Sunday, March 29, 2009

Set Sail Aboard Traverse City’s Tall Ship Manitou

Make memories this summer, with an exciting fresh-water sailing adventure aboard the Tall Ship Manitou, which sails out of its home port in Traverse City, Michigan.

Three excursions are offered daily (Noon, midday, evening) with weekly special-themed cruises offered on Monday - Friday through the end of August. Whether traveling solo, as a couple, with a family or as part of a group, a Tall Ship sail makes a great traditional Great Lakes adventure.

Moomers Ice Cream Sails! (Thru August 28)
$40 per adult, $20 per child
Monday and Friday afternoons (3-5 p.m. sail) bring the whole family out for a glorious sail on the bay and the best ice cream in northern Michigan…Moomers! VOTED #1 SCOOP OF ICE CREAM IN AMERICA ON “GOOD MORNING AMERICA!” We’ll sample five flavors, including our very own “Tall Ship Manitou.”

Wine Tasting Cruises (Thru August 27)
$60 per person
In July and August you can sample a medley of local wines and enjoy specially catered cuisine as we ply the sparkling waters of Grand Traverse Bay. Tuesday nights feature Leelanau cellars, while Thursdays we will taste the offerings of Left Foot Charley.

Entertainment Nights (Thru August 26)
$60 per adult, $41 per child
Wednesday evenings in July and August are our entertainment nights, featuring the popular music group “Song of the Lakes” playing lively jigs, chanteys and ballads of sailing and life on the sea. The evening also includes a picnic meal.

The regular sails are priced at $39 adults/$20 children for the noon sail (includes picnic meal), $34 adults/$18 children for the afternoon sail, and $42 adults/$26 children for the evening sail (includes picnic meal). A cash bar is available for all excursions.

In addition to the day sails and specialty cruises, the Manitou offers a “Floating B&B” experience which includes the evening sail (Tuesday through Saturday), accommodations in bunk-style cabins and breakfast the next morning ($220 per couple/$127 single/$60 per child, ages 8-12).

Multi-day fall windjammers are for those with a more adventurous side. The 2008 schedule includes:

Astronomy Cruise (September 11-14, 2009)
Hillsdale College professor and amateur astronomer Mark Nussbaum returns as our guide as we study the brilliant northern Michigan heavens.

Wine Tasting Cruise (September 18-21, 2009)
Explore the great wine regions of the world with sommelier and restaurant proprietor Amanda Danielson. Each evening aboard Manitou we will discuss the winemaking histories and taste the varietals of different countries. Dinners will feature paired wines chosen by Amanda as a perfect complement to our meals.

Artisan Chocolate & Storytelling Cruise (September 25-28, 2009)
Join local chocolatier Mimi Wheeler, owner of “The Grocer’s Daughter” and her husband, Norm of “The Beach Bards” for a truly unforgettable weekend of mouth-watering creations and amazing myths, legends and stories.

Music Cruise (October 2-5, 2009)
Join us as we once again welcome renowned folk singer Lee Murdock aboard for four days of Great Lakes music, history, and lore.

As one of the largest sailing ships on the Great Lakes, the Manitou is a replica of an 1800s “coasting” cargo schooner. A traditional two-masted, gaff rigged, topsail schooner, Manitou measures 114 feet in length with more than 3000 square feet of sail.

With a 62 passenger sailing capacity (24 overnight capacity), there is plenty of space for sitting and moving around the decks while under sail. While aboard the Manitou, passengers are free to leave the sailing to the experienced crew or lend a hand and learn the arts of the sailor. An excursion aboard the Manitou allows you to remove yourself from the trappings of modern life: no TV, phone (cell phones are discouraged), beeper, email and definitely no itinerary.

To make reservations for any of the 2009 Manitou sailing adventures, call toll free 800-678-0383. Gift certificates are also available. For additional information about the Manitou, including its corporate charters, log on to

Circa Estate Winery Opens on Northwest Michigan's Leelanau Peninsula

The latest winery to spring from the Leelanau Peninsula’s rolling landscape is Circa Estate Winery – owned by Margaret and David Bell of Leland Township. The Bells tucked their eco-friendly winery into a scenic hillside on their 50-acre farm on Horn Road, where they also make their home in a renovated 1880s farmhouse.

