Wine, Cider & Spirits

8th Annual Grand Rapids International Wine, Beer & Food Festival

Grand Rapids Wine Beer and Food FestivalThis is my favorite festival of THE YEAR! It’s happening in Grand Rapids on Thursday, Nov. 19 (5-10pm), Friday, Nov. 20 (4pm-10pm), and Saturday, Nov. 21 (Noon-10pm) and held at DeVos Place, Downtown. There’s nearly three acres of food, beer, wine, cider, fun and more! It’s $15 – Thursday (and advanced ticket sales for Friday & Saturday); $20 – Friday & Saturday. A day pass is available for $40, this option allows admission each day of the Festival and is intended for those who want to get the most out of their tasting experience. Online sales end Thursday, Nov. 19 at 5pm (Box Office sales for the pass end at 10pm on Thursday, Nov. 19). All food and beverage samples require varied amounts of sampling tickets of 50-cent denominations (sold at the Festival). It is suggested that guests start with at least $20 worth of tasting tickets. Attendance at this festival is for those 21 years of age and older. ID is required for admittance.

Follow me on Instagram for my highlights!

Below is their 2015 media information.

NEW: The Elite Wine Collection — Located in the center of the Vineyard, inside the Steelcase Ballroom at DeVos Place, this special collection of wine has been selected by our consulting sommeliers and importing specialists as the “best of the best” top shelf vintages, chosen from among 1200 assorted wines. These high-end wines require a minimum 10-ticket ($5) tasting fee due to the cost of the product being served. Each of these wines have at least a 90-point value in a recognized wine rating system and are regarded as among the most elite wines of the world, by both the trade industry and consumers alike. No need to invest hundreds of dollars in a full bottle—the Elite Wine Collection allows you the opportunity to sample the finest wines of the Festival for a minimal cost.

Beer City Station — The Festival’s popular beer area has been moved to the Main Floor of DeVos Places (off the Grand Gallery in Exhibit Hall C, meaning no more congestion and no more lines! Step into the world of creative craft beers, imported and domestic brews, hard ciders and foods that pair well with both. Meet the American craft brewer—the small, independent and traditional producers who display passion and excitement for their unique beverages. New products, as well as traditional favorites, will be offered for sampling.

Cider Row — Featured in the Beer City Station in Exhibit Hall C off of the Grand Gallery. Tap into the Cider Row at the Festival, featuring almost 20 cider producers from Michigan and nationally-known brands. Hard cider is among the fastest growing craft beverages, on a national scale. It is fermented to produce a range of flavors – from dry to sweet.

Add a little extra class to your glass with an intimate tasting with Bradford Hammerschmidt from Imperial Beverage. These special flights offer champagnes you will not find anywhere else in the Festival. Each of the champagnes will be paired with specially selected cheese and crudités from Terra GR. Flights offered Friday and Saturday at 7pm only. The cost is $40 per person. Reservations may be made online, or on site – space permitting.

Five select restaurants partner with distinguished wineries and breweries for special Pairings – gourmet multi-course meals served on-site in a casual yet intimate “bar top” setting. Tickets are $45-$60 each and may be purchased in advance online or at the Festival on a first-come, first-served basis. This year’s restaurants include: Ganders, San Chez,, Vintage Prime & Seafood and Wolfgang Puck’s The Kitchen. Buy tickets online here.

Additionally, chefs from the 14 of the area’s top restaurants prepare and serve small plates of their culinary specialties.

The Coffee, Cordials and Dessert Café will be open in the Grand Gallery for the duration of the Festival. Start your Festival experience, or make it a nightcap, with unique pairings of coffee, lattes and cocktails crafted for your enjoyment with a variety of cordials, indulgent sweets and other treats.

Esteemed individuals from the culinary world host demonstrations on the Meijer Food Stage. Free beverage seminars, held classroom-style in the rooms off the Grand Gallery, give attendees an in-depth look into the world of wine, beer and spirits. Workshops are also offered for a unique hands-on experience for those wishing to learn tricks of the trade from top leaders in the world of food and drink.

