This Michigan bucket list item is brought to you by Mari Vineyards.
Whether you want a vineyard tour, wine tasting experience, or a new favorite wine to enjoy at home, you’ll find it at Mari Vineyards on the Old Mission Peninsula. It’s less than a 10-minute drive from downtown, making it one of the best things to do in Traverse City.
This vineyard and winery has been pleasing refined tastes since 1999 when TV personality and engineer Marty Lagina started the business with his family. He named it after his Italian grandmother. You might recognize Lagina from the History Channel reality show “The Curse of Oak Island.”
As you approach, you can see an enclosed tower with walls made of dolomitic limestone from the Upper Peninsula.
Let’s learn more about what makes Mari Vineyards unique!
Only Estate Grown Grapes for the Finest Wines
One delightful aspect about Mari Vineyards is that all the wines are made with grapes from its own vineyards. One vineyard — Bella Vista — is located on the estate that you can visit. A second vineyard is located near Mission Point Lighthouse, and four others are spread across the Old Mission Peninsula.
In total, there are about 60 acres of vineyards on the peninsula that grow 22 varieties of grapes. You can actually taste the biome difference in the wines, especially the riesling.
Another interesting fact is that Mari Vineyards makes and bottles almost all of its own wines. The only one that it sends off for bottling is the sparkling variety because it doesn’t have the special equipment required on site.
Mari Vineyards is widely known for its red wines. They’re made from grapes grown under hoop houses that are erected from the end of May to the end of November. You should also try the vineyards’ spectacular white wines, which are drier and made in a more fruit-forward European style.
Winemaker Sean O’Keefe uses a mixture of ancestral, hands-off methods. The Simplicissimus, for instance, is crisp and clean with a lemon curd fruitiness and no additional sugar, sulfur, or yeast.
One of the most alluring and “coolest” components of Mari Vineyards is its wine caves. The 8,000-square-foot space is modeled after old underground Italian wineries, so the temperature is naturally regulated. If you take the walking tour, you can watch a time-lapse video of the winemaking process.
A Leader in Sustainability & Innovation
Mari Vineyards has a strong belief that quality wine comes from healthy grapes grown under sustainable standards. It has embodied this belief by restoring an old dilapidated windmill to offset the energy consumption of its winery facilities.
The northernmost vineyard — Irish — has its own windmill, too, to offset the energy that the farm uses.
Another sustainable effort is the lack of an irrigation system on the winery lawn because being “green is not always green.” In addition, Mari Vineyards is launching a Bee & Butterfly Habitat Sanctuary in summer 2021.
Through a collaboration with the Bee & Butterfly Habitat Fund, it’s planting pollinator habitats with sustainable cover crops on its standard lawns. You can learn more about Mari Vineyards’ sustainability practices here and during a walking tour of the estate.
Take the Vineyard Walking Tour
The $30 walking tour of Mari Vineyards is one of the most educational among vineyard tours and well worth the price. All of the staff members are highly knowledgeable, and even if you’re completely new to wine, you won’t feel out of place learning about it and asking questions.
The 45-minute tour includes various areas across the entire 31,000-square-foot estate — tasting room, production facility, the Bella Vista vineyard, and the wine caves. Your guide will tell you about Mari Vineyards’ history, unique buildings, and one-of-a-kind winemaking process.
Reserve a Wine Tasting
You can learn even more about Mari Vineyards and its wines during a $10 wine tasting. Your server can tell you the story behind each one and provide guidance on which wines might suit your tastes the best. Each tasting lasts for about 50 minutes and includes samples of five wines and a signature stemless wineglass.
There are two tasting locations, and they offer different opportunities. At the Tasting Room bar, you’ll have a classic wine tasting with a view of the vineyard and East Grand Traverse Bay. The Mezzanine Level tasting is held in the production facility and gives you an inside look at the winemaking process.
Before you leave, you can purchase bottles of the wines that you fell in love with. If you like the idea of trying specially selected wines at home throughout the year, you can sign up for one of the Cavalieri Wine Clubs. There’s a club for each type of wine, and you get premier selections, discounts, and other unique benefits.
Enjoy a Self-Guided Visit at Mari Vineyards
Maybe you want to wander Mari Vineyards with your partner, or maybe you haven’t visited in a while. In any case, you take a self-guided tour of the estate. First-come table service is available in the Tasting Room or on the Patio.
You can order wine by the glass with a charcuterie board or other small snacks in either space, while wine tasting flights are also available in the Tasting Room. Mari Vineyards is the perfect place for groups of five to 12 as well. The Upper Terrace Patio is a private space and has a wonderful view of the estate.
No matter where you sip, you’ll have a beautiful view of East Grand Traverse Bay. At the end of your experience, you can ask the server for a to-go bottle purchase.
Local Restaurants With Excellent Dining
In the area, several Traverse City restaurants carry Mari Vineyards’ wines that enhance their dishes.
Trattoria Stella in The Village at Grand Traverse Commons is an award-winning Italian restaurant that offers farm-to-table dining. We really like the burrata appetizer, and you can ask the server for dish and wine recommendations to go with it.
At The Boathouse on the Old Mission Peninsula, you get some of the best fine dining in the area. The decor makes you feel like you’re in a charming cottage, and you have a view of Grand Traverse Bay and the docks while you eat.
More than just a convenient place to get groceries, the Peninsula Market has a laid-back atmosphere and great food. The kitchen creates healthy, flavorful meals that you can easily heat and serve at home or in your resort room.
For an exceptional food truck experience, go to The Little Fleet. This bustling lot features an open-air bar with several food trucks, giving you tons of meal options. Aside from wine, the bar serves craft beers, curated cocktails, and spirits.
On the Leelanau Peninsula, the Farm Club has the same owner as The Little Fleet. The property is a farm, bakery, brewery, marketplace, and restaurant all in one. The sandwiches and salads are simple but flavorful, celebrating honest food.
Where to Stay Near Mari Vineyards
Before and after your Mari Vineyards visit, Grand Traverse Resort and Spa is a classic place to rest, relax, and play. You can really disconnect from the everyday grind here and discover somewhere new.
The resort features a variety of accommodations, a championship golf course, a full spa, and several on-site restaurants and bars. Sometimes, it offers packages that include visits to Mari Vineyards, which is only about 15 minutes away. Peruse its specials and packages to find your dream getaway.
Other Traverse City boutique hotels make an excellent getaway retreat as well.