Midwest Winery Trail Trip- Michigan's Vineyard's-A Natural Bounty

For over 100 years, southwestern Michigan has been a weekend getaway haven.  With its ample wide beaches and charming lakeside towns, the area of Michigan known as Harbor Country continues to lure weekend visitors.  Since the late 1970's, it has also been a popular destination for wine travel fans.

Southwestern Michigan is only about 90 minutes by car from greater Chicago.  Interstate 94 takes a gentle north by northeast turn near the Indiana-Michigan state line, tracing the route of historic U.S. 12.  Back in the 1930's, this area established its link to Michigan tourism.  The first town greeting you upon entering Michigan is friendly and walkable New Buffalo.

With its harbor and compact business district, New Buffalo has long attracted boaters and those seeking a weekend escape.  Of the eight communities comprising Harbor Country, New Buffalo feels most like a true town and a defined destination.  Waterfront development has been carefully planned and monitored, ensuring the charm of this community for generations to come.

Traveling The Wine Trail

Just outside of New Buffalo's business district is the famous Red Arrow Highway.  This is the heartbeat of Harbor Country and southwestern Michigan.  From the Indiana border north 25 miles to the waterfront community of St. Joseph, Red Arrow Highway invites you to stop and explore.  You'll find antique stores, farmstands, home spun stores, and most of all, winery tasting rooms.  For just over two decades, these tasting rooms have introduced visitors to this area's pride and joy - Michigan wines.

Just a short distance from Red Arrow Highway, majestic dunes and woodlands give way to rolling hills and valleys planted with lush grapevines. Local viticulturists credit a good part of their success to the area's sandy, well drained fertile soil, hilly terrain and Lake Michigan's help in creating a variety of unique microclimates.

The Six Wineries

While there are literally dozens of wineries in the area loosely defined as southwestern Michigan, we'll focus on Harbor Country and the area between New Buffalo and St. Joseph.  This is an exceptionally convenient tour, as the six wineries are in very close proximity to one another.

Let's start our wine tasting at perhaps the most well known winery in this area, Tabor Hill Winery.  This is a beautiful, tranquil setting, with the tasting room and adjoining dining room overlooking the vineyards.  Nearly 40 years ago, Tabor Hill artisans discovered the premium grapes typically grown in France, Germany, and Napa Valley thrive equally well here.

We've always been partial to Tabor Hill's white wine selections. We were especially pleased with the Lake Michigan Shore Dry Traminette, with it's fruity floral bouquet.  And don't miss the approachable Tabor Hill White Heritage, an award winner that has been frequently served to White House guests through several administrations.

Less than a half mile down the road is the fascinating and ever evolving Round Barn Winery and Distillery.  As the name implies, part of the facility is housed in an Amish built round barn, which is frequently used for weddings and special events.  Not only can you sample wine at Round Barn, but distilled spirits and micro-brews as well.

The other four wineries in this area are also quite near one another, making Harbor Country perfect for an afternoon of leisurely wine travel and tasting.  Free Run Cellars, Domaine Berrien, Lemon Creek, and Hickory Creek all offer finely crafted wines that will appeal to even the most discriminating wine lover.

The other four wineries in this area are also quite near one another, making Harbor Country perfect for an afternoon of leisurely wine travel and tasting.  Free Run Cellars, Domaine Berrien, Lemon Creek, and Hickory Creek all offer finely crafted wines that will appeal to even the most discriminating wine lover.

Midwestern Festivals: The 2017 Taste of Chicago Food Festival

Summer marks the return of one of our nation's greatest loves, the food festival. And there is no other better known gathering of delicious cuisine than the Taste of Chicago, July 5-9 2017, the world's largest outdoor food fest!

What is the Taste of Chicago? 

The Taste of Chicago started in 1980 when a group of food lovers petitioned the city to hold a food festival. It was to be on one day only, the Fourth of July, and it took up just three city blocks. They had a shoestring budget and a goal of getting a hundred thousand or so people to attend, but to everyone's amazement, 250,000 people attended that year and the one day was such a success that its been a part of the city's culture ever since.

In 1981 they moved the party to Grant Park, a sprawling green space that is now home to the annual event, held each July. Grant Park is central and easy to get to from all directions. The Taste of Chicago is a free event but now, instead of it only being a one day affair it takes up five full days and is full of entertainment, bands, kitchen demos, sit down dinners with famous chefs, singers, a street art gallery and of course the food. Lots and lots of food.

One million people took in the festival in 2016 making it the largest tourist attraction in the whole state.  This year they expect even more people to attend! 

About the Taste: 

There's a sample of every type of food in every style. From seasoned french fries to alcapurria (pork-filled banana dumplings), samplers can try something new or find their classic Chicago favorites among the large stretch of food tents.

Chicago is a city full of delicious food.  Even those who live in the city feel it's impossible to know exactly all the spots where you can enjoy the fantastic food. The competitive food culture in Chicago is absolutely dynamic, and when I say competitive I mean like an Olympic event. 

How the Taste Works: 

Admission is FREE, but to get food you purchase blocks of tickets, and use these tickets to purchase the food, much like you would at a carnival.

As you approach each restaurant there is a sign telling you what they have and how many tickets it will cost. If you're looking to sample lots of different dishes at each place, many restaurants offer a  sampler size with multiple items. 

The Food: 

The variety ranges to suite lots of taste preferences so this is a fantastic place to bring friends and family for a great summer day out.  

Check out a small list of the several hundred restaurants that will be there: 

BJ's Market & Bakery
8734 S. Stony Island Ave.

Caffe Gelato
2034 W. Division St.
Carbon Live Fire Mexican Grill
300 W. 26th St.
Chicago's Dog House
816 W. Fullerton Ave.

Lou Malnati's Pizzeria
805 S. State St.

Miller's Pub
134 S. Wabash Ave.

MAD Social
1140 W. Madison St.

Pork & Mindy's
1623 N. Milwaukee Ave.

and a huge array of food trucks will be there! 

In addition, such a large gathering as this draws a famous assortment of nationally-known bands to the Petrillo Music Shell where there is a new and exciting concert each day. The concerts are all free and are seated on a first come, first serve basis but never fear if front row seating fills up, the Petrillo Music Shell has a Jumbotron so concert goers seated in the lawn have a great view as well. There are also smaller shows throughout the festival that feature local and regional acts. Food and music Chicago style, can't get much better than that.Ben Harper & The Innocent Criminals, The O’Jays, and Alessia Cara are just a few of the performers scheduled for 2017. 

The Taste of Chicago is not only about food, it's also about the city itself, its culture, its traditions and its great stories so what are you waiting for! More information HERE
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