Shop the Riverfront Market for gourmet food, specialty items, wine accessories and holiday gifts including chocolates, pastas, cheeses, oils, olives, sauces, mixes, dips and more—even fashion! Cash and carry or order for easy delivery.

Students from Ferris State University, the Culinary Institute of Michigan at Baker College in Muskegon, the Secchia Institute of Culinary Education at Grand Rapids Community College and Grand Valley State University work alongside industry leaders for a premier educational experience.

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Traverse City Hidden Gems

Old Mission PeninsulaMichigan is a popular place to visit during the summer months especially. That’s why all live here, right? We all have a favorite hiding place – away from the crowds. I’m sharing with you some of the fantastic foodie places that I’ve come across in the Traverse City area. These locally owned businesses are either brand new or a bit off the beaten path.

Northern Natural restaurant and cidery is on the east end of Front Street in downtown. The restaurant opened in a couple of years ago and supports 29 farms. They serve several flavored ciders made with Michigan apples. The food menu is small, but I always enjoy my meals in their casual atmosphere.

Harbor View Nursery and Lavender Farm has a stand on Center Rd. on Old Mission Peninsula. They sell lavender plants, dried lavender flowers, natural body products, and some food products. I took a mini- tour with Sonja Richards and also got some tips for trimming the lavender in my own herb garden.

The lavender ice cream at Harbor View is made by Buchans Blueberry Farm. Their stand is off on Nelson Rd. between Peninsula Dr. and Center Rd. They sell berries, vegetables, ice cream, baked goods, and blueberry confections and snacks. They have a nice play area for kids too.

While in the Traverse City area, I came across a unique product: grape skin flour. It was developed by Grand Traverse Culinary Oils in cooperation with Black Star Farms. According to the package, they start with spent pomace after wine fermentation. The seeds are separated out and cold pressed into grape seed oil. The skins and meal remaining are dried and powdered into flour. It can be used to supplement other flours (one-to-one ratio), and it’s loaded with antioxidants. I found it at the Black Star location in the Village at Grand Traverse Commons.

Over on Leelanau Peninsula, is the newly open (May 2015) Hoplot Brewery. Founded by two brothers who moved back, from Chicago, to their home state of Michigan. This business includes an actual hop garden onsite. They serve several of their own beers and are working out their menu.

There’s a new ice cream place on Front Street across from the State Theater. Last year it was Cherry Cone, and based on the layout, it had been a Cold Stone Creamery at some point. But, I think that Milk & Honey has it right. They are using locally sourced products for their farm to spoon ice cream; vegan products are available too. They also serve coffee and deli sandwiches.

Acoustic Mead tap room now has me hooked on mead. They use local honey from Sleeping Bear Farms to make several meads flavored with local fruit. They have a piano and other musical instruments for spontaneous music-making (surely inspired by the mead).

Rare Bird Brew Pub is located a bit away from downtown but is still walkable from there. They serve a handful of their own beers along with many MI favorites on draft. They have a small food menu.

You’ve probably heard of the Boathouse on Old Mission Peninsula. But did you know that owner Doug Kosch and his wife own 10 acres on the peninsula where they grow much of the vegetables, fruits, and herbs used in the restaurant? They also raise turkeys, ducks, and chickens – they are fed the raw vegetable scraps saved from the restaurant kitchen.

Many of the wineries in the Traverse City area are now tasting and selling hard cider made from MI apples. So, be sure to look for it on tasting menus. We tasted the one at Chateau Chantal, and it has a classic apple-y flavor. We also tasted a few at Bowers Harbor Vineyard; they were flavored with other fruits and drier. We enjoyed both types, and I think you will too.

I also checked out the new solar panels at Chateau Chantal Winery. Last year I went on their Sensory Treat Tour and blogged about it. There’s still time to travel around northern Michigan before ‘the snow flies’. But, really any time is fantastic in the Grand Traverse Area.

LEARN TO EAT LOCAL – all over Michigan!


