Bed & Breakfasts

Taste the Passion: Wine, Chocolate & Love

Taste the Passion 2011The annual Taste the Passion weekend wine tour celebrates wine, chocolate and love on Saturday, February 5 & Sunday, February 6, 2011 at the wineries of the Leelanau Peninsula wine trail!  The tour features special wine pours combined with tasty chocolate or savory pairings at Leelanau wine trail wineries between the hours of 11am and 5pm on Saturday, and Noon and 5pm on Sunday. Tickets for “Taste the Passion” are just $30 each and available online. There are many packages available as well!

February is a great time to visit Leelanau County and Traverse City – the tasting rooms are less full, affording you a chance to slow down and enjoy the wine and conversation with winemakers and winery staff. Many of the wineries also offer opportunities to enjoy winter’s beauty through cross-country and snowshoe trails.  There is also a special Glen Arbor Art Association “Art from Wine Country” event at the Homestead Resort on Friday night (February 4th). This event is open to anyone – click the link for details.

Here’s a video that will give you a taste of Taste the Passion!

Live at the Michigan Culinary Tourism Conference

Click here for a video from the conference!

Michigan Culinary TourismAll day today the Absolute Michigan team is at Creating Michigan Culinary Destinations, Michigan’s first conference on Culinary Tourism. The conference was a hot ticket, and nearly 200 tourism industry stakeholders are getting ready to learn about Michigan’s new initiative to increase tourism. You can learn all about the Michigan Culinary Tourism Inititative at that link and read on for updates as we have them!

Zingerman's Delicatessen
Zingerman’s Delicatessen by Ashley Dinges

1:30 pm The lunch keynote speaker is Ari Weinzweig of one of the giants of Michigan ‘s food scene, Zingerman’s in Ann Arbor. Ari is definitely a fast talker, and related that he got started washing dishes at Maude’s, and at that time, Tang and Space Sticks were his culinary adventures. He met co-founder Paul Saginaw at Maude’s and –  5 years after opening a deli in a town that wouldn’t support delis  at a location with no parking that people couldn’t find – was hailed as a genius. Today the Zingerman’s empire does $38 million in annual sales.

Ari says that (for him at least) all tourism is culinary. He relates  some “natural laws” from his book A Lapsed Anarchist’s Approach to Building a Great Business that he thinks relate to building an authentic culinary destination. Natural law #1 is that an inspiring, strategically sound vision leads to greatness. He cautions that although  great visions come  from the heart, you need to develop your vision with enough richness and depth that people can understand what you’re talking about. He shared a bit of the vision for the West Side Farmer’s Market. With lines like “All these products have a story and none of them have traveled very far to get here,” it’s really clear that vision is a big part of what drives Zingerman’s.

His 2nd law is “You need to give your customers some really compelling reasons to buy from you.” He quotes Jim Hightower “Ain’t nothing in the middle of the road but 2 yellow lines and a whole lot of dead armadillos.” He  recommends that we seek to create offerings that have appeal for tourists AND residents to create a more resilient and dynamic customer base.

He closes with his belief that the customer experience is the most important thing. He breaks a recent study regarding employee attitudes toward their workplace into football terms: of the 11 players on a football team, only 4 know where the goal is, just two care who wins the game and all but 2 are just as likely to be  rooting for the other team as their own! Does this sound like your business? If it does, what can you do to change it? Ari suggests that maybe Michigan could steal a page from Hawaii and adopt the Ojibway word for welcome and become “The Aaniin State” … because someone has to be the most welcoming place in country!

Cheers,  ©n.walmsley
Cheers, ©n.wamsley

11:45 am – At the Building Lodging & Tour Packages session, Heather Price of Sandhill Crane Vineyards talked about the “Big Grape Bus” wine event they offer through the Pioneer Wine Trail in SE Michigan and all the pieces   – wine & food pairings, transportation, lodging and entertainment – that come together to create a compelling event. Steve Timmer of the Grand Traverse Resort in Traverse City echoed the importance of providing an all-inclusive experience and listed some of the things that his resort does including focusing on bringing local wines into their wine shop and even working with attendees on a cooking show.

One attendee (whose location shall remain nameless) wondered what to do when your area has little to offer in terms of culinary tourism. Steve suggested focusing on PR to invite food writers and the media and of course to leverage social media wherever possible. I asked him about if he had a sense whether today’s traveler is more or less interested in packages. He said that while packaging remains an important part of travel marketing, he’s finding that people are less interested in packages, preferring to design their own experiences. To me, that suggests that it’s really important for all players in the culinary travel industry to make their services and offerings clearly available across a wide spectrum of media, including that most old-fashioned of media: making your friends and neighbors aware of what you do!

