Where the Road Meets the Wine: Tour De Vine

“It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and can coast down them…. Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motorcar only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle.” 

~ Ernest Hemingway

Some may argue there’s no greater combo than pairing a bucolic bike ride with a glass of wine (or two) when you reach your destination. I’ll do you one (or a few) better….how about biking to a vineyard in northeastern Michigan and being greeted with a cornucopia of wines, a pop-up food bar created by a local chef, and a tour of the almost 15 year old vines with Thunder Bay Winery and vineyard owners? Well, look no further: Tour De Vine with Harborside Cycle and Sport has become an annual event to celebrate just outside of Alpena, in pastoral Ossineke, a place that has become surprisingly fruitful for Michigan grown grapes.  

IMG_4963When Janis and Jeremy Sahr plotted their course for the vineyard over a decade ago, they looked to the University of Minnesota for guidance in choosing disease-resistant, cold-hardy grapes because it is “recognized as one of the top wine grape research programs in the country.” This culminated in a vineyard dominated by Marquette, Frontenac, Marechal Foch, Sabrevois, Prairie Star, and Swenson grapes. Since their first year of wine-making, they’ve grown 30-40% of the grapes that go into their final product (the remaining grapes are also primarily Michigan-sourced). Jeremy said he really prefers the versatility of the Foch grape; it’s incorporated into their rose, port, and (this writer’s go-to drinking while cooking wine) a Michigan dry red.

Kevin Peterson, chef at As You Wish Gourmet Eatery, made the day even more de-vine with a pop-up burger, taco, and salad bar, just spittooning-distance from the vines. Kevin recently purchased the Dry Dock and adjacent building in Alpena and is working to revitalize those buildings to their original 1890’s décor and glory; the Red Brick Tap & Barrel Restaurant should be open for business in that space in 2018 (more on that local beer, bourbon, and eats destination to come). Kevin said he grew up in Alpena and moved back to help “make downtown Alpena a cool place to visit, eat, and hang out.” Seems as though he’s making Ossineke pretty cool these days, too.

Tour De Vine occurred on June 25, 2017 this year, but keep your ears open for next year’s ride as well as news of the Red Brick Tap & Barrel Restaurant in 2018. 

Molly Stepanski is the local food coordinator for Northeast Michigan. She also operates Presque Isle Farm with her husband, Dion, and son, Sawyer. Contact her at [email protected]