Tasting hard ciders at Northern Natural.

Tasting hard ciders at Northern Natural.

Lavender garden at Harbor View Nursery and Lavender Farm.

Lavender garden at Harbor View Nursery and Lavender Farm.


Look for the Buchans Farm on Nelson Rd.

Grape Skin Flour - can't wait to bake with it when the weather cools off.

Grape Skin Flour – can’t wait to bake with it when the weather cools off.

Hoplot Brewery is in a beautiful setting on Leelanau Peninsula.

Hoplot Brewery is in a beautiful setting on Leelanau Peninsula.

My new go-to for treats.

My new go-to for treats.

I love the creative re-use at Acoustic Mead tap room.

I love the creative re-use at Acoustic Mead tap room.

Brew list at Rare Bird.

Brew list at Rare Bird.

The Boathouse on Old Mission peninsula supports the peninsula wineries.

The Boathouse on Old Mission peninsula supports the peninsula wineries.

Pairings to Celebrate with Michigan Wines

We all need counseling at times, so The Wine Counselor® and I chatted recently about Michigan Wines for the holidays. Sommelier and C.S.W. (Certified Specialist of Wine) Michael Schafer is The Wine Counselor®; he’s a speaker, writer, and entertainer – he entertains while teaching people about wines.

Pairing wine with meals depends on what you’re serving. There are many sites that help people pair with meat – so I went with vegan food pairings! Here are Schafer’s pairing suggestions along with some recipes. (Thanks to Vegan GR for some of the recipes.)

First Course SaladPairing: Pinot Gris/Grigio or Sparkling 

Michigan Awesome Bowls.  In this recipe, the ingredients are improvised, but the dressing stays the same. Since it often will have apples, beets, or carrots, it’s fairly sweet. Pairing: Semi-dry Riesling or Rose

Delicata Squash Fries Appetizer. Other than preheating the oven, this is a quick and delicious appetizer. Pairing: Sparkling

Roasted Root Vegetables.  This meal will warm you up this winter. Pairing: Pinot Noir

Mac and Cheese.  Thanks to Vegan GR for this healthy of version of classic comfort food. Pairing: Oaked Chardonnay

Chili.  Chili can be made a lot of different ways. Pairing: Red blend with a bit of sweetness, a Riesling, or a Gewürztraminer

Vegan Holiday Roast.  with mushroom gravy. Another Vegan GR recipe – this time with a festive holiday feel. Pairing: Pinot Noir

Raw Lasagna.  I always have to toss in a raw recipe! This one is great for entertaining. Pairing: Cabernet Franc or Blaufrankish

Black Bean Soup.  This soup is simple and delicious. Pairing: Pinot Grigio or Pinot Noir

Spicy Meals.  We make this Food and Wine Magazine recipe with my MI canned tomatoes. (Veganize it with vegetable broth and use Earth Balance instead of butter.) It’s also great with MI white beans. And, I substitute the Habanero pepper with MI Serrano pepper. As they say “Heat likes sweet.” Pairing: Riesling or Gewurztraminer with some residual sugar.

And, what if you celebrate with a peanut butter sandwich (Really, I love those.) A MI cherry wine, of course!

Now, for Desserts.  Pairing: Whatever your favorite is an excellent choice, but the wine must be sweeter than the dish!

Of course, sparkling wines came up in the conversation. They are festive, and Schafer told me that people consume more sparkling wine from Thanksgiving through New Year’s than the rest of the year combined. Larry Mawby on Leelanau Peninsula is the preeminent Michigan sparkling wine maker. His original label is Mawby, and M. Lawrence is a more value priced label. Many of the other wineries make sparkling wine, so look for them wherever you purchase MI wine.

Other basic guidelines:
– Sparkling wines and Pinot Noir are the most flexible for pairing with foods.
– Mirror the dish: A light dish with a light wine and a heavy dish with a heavy wine – except curry. Use a sweeter wine with curry.
– Don’t forget the Michigan ports which are a dessert all by themselves. Cerise by Chateau Chantal is my personal favorite.
– Michigan Rose’s are also available and are also very flexible with meals.