The Bar @ Hopcat
The Bar @ Hopcat by stevedontsurf

11 am The “Marketing Your Culinary Destination” featured Dianna Stamfler of Promote Michigan, Sam Porter of Porterhouse Productions and Paul Stermer of Fair Food Matters. An audience member asked Sam how he got his nearly 300 volunteers. He answered “It’s all about fun. We take care of them pre and post event and engage them as partners to market and develop the events.” He also suggested engaging your fans to help you grow your social media network. The audience seemed to agree that social media is a vital component of an overall strategy.

Dianna mentioned that it’s the first-ever  Michigan Beer Week in Kalamazoo.  It’s been developed  in conjunction with the Winter Beer Conference and bars, restaurants and retailers will be teaming up to offer beer tastings, tap takeovers, brewer meet-and-greets and other special events.

Charlevoix Michigan Peppers
Charlevoix Michigan Peppers by DTWpuck

10  am Melody Johnson of the International Culinary Tourism Association was next up. She shared examples from all over the world of how everyone from third world nations on up the economic ladder are turning to culinary tourism as an economic driver. She cited rocketing technological advancements and our exploding interest in food as two prime drivers and talked about FLOSS (Fresh Local Organic Sustainable and Self-absorbed food). With  your average meal travelling 1500 miles, FLOSS is a concept that can  help keep food local.    Melody also gave a shoutout the the new “Boyne Appetit” marketing effort for Boyne City.

She showed three pictures – a museum, roller coaster and nice plate of food, and reminded attendees that food & drink IS an attraction as well, illustrating it with her discovery of Founder’s apricot wheat – a beer that she had last night with dinner and very much enjoyed. It’s not something you’re likely to find outside of Michigan, so to have it again, she’ll have to return. “The Michigan Experience” is what visitors are seeking – unique and memorable experiences that a tourist can brag about when he or she returns home.

9:40 am Steve Loftis of the Michigan Restaurant Association offered some thoughts about where Michigan’s restaurants are and what will be on their radar in 2011. One of his recommendations is that restaurants look to younger/technologically savvy members of  their staff for  ideas on more effectively using technology to acquire new patrons, but also to work more with existing customers.  He also stated that “the L word” should be on everyone’s mind as they work with their menu, trying to add more local offerings.

grits & bits (pre-syrup)
grits & bits (pre-syrup)
by jenny murray

9:15 am Linda Jones of the Michigan Wine & Grape Council opened the conference with an introduction to culinary tourism. One new resource for culinary tourists that she pointed out are the Michigan Foodie Tours.
The foodie tours feature local food and unique experiences from the whitefish and pasties of the western UP to the 200 restaurants of Ann Arbor.

7 am Last night I had a chance to talk with Melody Johnson, a founding member  of the International Culinary Tourism Association. Melody is the organization’s Community Manager and helps partners develop collaborations and inititiatives to capitalize on their culinary tourism assets. She gave me a simple thought to frame the day: “You always need to keep in mind what your customers  want to be successful. When people are coming to Michigan, they are wanting Michigan. They want authentic culinary experiences, the flavors and experiences that they can only get here.”

Although saying “It’s the food, silly” may seem a little simplistic, as the nation’s second most agriculturally diverse state, Michigan is in a unique position to tout itself as an unparalleled food destination. The local food movement has already started many on the path to promoting the strength and quality of Michigan food & drink and this effort will hopefully encourage many more to  “make it a Michigan wine/beer/fill in the blank.”

Leelanau Peninsula’s Toast the Season Event Kicks Off the Holiday Season

GIVEAWAY ALERT! There’s two chances to win free tickets to this event this week. One is to tune into our friends at Michigan By the Bottle for their giveaway, and over at they’ll be giving away a couple’s ticket to one person on their mailing list tomorrow.

Michigan Uncorked is a regular column by Lorri Hathaway and Sharon Kegerreis, authors of the award-winning From the Vine: Exploring Michigan Wineries and The History of Michigan Wines. Learn more and get autographed copies of their books at

Don’t let the warm, sunny weather fool you! The brisk holiday season is fast approaching. And, one of the best ways to kick off the holidays is on Leelanau Peninsula during the Toast the Season celebration the first two weekends of November.

