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Old Mission Peninsula's seven wineries are scattered across a 22-mile stretch of superlative geography. Savor the spirit of back-to-school excitement with sips of apple wine at Peninsula Cellars' tasting room inside the historic red-and-white Maple Grove Schoolhouse. Past the scenic turnout on Center Road, find Chateau Grand Traverse, the winery that brought Riesling to Northern Michigan.
Wander under a trellis of trumpet vine, hydrangea and honeysuckle to Bowers Harbor Vineyard, where you can sample the vineyard-designated Riesling. Brys Estate pours complex, full wines in its Old World-style tasting room on a former cherry farm. Black Star Farms, the only winery to have a presence on both peninsulas, serves the Arcturos Pinot Gris at its new tasting room on Old Mission. Set to open in May, Two Lads Winery will specialize in reds and sparkling wines. Château Chantal is the last stop on this peninsula, but it's well worth the wait - the winery's signature Cerise is unbeatable, as are the breathtaking views of both bays.
Follow M-37 all the way up the spine of Old Mission Peninsula to find the sugar-sand beaches of Lighthouse Park. The shifting blues of East and West Bays stretch out to either side as you cruise northward. Stop in at the Old Mission General Store (18250 Mission Rd., 231-223-4310), for one-pound chocolate chunk cookies and other splurge-worthy treats. Roadside signs inside Lighthouse Park mark several pull-off points where just a few steps though the woods brings you to small, secluded beaches just waiting for you to unfurl a blanket and savor the incredible view. Glass isn't allowed in swimming areas, so head into the woods and uncork a bottle at one of the park's picnic tables. Otherwise, kick back on the beach and watch the purple of dusk tinge the western sky; the park stays open until 10 p.m., long enough for lingering beneath the last streaks of sunset.
Settle back for the night at the century-old Neahtawanta Inn, overlooking Bowers Harbor. Wake to homemade granola served in stoneware bowls or potato pie whipped up by husband-and-wife innkeepers Sally Van Vleck and Bob Russell. The covered back porch is an ideal spot for slowly sipping a mug of coffee or green tea before heading out for another day on the wine trail. Cap off your retreat later on by heading upstairs to Sally's wood-floored yoga studio where you can wind down, limber up and bliss out. (1308 Neahtawanta Rd., 800-220-1415, neahtawantainn.com)
Emily Bingham is assistant editor at Traverse, Northern Michigan's Magazine.
Note: This story was first published in September 2006, and updated for the web in February 2008.