Michael Schafer teaches around the state – including annually at the Grand Rapids International Wine, Beer, and Food Festival. His trademarked tagline is “I taste bad wine so you don’t have to”®. If you have any wine questions, don’t hesitate to contact Schafer.

Special thanks to The Wine Counselor® for the wine pairing information. As he says, ” wine should only be enjoyed on days ending in the letter y!” Find him on Twitter, Facebook, and Linked In. Click here for his website.

It’s time to celebrate!!!

photo (89)

Part of my collection of MI wine and beer glasses.

2014 Grand Rapids Wine, Beer, and Food Festival

Thursday through Sunday, is the 7th Annual Grand Rapids Wine, Beer, and Food Festival at DeVos Place in downtown. This is my favorite festival of the year. It features wine, beer, cider, and food with lots of tastings and classes throughout the event. It’s a great place to learn about Michigan food and beverages, as well as compare them to what’s produced in other regions.

Visit the festival website for information on the pairings and seminars. Along with the hall full of wineries (over 100), distilleries, and food, there’s the Cider House. It will feature cideries from throughout Michigan, as well as many nationally-known brands, in the Welsh Lobby on the south end of the Steelcase Ballroom.

The 3rd floor Brewer’s Loft returns, showcasing beer from around Michigan, as well as national labels and imports providing tastes of their hand-crafted beverages – along with food pairings and entertainment. And NEW this year is the RendezBREW, a rebranded, expanded Coffee, Cordials, and Dessert Café open in the Grand Gallery for the duration of the Festival.

My favorite area is the Riverfront Market where I shop for gourmet food, specialty items, wine accessories, and holiday gifts including chocolates, pastas, cheeses, oils, olives, sauces, mixes, dips and more. (Cash and carry or order for easy delivery.)

Here are my Festival Tips
• Bring a tote bag in case you pick up brochures or make food purchases.
• If you are crowd-averse go on Thursday or as early after opening as possible on Friday or Saturday.
• Get to the seminars several minutes early. Many of them fill to capacity.
• If you plan to eat or drink from several booths, buy extra food/beverage tickets. Last year food was 6 -12 tickets, wine was usually 3 – 6 tickets, and beer was usually 2 – 4 tickets. The show organizers suggest starting with $20.00 worth of tickets per person. They are sold in 50-cent denominations.
• There is so much to see some pre-planning may help set priorities.
• Check out the special events in advance so you go at the days and times when you will experience the events that interest you the most. Here’s the seminar and workshop schedule.
• Bring a camera and post your photographs to the MIlocalFoodbeet Facebook page. And, follow me on Instagram to see what’s going on! Prefer Twitter? Here I am.

COST: $15 – Thursday (and advanced ticket sales for Friday & Saturday); $20 – Friday & Saturday. 3-Day Pass – At $40, this option allows admission each day of the Festival and is intended for those who want to get the most out of their tasting experience. Online sales end Thursday, Nov. 20 at 5pm (Box Office sales for the pass end at 10pm on Thursday, Nov. 20).

I’ve been attending since the beginning and have served as media since 2010. Although my entrance pass is provided, I purchase all of my sampling tickets, and my opinions are my own. Attendance is only for those 21 and older.

See you there!

Grand Rapids Wine Beer and Food Festival

Bonobo is Coming

label prototypes

label prototypes

Drive along Center Road on Old Mission Peninsula and you’ll see a sign: The Bonobo is Coming. It’s adjacent to a partially-built building on a picturesque site.

A bonobo is a chimpanzee, and this is the newest winery on Old Mission. I took a tour with their marketing director, Heather Fortin. It’s owned by Todd Oosterhouse and celebrity couple Amy Smart and Carter Oosterhouse. Fortunately, Traverse City has virtually no paparazzi (that I’ve seen). The residents take it in stride when Michael Moore or Madonna show up in town. When you love Michigan, Grand Traverse is your go-to place, no matter who you are.