The couple’s winemaking passion began with their own, when they traveled on dates to Southwest Michigan vineyards to pick grapes. After marrying, they planted vines as landscaping at their suburban Chicago home. They also vacationed in the fall at a Leelanau winery, accepting grapes as payment for their picking, which were taken back to Chicago and used in their burgeoning home winemaking.

What David calls “an avocation” grew in time to inspiration, one that compelled the Bells to buy property where Margaret’s family had summered and her great-uncle had homesteaded. Margaret put her music career on hold, David left his job in insurance, and the couple moved to Leelanau permanently in 1992.

Since they first hand-planted three acres of grapevines 17 years ago, the pair has slowly expanded their vineyard, first selling grapes to area wineries, and finally adding favorites for making their Circa wines. Today’s farm includes 24 acres of vinifera and hybrid vines, producing whites such as Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio and Riesling; and reds such as Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Franconia – a red grape grown in the South Danube River region.

Owner-winemaker Margaret describes Franconia (also known as Lemberger) as “one of the relatively few red grapes that ripen well in cooler areas and makes a deeply-colored, red wine that’s accessible, like our Requisite.”

Circa also offers Improvisation, what Margaret calls an “off-dry” white wine, and Cherry Bop, a sparkling wine made with the region’s other famous fruit.

The Bells have pledged to use only local grapes in their wines, and Margaret can be found at harvest time carefully examining grapes in the vineyard, often making the decision to leave as much as 50% of the clusters that David and the vineyard staff have carefully nurtured on the ground.

Her criteria for picking was developed through years of visiting vineyards in Ontario and New York; by taking classes in Philadelphia and through University of California, Davis; and by studying alongside award-winning Leelanau winemakers. All grapes at Circa are hand sorted, removing stems and leaves, before going in the hopper (crusher).

Six wines are currently available to sip in the recently-completed tasting room.

“We wanted a building that looked like it had been here forever,” Margaret says, explaining the feeling she and her husband hoped to convey through the winery’s Old World-style architecture.

A definite European flavor prevails outside, with an eight-foot, carved-wood front door; stucco-type walls; graduated, tiled rooflines; copper eaves and wrought-iron accents.

Local craftspeople worked diligently to produce the cellar-like interior ambiance created by low lighting, dark wood beams and a wide, quarter-sawn oak bar; deep-hued, hand-rubbed wall surfaces; tiled floors; and small windows carefully positioned to let in shafts of angled light and views from the vineyard, not the parking lot.

“I want you to forget everything else when you’re here,” Margaret explains.

Works by local artists, including oils by David Grath, watercolors by John Scott and paintings by Dan Lisuk, will soon grace the walls. A cozy sitting area off to the side offers visitors and locals a place to unwind, with mostly-jazz melodies from the grand piano. Comfortable seating next to the fireplace – with a black walnut mantle carved from a tree on the farm – is set for intimate conversation, with Wi-Fi access for those seeking a quiet work area or place to hang out. Large groups must make special arrangements in advance for a visit, and Circa will keep later hours than most Leelanau wineries – offering live music on an outdoor patio.

In keeping with their commitment to be as gentle as possible on the environment, the Bells have placed a sod roof over the production area, to maintain the work room’s temperature and funneled heat generated from vats of fermenting wine to the tasting room’s geothermal heating system.

From the vineyard to the wine to the tasting room, the Bells have taken great pride and passion in cultivating a viticultural experience that is as elegant as it is inviting. Circa is truly a one-of-a-kind destination, nestled in the heart of Northern Michigan’s wine country.

“Each vintage at Circa is unique,” Margaret proudly says. “As a winemaker, you can stick to making wine from a book, or you can truly develop a distinctive style.”

It’s clear which path Margaret and David prefer.

- end -

Cabernet Franc ~ Requisite ~ Pinot Grigio ~ Chardonnay ~ Improvisation ~ Cherry Bop
7788 East Horn Road ~ Lake Leelanau, MI 49653

Inland Seas Announces its 2009 Northern Michigan Sailing Season

A true Great Lakes sailing experience – focused on hands-on science, maritime history and culture of the region – awaits this summer aboard the schooner Inland Seas. Family sailing and science adventures are the centerpiece of a summer of hands-on activity aboard the 77-foot tall ship, which sails June 26 through September 5, 2009 on the freshwaters of Grand Traverse Bay.

