wine. That may sound like a lot, but it’s actually only 25% of a normal yield. In other words, had those same grapes been picked in the fall they would have produced 500 gallons of juice. When you factor in the potential loss of grapes, the perfect conditions required for harvest and the additional labor, it’s easy to see why ice wines are so valuable, or as some might say, expensive. But once you’ve had a sip of this deliciously sweet nectar from the vine you’ll know it’s also worth every cent.

Black Star Farms A Capella ice wine has taken taken several medals and has been served in presidential dinners hosted at The White House. Ice wines are fantastic when aged, even 20 years or more. For Lee Lutes the ability to age an ice wine makes it that much more valuable. His 2002 vintage, an especially prosperous harvest for local ice wine, is one he’s saving to share with his daughter as they share the same birth year.

Click here to check out this video of the 2007 Ice Wine harvest at Black Star Farms, produced in conjunction with Absolute Michigan.


ice wine grapes in press at Forty-Five NorthAnother local winemaker experimenting with ice wine production is Shawn Walters of Forty-Five North Vineyard & Winery. Their vineyard is very young, and not currently producing enough fruit to offer a true ice wine. They are however creating an Icebox wine. So what’s the difference? An icebox wine, or Vin de Glaciere, is wine made from grapes frozen in an icebox, rather than naturally on the vine. This style eliminates the risk of crop loss, allows for production not dependent on the weather and therefore costs much less. A bottle of Forty-Five North Icebox Pinot Gris sells for $45 for 375ml, as compared to $60-$90 for naturally produced ice wines. There’s much debate as to whether or not the quality of the wine is better one way or another. But most will agree, it’s not Ice Wine unless it’s frozen on the vine.


Not to be left out in the cold, so to speak, winemaker Bryan Ulbrich of Left Foot Charley will produce a very limited supply of ice wine with a 2008 vintage. His Vidal Blanc Icewine, produced from a grape hybridized specifically for ice wine, came from the vineyards at the Gray Hare Inn. It took three days of pressing to produce 22 gallons of juice. He uses a small basket press, operated by hand-crank, "we walked around it like a bunch of mules," he joked. Talk about a labor of love. And if you think this year’s production of 20 cases is small, ask him how much he produced last year! When asked why he doesn’t use Riesling he said they just don’t have enough grapes to risk on ice wine. "Vidal Blanc was made for ice wine," he explained. I guess you can’t argue with that.


celebrating the ice wine harvestThe 2008 harvest looks promising on all accounts. Black Star Farms will release their ’08 A Capella in the spring. Forty-Five North is selling the last of the 2007 Icebox Pinot Gris, and will release a ’08 Icebox Riesling later this winter. The riesling, a bit of an experiment for Walters, is currently fermenting in French oak barrels, like a Chardonnay. He hopes this will impart a subtle vanilla with earthy undertones. Walters also produced a true ice wine for Longview Winery, Sweet Winter Ice, from the Cayuga grape. 


Check out our new Michigan Ice Wine photo gallery for more images from Forty-Five North and Longview Winery’s ice wine harvest.


Photos courtesy of Black Star Farms and Forty-Five North Vineyard & Winery

For more information on the history of Michigan ice wines check out these links:

Detroit News – Record number of Michigan wineries make ice wine in 2002 vintage The Wine Report, January, 2003, by Sandra Silfven 

FindArticles – Michigan ice wine rises when mercury falls Wines & Vines, July, 2006, by Todd Spencer