Foodie city celebration

As the June day wanes, Traverse City’s outdoor cultural festival springs to life with fine wine, food, art and performance in a beautiful, historic northern Michigan setting.
Dessert samples at local Festival
Photography by Jesamin Califf at Emery & Co.

By Pat stinson

“Beauty” is the buzzword for the Traverse City Art & Wine Festival, held this year on June 30 at The Village at Grand Traverse Commons.  

The fourth-annual outdoor event unfolds from 3 p.m. to 10 p.m. beneath magnificent spires and giant trees on the 63-acre, beautifully therapeutic campus of the 100-year-old former Traverse City State Hospital. Under renovation and housing condos, shops and businesses, the architecturally significant buildings are just a quick bicycle ride from “downtown” and West Grand Traverse Bay, and only 25 driving minutes to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, just voted “The Most Beautiful Place in America” by viewers of ABC-TV’s “Good Morning America.”

Pouring Wine by Harts Photos
More than 25 wineries from Traverse City, Old Mission Peninsula, Leelanau Peninsula and Benzie County participate. – Photography by Ray Hart

Featuring 100 wines from 25 wineries (more wineries than any other festival in northern Michigan, according to organizers), the event attracts the area’s best visual and performing artists and showcases the culinary talent of extraordinary chefs from the “#1 Top Foodie City in America”.  Festival attendance reached 3,000 last year, far below what organizers say is the event’s capacity.

“I would describe it as a carnival atmosphere,” said festival spokesperson Andrew McFarlane. “There’s so much going on, it’s just this feast for the senses.  There’s nothing else like it.”

Festival Ambience of the Crowd
Photography by Ray Hart

Wineries from the Leelanau Peninsula, Old Mission Peninsula, Traverse City and Benzie County will anchor the festival’s tasting area of more than 10,000 square feet — plenty of room for tasting and visiting.

“You can dig into wine you really like or sample the unfamiliar,” McFarlane enthused, noting the generous pours. “You might say, ‘Okay, I’m in the Riesling capital of America; let me taste four different Rieslings.’” 

Critics from USA Today, Wine Enthusiast and TripAdvisor all highlighted the virtues of wine from Michigan and Traverse City. 

Thom Jayne Playing Guitar by M'Lynn Heartwell
Photography by Ray Hart

Observed Yolanda Daly, director of the Pacific Rim Wine Competition, “They’ve been winning medals left and right, competing across the U.S. and internationally. Beautiful wines are coming out of Michigan.”

Among this year’s pours: “Murmur,” a blend of whites with “electric acid, a perfumed nose and fruity sugars” (Left Foot Charley, Traverse City); “Naughty Red,” a dry, Nouveau Beaujolis-style wine that’s “fresh and fruity” (Chateau Chantal, Old Mission Peninsula); and “Green,” a “crisp, fragrant, light-bodied and refreshing sparkler” from winemaker Larry Mawby and his M. Lawrence label of tank-fermented wines (L. Mawby Vineyards, Suttons Bay).

Meanwhile, Trattoria Stella’s Myles Anton, a past James Beard Foundation semifinalist for Best Chef-Great Lakes, plans to tickle taste buds with homemade bruschetta:  grilled focaccia covered with the restaurant’s own melted stracchino (a cream cheese-like, “torn” mozzarella) and, if available, early heirloom tomatoes or late-harvested asparagus and spinach from area farms. 

Appetizers Served at Food and Wine Festival

Attendance is requested to know for certain what else may be plated up this year. But considering who’s participating, it’s meanwhile tempting to imagine: How about pairing your favorite sips with Patisserie Amie’s signature Slipper Bread topped with slivers of artichoke and draped in Bérnaise sauce, or hickory-smoked beef-tenderloin medallions — hickory-smoked with truffle-infused fond lié — from Chez Peres. Chefs Keil Moshier and Eric Fritch own and operate both Traverse City establishments.

Kaye Krapohl, a Traverse City artist and festival participant who loves working in oils, shared her impressions of the festival’s ambiance:

“It’s not like other festivals where you have food, wine and music. The art makes it like being in someone’s home, with little pockets of color and conversations that normally wouldn’t occur. There’s no sun beating down, there’s just the music and the stars and the glow of the booths across the lawn. It’s like a fine wine. You really have to take it in, relax and enjoy it.” 

For tickets, information and lodging packages visit 

Freelance writer Pat Stinson resides in Leelanau County. – Michigan BLUE Magazine

Photo of Fishtown Harbor
Courtesy Fishtown preservation society

Leelanau’s Summer Wine Festivals

Hailed as Michigan’s oldest wine festival, Leland’s Wine & Food Festival takes place 12-6 p.m., June 9 (always the second Saturday in June), near Leland’s Harbor and the quaint wooden shanties of historic Fishtown. The 27th annual event features local wineries, area food establishments and vendors, plus live music in the park. For more, visit or call (877) LELAND1.

The Leelanau Peninsula Wine, Food & Music Festival, formerly held in Northport, shares the blues, local wine and food, 1-7 p.m., July 21, at its new location in Marina Park, Suttons Bay. Call (231) 271-9895 or visit

A landmark celebration of Michigan’s wine coast culture now in its fourth year, 2012’s festival will again feature original artwork from regional artists, serve gourmet food and desserts, and showcase innovative performance and music: This year’s national headliner is Rusted Root.

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