Celebrating its 21st season on the Great Lakes, Inland Seas Education Association (ISEA) has already attracted nearly 80,000 participants to its award-winning science and sailing programs. Departing from the ISEA Center in Suttons Bay at 9:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. throughout the summer, these three-hour learning adventures are conducted by ISEA’s professional staff and its volunteer corps of over 200 professionally trained instructors.

During these trips, groups of up to 30 individuals – including families, children, parents, teenagers and grandparents, work together as scientists to collect samples of fish, aquatic insects, plants and water. They examine fish, bottom organisms, sediment and plants; view plankton through a micro-video system; take turns steering the ship; and even make weather reports to the National Weather Service. While the Inland Seas programs area educationally focused, they are structured to teach in a fun and entertaining way.

In addition to the nearly two dozen three-hour science and sailing trips for families, ISEA offers several specialty sailing adventures for both families and adults in 2009. These day-long or multi-day programs feature a history, geology and ecology sail to Power Island and an underwater exploration of shipwrecks and other underwater features in Grand Traverse Bay.

On July 23, Inland Seas passengers will explore the rich maritime heritage of the coastal villages of Suttons Bay, Omena and Peshawbestown during a dinner cruise from 5-8 p.m., with a guest faculty of local historians.

ISEA will once again conduct its Invasive Species Research Program for High School Students. These overnight programs for teenagers will be offered on June 29-30 and July 15-16. A Technology in Invasive Species Research Workshop for high schoolers is scheduled for July 27-28. This two-day sailing experience includes seminars by researchers and professionals, as well as the opportunity for students to build a Remote Operated Vehicle (ROV) to take back to their school for classroom use.

On August 19, Inland Seas explores the Geology of Grand Traverse Bay where passengers will discover – both above and below the water – what gives the Bay its unique character. This sailing adventure includes lunch and a hike on Power Island.

The popular Astronomy Under Sail excursions, with astronomer Dick Cookman, are scheduled for the evenings of August 20 and 21, beginning at 9:00 p.m. Sailing eastward away from the shore, this adults-only adventure affords a clear view of the night sky and the constellations that have guided ships for centuries.

The Great Lakes Schoolship and the Inland Seas Education Association began in 1989 as the dream of Suttons Bay mariner and scientist, Tom Kelly. His vision was to develop a program that encourages young people and adults to sail the tall ships, while learning about the science and heritage of the Great Lakes.

The Inland Seas Education Association is a non-profit organization based in Suttons Bay, Michigan, dedicated to science education on the Great Lakes. Its shipboard and shore-side education programs are designed to inspire young people’s interest in science and to provide for the long-term stewardship of the Great Lakes. In 2001, ISEA was awarded the American Sail Training Association’s 2001 “Sea Education Program of the Year.”

For further information on program fees or to book a summer program, contact the Inland Seas Education Association at (231) 271-3077 or on the web at


Inland Seas Education Association
P.O. Box 218 – Suttons Bay, MI 49682

A Complete Northern Michigan Experience Awaits: Three Michigan Brands, One Memorable Experience!

Small group outings and corporate retreats have taken on a new approach thanks to a partnership among three Traverse City area businesses – The Boathouse Restaurant, Bowers Harbor Vineyard and McCool Outdoor. Those looking for a true Northern Michigan experience can now easily get out on the river for a world-class fly fishing excursion, followed by a gourmet meal served under a white canopy along the banks of the trout stream, paired with a hand-chosen selection of award-winning wines.

Your one-of-a-kind day plays out like this:

The fly fishing:
Arrive at the fishing site and warm up with some champagne, while you meet your instructor, get fitted for your equipment and practice your cast. Certified Casting Instructor and Master Angler David McCool starts you off with some basic instruction – casting techniques, applied physics of a tight loop and entomology.