Toast the Season by farlane
Toast the Season by farlane

The spectacular northern Michigan tradition is a great excuse for a getaway before the hustle and bustle of the upcoming months. You’ll bump right into the holiday spirit when you’re handed a gift bag featuring local food & drink and an ornament upon your arrival. Then, enjoy the leisurely trek along the peninsula with a special wine pour, in your souvenir glass, paired with delicious food at 18 Leelanau wineries.

The timing of the event couldn’t be better for stocking up on wines for holiday gifts, Thanksgiving dinner and seasonal get-togethers with family and friends. Our tip: be sure to visit L. Mawby Vineyards to get your bubblies for New Year’s Eve, though as vintner Larry Mawby says, “You can enjoy bubbly any time, any day.”

Grab your significant other for a romantic getaway, or gather some friends for a mini-vacation. Two weekend options, November 6 and 7 or November 13 and 14, make getting there more feasible; and lodging packages by area B&Bs, resorts and hotels make planning super easy. Get tickets or more details about the event by visiting

Hoxeyville August 21 – 23, 2009

hoxeyvilleNestled on 75 + acres of pristine north country farmland and natural hardwood forest — within the Manistee National Forest — is a testament to pure north country peace and hootenanny. Hoxeyville will boast 2 stages of national touring artists as well as a 3rd stage featuring the best and brightest talent from around our beautiful state! Right next door, is a modern campground with full amenities, including a swimming pool, showers, plug-ins, dump station and wireless Internet. With an increased capacity of 8,500 and an amazing lineup, 2009 promises to be the grandest incarnation to date.

As always, the festival site will have a Disc Golf Course Designed by Stephanai Myers of Disc Golf Michigan. The festival site is also strategically located near various mountain biking trails and the Pine River, a National Wild and Scenic River, a world class blue-ribbon trout stream, and a renowned paddle sports playground. Kestelwoods restaurant, party store and campground is a convenient 6 minute walk from the festival grounds.

New to the Festival
New this year will be the addition of a beer tent, featuring some of the finest handcrafted brews from the great beer state, served up in a micro beer festival format. We’re proud to announce our all new Farmers Market full of local produce and specialty baked goods.

Vendor Village
In Hoxeyville we understand the vendor village is the nucleus of any good festival. We always strive to feature the finest artisan, craft and food vendors from our region, with a focus on specialty foods with locally grown and organic ingredients.

Just some of the artists include:
Buddy Guy, Galactic, Bill Frisell Trio, The New Orleans All-Stars, Melvin Seals & JGB, Greensky Bluegrass, Great American Taxi, Ekoostic Hookah, Seth Bernard & May Erlewine, Steppin’ In It, The Macpodz and many, many more….

Located in Beautiful Northwest Lower Michigan in the Heart of the Manistee National Forest, The Festival Grounds are located just west of The Kestelwoods Store and Campground off M-37 in Wexford County (1 1/2 hrs N of Grand Rapids, 40 Min. S of Traverse City) This year the site has been expanded to 75 acres and features ample areas for shaded walk-in and car camping, and open and level fields for RVs and Campers. This year we have a new Venue area that will be home to the The Main stage, Vendor Village and a Beer Tent featuring some of the finest brews from the region.

Michigan Uncorked: Off-season hospitality sparkles at Chateau Chantal

Michigan Uncorked is a regular column by Lorri Hathaway and Sharon Kegerreis, writers who are passionate for Michigan and authors of award-winning From the Vine: Exploring Michigan Wineries. Learn all about Lorri & Sharon and their book at

Breakfast is at 8:30 a.m. sharp! Don’t snooze because if you do, you lose out on blueberry Malbec jam on raisin toast, fresh fruits and hot meat and egg cuisine.

chantal-breakfastBob Begin, founder of Chateau Chantal with wife Nadine, cheerfully greets you and offers to fill your champagne flute with fresh-squeezed orange juice. A cup of local java from Great Northern Roasting Company warms your morning and ignites your fun-filled day on the peninsula. Immediately following breakfast at 9:30, Bob takes you on a tour, sharing his insight along the way into the daily workings of the winery and inn.

