WRITER | LISA BECKER CAMPBELL
PHOTOS | THE CELLARS AT ROYAL FARMS
The Bayview Wine Trail is an idyllic excursion in autumn, as the “Tip of the Mitt” blossoms with bountiful harvests, brilliant fall foliage, and Michigan-made products.
An exemplary destination is Pond Hill Farm, nestled amid the Tunnel of Trees on M-119 in Harbor Springs, which is renowned for its stunning views.
The Pond Hill Farm Winery, Brewery, Café and Market bills itself as an agritourism destination. A year-round working farm, it offers experiences that the whole family can enjoy, including a playground, animals to feed, six miles of groomed hiking trails, and even a “squash rocket.”
The garden café delivers a farm-to-table experience in a historic barn overlooking the gardens, greenhouse, and pasture. Just 5 miles north of Harbor Springs, it is the northernmost locale of the 12 wineries on the Bayview Wine Trail.
The southernmost point is The Cellars at Royal Farms Farm Market and Winery in Ellsworth.
As with many of the trail’s wineries, The Cellars is family friendly and home to a 5-acre corn maze. Youngsters can venture through on their own while parents enjoy food samples, a pint of cider, or a glass of sangria or wine. Beverages can also be enjoyed while simply walking to the top of the property to view Grand Traverse Bay while surrounded by spectacular fall colors. The views can also be appreciated on one of the weekend hay rides.
New for this year is Caramel Apple Hard Cider. The Cellars also offer hard apple and cherry apple cider and non-alcoholic sodas on tap.
“Fall is our busiest season. Weekends are hopping at the tasting room,” according to Chelsea McGuire, manager at Royal Farms. “It’s great to see everyone smiling, relishing the precious fall days. It doesn’t get much better than this!”
In addition to wine and cider making, The Cellars of Royal Farms uses the fresh fruits of the season for gift items such as jellies and preserves, and more. The bakery is a scratch kitchen, so everything is homemade with fresh ingredients, with items such as baked goods, meat pasties, and soup. McGuire recommends trying a pie pairing.
The most recent winery to join the trail is the 1918 Cellars Wine Tasting Room at the historic Castle Farms outside Charlevoix. The landmark is celebrating its centennial this year, and the Tasting Room opened in May.
“We are just delighted with the new tasting room, which will add even more enjoyment to our visitors’ experience,” stated Sarah Hagen, the tasting room manager.
Hagen is very excited about introducing their own label of Michigan-made wine. The 1918 Cellars Tasting Room samples eight wines, including both traditional varietals and vintages comprising new combinations: a red blend dubbed Serenity Red and a white blend labeled Birch Lake White, named for the property’s pond with its whimsical bridges.
Located in the Queen’s Tavern of Castle Farms (where cheese was produced years ago at a dairy farm), the Tasting Room boasts historically significant original stonework, a barn wood ceiling built in the 1960s, and a herringbone-pattern floor with tiles dating back to the original construction in 1918.
“The new tasting room is the perfect stop for visitors to Charlevoix and for our tour guests after they’ve walked the gardens, viewed collections, or visited the WWI museum.” Guided and unguided tours are available for perusing the historical grounds and artifacts. Hagen advises visitors that both tours require about two hours.
One of the most novel wines on the Bayview tour is available at Maple Moon Sugarbush and Winery in Petoskey. The wine is made from maple syrup, creating a varietal that has a maple tone with a cream finish and varies from semi-dry to sweet, according to their website. The winery also offers traditional maple products, such as syrup, candy, ice cream, and root beer.
In addition to those mentioned above, the Bayview Wine Trail is home to several other award-winning and charming vineyards: The Crooked Vine Vineyard and Winery in Alanson; Indian River’s Seasons of the North; Spare Key Winery in Charlevoix; Walloon Lake Winery; and four establishments near Petosky: Mackinaw Trail Winery, Petoskey Farms Vineyard and Winery, Resort Pike Cidery, and Rudbeckia Farm and Winery.
The Bayview Trail vineyards are included in the Tip of the Mitt’s American Viticultural Area, one of five designated in Michigan. An AVA is a wine grape growing region in the US distinguishable by geographic features.
Established in August 2016, it is located farther north than any of the state’s others. The region offers a unique set of challenges and opportunities when it comes to growing grapes. Lake-effect conditions from Little Traverse Bay and the Straits of Mackinac often create colder and windier winter seasons than downstate vineyards. Therefore, hybrid varietals have created new standards in cold-hardy viticulture and enology, many of which are a hybrid of European and U.S. native varieties that are resistant to disease and cold.
For example, Seasons of the North — the easternmost stop on the Trail — selected unusual cold-hardy grapes such as Foch, Seyval Blanc, and Cayuga when establishing their crop, in addition to locally grown fruit, according to their website.
The Bayview Wine Trail’s website provides a wealth of information on amenities at each winery. Use the website to determine whether a vineyard is family friendly, presents live music, or has certain products (wine, beer, cider, a restaurant, and even a “small plate” category).
Drink in all of Northern Michigan’s beauty and flavors this fall with a visit to the Bayview Wine Trail!
1918 Cellars at Castle Farms
5052 M-66 North
(231) 237-0884 l CastleFarms.com
Pond Hill Farm Winery, Brewery, Café and Market
5699 S. Lake Shore Drive
Harbor Springs, 49740
(231) 526-3276 l Pondhill.com
Maple Moon Sugarbush
4454 Atkins Road
(231) 487-9058 l MMSyrup.com
Royal Farms Farm Market and Winery
10445 North US 31
(231) 599-3222 l RoyalFarmsInc.com
Seasons of the North Winery
9090 West M-68
Indian River 49749
(231) 548-1280 l email@example.com