David has taught hundreds of aspiring anglers the art and science behind the popular sport of fly fishing. You’ll enjoy a friendly, laid back experience with one of Northern Michigan’s best known and accomplished fly fishing instructors. Your outing includes the fundamentals of fly casting and fishing in a blue ribbon trout stream.

Your instructors will work with you individually on your cast before putting you in the river to apply the skills you have learned. Walk against the current, mend your line, tease up a trout or two. After some time in the water, David will even coordinate some friendly competition casting games – with the winning team taking home a bottle of wine from Bowers Harbor Vineyards.

The wining and dining:
After a perfect afternoon on the water, your blue ribbon adventure continues with an unparalleled dining experience prepared by Executive Chef Eric Nittolo of the Boathouse Restaurant on Old Mission Peninsula. Chef Eric will prepare a five-course gourmet meal along the shores of a breathtakingly beautiful trout stream. Chef Eric will contribute to the culinary experience by preparing the meal right in front of you, explaining and describing each component of the individual dishes. You will not only be eating great food, but you will also be able to watch and understand how each dish is prepared and how ingredients go together to create a rich upscale dining experience.

Chef Eric’s cuisine is refined and contemporary with some classic French flare. His ability to pair food with one another with the use of ancient grains and modern gastronomy is truly what this experience is all about. The marriage of Chef Eric’s creative recipes and the finest fresh local ingredients is a grand culinary experience, raised to the level of art.

Your dining experience is further enhanced by director of winemakng and proprietor of Bowers Harbor Vineyards, Spencer Stegenga. Spencer will teach you the viticulture of Old Mission Peninsula and explain each of his award-winning wines that will be paired with each of the five courses of your culinary experience.

This 43-acre boutique estate winery’s proximity to the waters of Grand Traverse Bay creates ideal conditions for growing Vinifera grapes. Bowers Harbor Vineyards specializes in award-winning and estate Pinot Grigio, Riesling, Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Noir and Meritage blends. Situated on the 45th parallel in one of Michigan’s four federally-recognized viticultural regions, this second-generation cool climate vineyard produces dynamically expressive varietal wines.

It doesn’t get much better than this…

An afternoon of fly fishing, followed by a five-course gourmet meal paired with the finest award-winning regional wines awaits you and your group with Dining on the Fly. Groups range in size from 4 to 25. Those with a group of six or fewer can also join other adventure enthusiasts for this great Northern Michigan experience, June 26, July 13 or July 20.

To reserve your Dining on the Fly date, call The Boathouse Restaurant at 231-223-4030 or for more information, log onto


McCool Outdoor
Ph: 231-409-3874

The Boathouse Restaurant
Ph: 231-223-4030

Bowers Harbor Vineyard
Ph: 231-223-7615

10 Reasons to Love Spring Camping in Michigan

Although camping is a year-round activity in Michigan, spring signals the onset of the warm-weather season. By mid-April, a large number of the privately owned campgrounds in Michigan are welcoming guests looking to shake off the winter blues and enjoy the great outdoors.

Here are 10 great reasons to head out to your favorite Michigan campground this spring:

1) Wildflowers. April showers bring May flowers, like the trillium that blanket the forest floor. Spring also brings the blossoms on the apple and cherry trees, making this one of the most fragrant times of the year to get out and travel the Great Lakes State. The Blossomtime Festival (April 26-May 2) in St. Joseph/Benton Harbor and Blossom Days on Old Mission Peninsula (May 16-17) are two events not to be missed. Of course when it comes to spring flowers, one can’t forget the annual Tulip Time Festival in Holland (May 2-9), it’s a sure sign of spring!

2) Woodland Edibles. Morel mushrooms, wild ramps, leeks and fiddleheads are all delicacies that can be found by foraging through the woodlands of Michigan. After a successful “hunt” you can savor these mouth-watering finds, paired with a fine Michigan beer or wine.

Several cities throughout the state – including Mesick (May 8-10) and Boyne City (May 14-17) – have been hosting festivals celebrate the “mighty morel” for more than 40 years. For recipes and other ideas on how to savor these scrumptious selections, check out Earthy Delights online at

3) Fishing. Whether you enjoy fly fishing on the rivers and streams, heading out on a charter on the big lake or casting a line for pan fish in an inland lake, you’re sure to catch something while spring fishing in Michigan. From walleye, trout, steelhead and salmon to perch, bass and bluegills, this is a fisherman’s paradise.