Chateau Chantal is a beacon for summer and fall travelers seeking stunning lake and vineyard views and lush grapevines on one of Michigan’s most beautiful vistas. Located in northern Michigan on Old Mission Peninsula, Chateau Chantal is also a destination worth visiting in the off season. Bed and breakfast rooms, like the spacious two-bedroom executive apartment with two balconies and full kitchen, are a little bit easier to reserve for an impromptu weekend getaway. The tasting room bar offers plenty of elbow room in the off season, too, giving you time to relax and savor each wine taste.

Staying at the chateau offers another adventure: you’re invited to step behind the bar after hours for self-serve wine tasting. On our recent overnight stay at Chateau Chantal, we ran into Mick and Dana of West Bloomfield sampling the wines.

chantal-coupleMick surprised Dana with the romantic getaway to Old Mission Peninsula, a new destination for them. They spent their morning flying a kite in the vineyard, followed up with a leisurely day touring Old Mission tasting rooms. Six distinct experiences are located within a seven-mile stretch along the beautiful peninsula drive.

Local Fare

You’ll also find delicious destinations at the Boathouse Restaurant, Old Mission Tavern and Bowers Harbor Inn, three restaurants we can personally recommend.

Chef Eric at the Boathouse Restaurant on the shores of Bowers Harbor prepares perfectly seasoned Kobe filet mignon and seafood. North of Chateau Chantal is Old Mission Tavern, a former garage that was converted to a dairy freeze before being developed as a fine dining experience. A connected gallery, Bella Galleria, showcases bright, one-of-a-kind artwork from Michigan artists. Award-winning Bowers Harbor Inn sits on an historic site along West Grand Traverse Bay serving delightful dishes by Chef Paul. As seen on Unsolved Mysteries, the Inn is also known for being home to the legendary ghost of Genevive. All three restaurants offer outstanding service and delicious fare.

chantal-snowshoeOff-Season Activities

Snow-filled vineyards that surround the hilltop of Chateau Chantal provide ample trekking for snowshoe and cross-country enthusiasts. Those who prefer a more leisurely day can sign up for a cooking class or wine immersion seminar, when available, or while away an afternoon at the Grand Piano.

Absolute Michigan’s Mondo Valentine’s Day Rundown

Ginny, You Are My Shining Star by docksidepress

We have compiled an extensive list of Valentine’s Day Events, Gift Ideas, Getaways & Dating Ideas, Giveaways and Parties for Singles, Couples & Kids. With Absolute Michigan’s Mondo Valentine’s Day Rundown you have no excuse in not charting out a stellar V-Day. Just scroll through this seemingly endless page of options and I think you will find something that tickles your fancy and hopefully that your significant other for this year and for those to come. On to the list….

May is Travel Month

Oval Beach 2 by shqipo / Ledio

Anyone who has been following the news will know that with high gas prices, a lagging national economy and a still-depressed local economy, Michigan’s summer travel forecast isn’t the best.

We could advocate hiding in the backyard with a couple of cans of gas, nervously listening for Mel Gibson and gangs of gas-hungry Aussies, but that’s already been done. Instead, we at Absolute Michigan have opted to see what we can do to help encourage folks from in and out of Michigan to help fight depression, boredom and having to cut the grass this summer with a Michigan vacation.

We’ll feature stories, photos, videos and links of as much travel and touring in the Great Lakes State as we think you can stand. To win over some wallets, we’re also putting out a call for Michigan lodging, travel and related businesses & organizations to offer packages, giveaways or whatever through Absolute Michigan. If you have ideas, send us an email.

And as always, we’d love to hear your ideas about great Michigan getaways, day trips and places to experience in the comments!

Five Things you need to know about Michigan for Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Five Things You Need to Know About MichiganSunrise on the Grand RiverVacation Time?

There’s an interesting speech by Sen. Mark Schauer (D-Battle Creek) wondering if now is a good time for members of the Senate to take a summer recess, pointing out (quite rightly) that schools, local government and others are waiting for hard numbers for the upcoming budget year. To see it, go to the Michigan Senate Democrats page and click on Mark Schauer on current budget crisis (far right). Here’s a better link to Mark Schauer’s comments and Senator Gretchen Whitmer’s even more pointed comments on the recess. I tried to look for something to balance this … couldn’t find anything.

Canoing the Grand River

Over there Among the Trees, Eric Baerren has a great piece titled Riverside Scars about a recent canoe jaunt down the Grand River. He says that while the renovation of old buildings hide the scars of change from the street, from the river you can get a glimpse of the city through time. Go there and check it out, it’s well worth your time.