The winery is scheduled to open in time for wine harvest on the peninsula. They also have a Founder’s Club that includes invitations to special events, gifts and discounts, and lots of wine!

Located on 50 acres, this Chateau has its 2012 wines bottled waiting for the opening and several 2013 wines are about to be bottled. Chardonnay will be their flagship; others include Rieslings, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Grigio, Cabernet Franc, and Pinot Noir.

They were helped out by their winery neighbors, Brys, Chateau Chantal, and 2 Lads, who made the first wines for them. Drew Perry (formerly Assistant Winemaker at Left Foot Charley) is the wine maker, and Josh Rhem is the vineyard manager. Their process will be as close to organic as possible (not certified organic), and they won’t use harsh chemicals.

There will be food service – with kitchens on both levels – which I think will make this a popular stop for tasters. The menus will include small plates and seasonal soups, salads, and wrap sandwiches. There will be locally sourced food and wine and food pairings. Vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free food will be available upon request.

The building motif is rustic elegance while keeping sustainability in mind during design. Wood used throughout the tasting room and private party space came from three old Michigan barns. Even some light fixtures have a reuse story (see photo below). The wine barrel lights were used in Smart and Oosterhouse’s wedding. And, it’s the first winery that had to construct to stricter Michigan waste-water codes.

Bonobo staff will focus on wine education, and the building will include large windows into the production area. Tours with paired tastings will be available by appointment and the daily seated- tastings will provide a more relaxing experience with time to savor and discuss the wine.

Why bonobo? Well, Fortin told me that Smart likes the name because bonobo chimps are benevolent creatures. They typically don’t have conflicts. And the Oosterhouses like them because they’re easy going.

Bonobo Winery is getting a great start with this namesake, their eye on sustainability, and by creating a relaxing experience.


Bonobo Winery front

Bonobo Winery front

Bonobo Winery back

Bonobo Winery back

lights at Bonobo

lights at Bonobo

Bonobo Founders Club

Bonobo Founder’s Club

view from Bonobo Winery

view from Bonobo Winery

view from Bonobo Winery

view from Bonobo Winery

LEARN TO EAT (and drink) LOCAL


Cider for the People

So lately, I’ve been saying: Cider is the new beer. Why? Because the flavor is great, it’s gluten-free, and it’s as complex as craft beer and wine. Besides, everyone likes Michigan apples.

Recently I visited with Katie and Jason Lummen at The Peoples Cider Company in Grand Rapids. Their liquor license is barely one year old, but they have years of experience making hard cider. Katie’s dad made cider for years, and when Jason tasted it, he was hooked on the process and the flavor. After studying and traveling in England and Ireland, he started home brewing beer and cider as a hobby.

Then, he decided to get serious about it and visited Fulton Street Farmers market. He made connections for apples and the use of an apple press. Now, he purchases pressed juice from Hill Brothers Orchards on the Fruit Ridge near Grand Rapids. It arrives in a large container and the fermentation and conditioning process takes six months. In addition to the Michigan apples, the cider often includes Michigan sugar.

He named the company, The Peoples Cider Co., after Howard Zinn’s book A People’s History of The United States which tells the history of the US from the perspective of the working class rather than the elite.

The Peoples Cider Co. does not make ciders from other fruits. They do also make mead which is Michigan honey based.  The cider is available to drink on site at Georgio’s Pizza and Harmony Brewery – both in Grand Rapids.

Thanks to recent Michigan legislation, wine and cider producers can have tastings and sell at farmers markets. The Peoples Cider is part of the market’s Wednesday night market. It runs June through September from 4:00 pm to 7:30 pm. The Market is the ONLY retail place you can purchase The Peoples Cider right now.

Stop down to the Fulton Street Farmers Market on a Wednesday night to check out The Peoples Cider. They are selling tastes for only one dollar and will also fill howlers and growlers!

fermentation tanks

fermentation tanks




Jason Lummen at Fulton Street Farmers Market

Jason Lummen at Fulton Street Farmers Market


apple juice tank

apple juice tank