Spring is also a great to visit one of the state’s six fish hatcheries or the famed Fish Ladder in Grand Rapids. The National Trout Festival (April 22-26) in Kalkaska, the Freeland Walleye Festival (April 25-26) and the Mancelona Bass Festival (June 3-7) are among the many opportunities to enjoy spring fishing celebrations in Michigan. The year 2009 is also the 50th Anniversary of Trout Unlimited, which was founded in the Crawford County community of Grayling

4) Wine Tasting. While the 60+ wineries throughout the state of Michigan are open year round, spring is the ideal time to visit as this is when the new releases are available for tasting. Be sure to purchase a bottle or two, to pair with those woodland edibles and fresh catches! For a list of the state’s award-winning wineries, visit the Michigan Wine Council’s website at

5) Bird Watching. Nature centers, sanctuaries and wildlife viewing areas are thriving with opportunities for spring bird watching. The Whitefish Point Bird Observatory Annual Spring Fling (April 24-26) in Paradise, the Tawas Point Birding Festival (May 15-17) in Tawas and the Kirtland Warbler Festival (May 16) in Roscommon County are among the many spring birding events that you may want to check out this season. For more about birding, visit the Michigan Audubon Society website:

6) Paddling. With thousands of miles of rivers and streams, not to mention the inland and Great Lakes, spring is the perfect time to get out in your canoe or kayak and head out on the water for some peace and quite. For more information, check out the website for the Michigan Association of Paddlesport Providers:

7) Peddling. Michigan is home to some of the most scenic biking trails, ranging in distance and level of difficulty. Whether you’re taking a short family trip along a paved trail or are heading out for an off-road mountain bike adventure, you’ll find plenty of opportunities around the state – including special events geared toward cyclists. For more information, check out the website for the League of Michigan Bicyclists at

8) Hiking. From nature centers to city, county and state parks, you’ll find countless trails waiting to be explored. In Michigan, you can hike more than 200 miles on the Shore-to-Shore Trail that connects Lake Huron and Lake Michigan. Or, take a day hike on any breathtaking section of the North Country National Scenic Trail which operates is national offices from Lowell, Michigan.

Local author Jim Dufresne has published several exceptional books including “50 Hikes in Michigan: The Best Walks, Hikes and Backpacks in the Lower Peninsula” and “Best Hikes with Children – Michigan” which all offer great insight into the trails and scenic sites throughout the state. These, and other titles, are available at bookstores and libraries throughout Michigan.

9) Golfing. Michigan is home to more than 800 golf courses and during the spring season, the rates are often lower, there are fewer people (and bugs) and the temperatures are pleasant. For a detailed list of courses throughout the state, visit the Golf Association of Michigan online at

10) Driving. There are a handful of designated scenic routes throughout the state, including the M-119 “Tunnel of Trees” which hugs the coastline of Lake Michigan from Harbor Springs north through Good Hart to Cross Village. The US-23 “Sunrise Side Coastal Highway” skirts the Lake Huron shoreline from Mackinaw City south to Standish for 193 miles. US-12, known as the Sauk Trail, travels from New Buffalo to Detroit and was once a route for early travelers, Native Americans and slaves traveling along the Underground Railroad. The Allegan County Heritage Trail travels 122 miles throughout the county, stopping at 28 historic sites including a former POW camp. These sites are even included in a high-tech geocaching “scavenger hunt” online at

While on the road, be on the lookout for the handful of covered bridges which allow automobile traffic including Pierce Stocking Bridge (on the famed Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive) in the heart of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, the 282-foot Langley Covered Bridge in Centerville (the longest in the state of Michigan), Zehnder’s Holz Brucke (wooden bridge) leading to Bavarian Village in Frankenmuth, and Fallasburg Covered Bridge spanning the Flat River in Lowell and the historic community of Fallasburg. Details on all the state’s covered bridges are community of Fallasburg. Details on all the state’s covered bridges are online at

Michigan Highways offer a state-wide listing of Heritage Routes – in three specific categories: Scenic, Recreational and Historic routes online at