Looking for Bigfoot in the U.P.

The Escanaba Daily Press reports that researchers from the Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization (BFRO) are expected to visit Marquette County July 12-15 to collect evidence of the man-like creature known as Bigfoot, Sasquatch, Yeti, The Abominable Snowman and The Missing Link. (also see LSJ’s Bigfoot article). Apparently Marquette County has logged the most Bigfoot sightings with four, and in January of 2007 possible Bigfoot tracks were reported in the Gwinn area. Since we love Bigfoot here at Absolute Michigan, we had to let you know about it.

Sunrise on the Grand

Today’s photo is Sunrise by koojoe2220, and he has several more photos of the Grand River in Lansing, including one of Moores Park Dam. That’s probably the dam that stopped our intrepid canoeists, and it’s mentioned in a very nice article about fishing on the Grand River and its tributaries.

Eaton Rapids, Michigan

Eaton Rapids MI WeatherIn Eaton Rapids they are expecting highs in the mid 80s with rain likely. Thunderstorms are possible too, fitting as this week is Michigan Lightning Awareness week. Eaton Rapids bills itself as “the only Eaton Rapids on earth,” and is located at the juncture of the Grand River and Spring Brook. The Official Eaton Rapids website claims that Eaton Rapids is also know as the “island city.” Absolute Michigan keyword Eaton Rapids is pretty sure that The English Inn is a great place to stay – and eat!! Man, do we love the food at the English Inn!. Wikipedia’s Eaton Rapids entry can tell you all about the demographics and geographics of Eaton Rapids, but only the Eaton Rapids live Webcam can show you the town of Eaton Rapids. Every year they hold the Dam Festival, and it will be joining up with 4th of July celebrations this year.

Wine, food and a sense of place

Marcus Samuelsson at the Epicurean Classic by farlane

Travel writer Kim Schneider has a nice article about how Michigan’s wine tourism industry is developing. David Creighton of the Michigan Grape and Wine Industry Council says visitors are seeking experiences that link the wine with the vineyard.

“The sense of place is, for most of us, the single thing we’re looking for that industrially produced wines can’t give. I think at some level, people understand that standing in a vineyard with a glass of wine that was grown in that vineyard is a very different experience.”

And winemakers are responding by creating vineyard B&Bs, holding wine appreciation classes, or throwing harvest party blowouts. The state boasts at least four winery bed and breakfasts with several other inns and resorts featuring wine dinners and winery tours. Events number in the dozens, and there are three distinct wine trails offering joint programming.

Read Wine tourists take in more than a sip at Michigan wineries at mLive’s travel blog and check Absolute Michigan keyword wine for tons of links!

Culinary tour of Grand Traverse County’s Old Mission

Check out Absolute Michigan keyword “Old Mission” for more web sites and articles about Old Mission.

A Vintage Year? by oddzen

Lake Magazine has a nice feature by Emily Bingham on Northern Michigan’s Old Mission Peninsula that focuses on the culinary attractions of this orchard and vineyard filled peninsula that divides the East and West Grand Traverse Bays of Lake Michigan. She notes that the Traverse City region has established itself as a destination for culinary connoisseurs with first-class restaurants, a renowned culinary arts institute, the annual Traverse Epicurean Classic and dozens of family-owned farms.

“May and June are the best times to come to the wineries out on the peninsula because it’s a quieter time,” says Ed O’Keefe, whose family owns winery Chateau Grand Traverse. “There are fewer tourists and many of the wineries have new releases ready.”

The weather is still mild, and the earth is fresh with promise – hills quilted with vineyards and blossoming cherry trees, fields made green with rows of young asparagus, and wild surprises such as edible violets, leeks and morel mushrooms sprouting up in the shadowy woodlands.

Old Mission Sunset by The Real Ferg

She maps a tasty tour that winds through Traverse City restaurants, the five Old Mission vineyards and the 2 day itinerary to which I’d only add a stop at the Old Mission Tavern (Bella Galleria) and the Boathouse Restaurant (you have to at least sample their great Old Mission links page) … and the Old Mission General Store for some old-timey hard candy and geegaws.

There’s a nice map at with links to all the businesses and also points of interest like the Mission Point Lighthouse.

Speaking of wine and culinary and Old Mission, check out Joey Randall’s Village Voice for some tasty recipes and Michigan wine pairings such as this Montrachet Spinach Linguine and Brys Estate Pinot Noir. Great photos too!