Special Issues » Made in Michigan

Leelanau Cellars has 90 acres of vineyards, waterfront tasting room

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A four-and-a-half hour drive from Detroit, Leelanau — an Indian word meaning "delight of life" or "little piece of heaven" — isn't just a place to get amazing wine, it's a destination to get away from the city and take in the beautiful outdoors.

Of course the wines, which you can purchase in the city as well, are a plus.

When we think about the meaning of our Made in Michigan issue, and how important it is to support local businesses and products, it's difficult for us to not highlight the Leelanau Cellars.

Producing red, white, fortified, and fruit wines, Leelanau Cellars markets itself as a "taste of Northern Michigan," and we couldn't agree more.

In 1969, Mike Jacobson and his family purchased a summer home in Northport. A cherry orchard was located on the 300-acre property, turning Jacobson into an impromptu farmer. Jacobson hired Charles Kalchik Jr., a local fruit farmer, to help oversee operations on the farm. This relationship quickly became a partnership, and together they acquired more farm properties and additional orchards. In 1974, Kalchik was the one to suggest that they expand their grape growing, planting the seeds for what would later become wine.

Producing their first bottle of wine in 1977, Leelanau Cellars is proud of its evolving tastes but also attention to history and lineage. Nestled within 90 acres of vineyards, a waterfront tasting room on the shores of Grand Traverse Bay provides the perfect respite for those who need a break from day-to-day of life in metro Detroit and want a breath of fresh air and a taste of wine.

Jacobson's son, Bob, joined the winery full time in 1994 when he graduated from the University of Michigan. Bob previously worked at the vineyard during the summer, but now would be taking on more responsibilities of operating the vineyard, winery, and tasting room. In 2007, Bob, the co-owner of the vineyard, was appointed by Gov. Jennifer Granholm to serve on the Michigan Grape and Wine Industry Council.

Leelanau Cellars is one of nearly 30 wineries that dot the Leelanau Peninsula. The peninsula's geography creates many microclimates that are perfect for growing a variety of grapes — making it an excellent location for those who have decided to participate in the ancient art of winemaking.

Some of the crowd favorites at the Leelanau Cellar Tasting Room include Witches' Brew, a spicy and warm mulled wine kept in a toasty pot, and the Tall Ship Chardonnay.

The wine tasting in the tasting room is free, which is great, but it's also unlimited. We recommend, of course, buying a bottle or two as a thank you, but also as a great way to take a bit of up north home with you.

"A beautiful atmosphere, and we enjoyed a large majority of the wines we tried, and walked away with a boxful of choices to take home," Robin M. from Charlotte writes on Yelp about Leelanau Cellars.

Leelanau Cellars is just one stop we recommend making while in Leelanau County. How can you go to the region and not visit Sleeping Bear Dunes, one of the gems of northern Michigan? More specifically, we recommend the Dune Climb. Located about five miles north of Empire on M-109, the Dune Climb is a famous dune that people are known to walk up — it's hard — and then run down as fast as possible. It feels amazing, especially after putting all your energy into the climb.

The Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail is another option for someone who may not be so interested in a steep, sandy hike but still wants to get some rigorous walking in. The sites are beautiful, and what makes Leelanau stunning is the beautiful mix of forests and beaches.

Leelanau Wine Cellars is located at 5019 North West Bay Shore Drive in Omena. Visit leelanaucellars.com, call 231-386-5201 for more information, or find the winery on Facebook.

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