No matter which spring activity accompanies your camping trip, be sure to travel with camera in hand to capture the awakening of all around you. To learn more about how to enjoy Michigan’s “Springtime Splendor” and cure your cabin fever, visit

The Association of RV Parks & Campgrounds – Michigan represents 225 member campgrounds with nearly 32,000 sites available throughout the state. Whether pitching a tent, parking an RV or reserving a rustic or modern cabin, Michigan campgrounds offer a great way to disconnect from busy lives and reconnect with families. Campers in Michigan enjoy the great outdoors while fishing or canoeing on the countless lakes, rivers and streams or hiking, biking and riding on the miles of trails that wind throughout the state. There’s definitely no shortage of activities, no matter where the campground is located.

The new Michigan Campground Directory, published by ARVC-Michigan, is now available at various locations statewide, including all state Welcome Centers. The directory not only lists campgrounds by region, but also includes helpful information on the type of sites available, various amenities such as restroom, laundry and dumping station facilities; recreational offerings such as pools and golf courses; and seasons of operation. A PDF version is also available for viewing online at

Michigan Brewers Guild Releases Expanded Annual Publication

The 2009 edition of Michigan. The Great Beer State, published annually by the Michigan Brewers Guild, is bigger and better than ever before. The 32-page, four-color publication has been expanded to a full-magazine size format, under the direction of Hour Custom Publishing.

“We couldn’t be happier with how this issue turned out,” says Scott Graham, Executive Director of the Michigan Brewers Guild. “It looks more like a magazine and I think our member breweries and the general public are all going to be quite impressed with not only its look, but with the quality content inside as well.”

Michigan. The Great Beer State is an annual marketing piece for the Michigan Brewers Guild, which spotlights the state’s finest microbreweries and brewpubs. The publication features a classy new look and barrels full of helpful information for both novice and serious beer drinkers, including:

A Michigan Beer Locator Map – listing 62 member locations around the state, with a companion seven-page listing of breweries complete with icons to identify the various amenities such as restaurant, live entertainment, outdoor seating and brewery tours. Eight different regional tours, and space for making beer notes, are also included.

Clarification on Michigan’s legal definition of a brewery, microbrewery and brewpub.

* A series of critiques from experts in the industry, touting Michigan’s quality craft beer industry – including Ray Daniels: Director, Cicerone Certification program; Bill Metzger: Publisher, Brewing News; Fred Bueltmann: Past President, Michigan Brewers Guild; and Charlie Papazian: Brewer’s Association President and author.

* An article on pairing craft beer and foods, by Lucy Saunders – editor of, and author of The Best of American Beer & Food, as well as a couple beer-friendly recipes.

* A list of brewing ingredients and styles – identifying the four basic ingredients used to make beer (water, malt, hops and yeast) and a brief description on the differences between lagers and ales.

* An article on the purchase, care and enjoyment of hand-crafted beer, written by Rex Halfpenny – publisher of Michigan Beer Guide.

* Information about the Great American Beer Festival and World Beer Cup, including a list of recent Michigan craft beers medalists.

* Details about July’s designation as Michigan Craft Beer Month – as well as dates for the upcoming Summer Beer Festival (July 24-25, 2009 in Ypsilanti) and Michigan Winter Beer Festival (February 27, 2010 in Grand Rapids).

* Details about the Michigan Brewers Guild – including information about purchasing merchandise and becoming an “Enthusiast Member” of the organization.

In all, 100,000 copies of the free directory were printed to be distributed through all the Michigan State Welcome Centers, member breweries and select retail outlets around the state. A PDF version of the publication will also be available online at

Michigan’s thriving brewing industry contributes over $24 million in wages with a total economic contribution of more than $133 million. In terms of overall number of breweries, microbreweries and brewpubs, Michigan ranks #6 in the nation – thus supporting its claim as “Michigan. The Great Beer State.”

The Michigan Brewers Guild exists to unify the Michigan brewing community; to increase sales of Michigan-brewed beer through promotions, marketing, public awareness and consumer education; and to monitor and assure a healthy beer industry within the state. For more information, including a list of Michigan craft breweries, log on to