wine tour

In Lake Leelanau, Michigan, I spend more on an RV park than I’d spentanywhere else ($40 for one night.) There was no helping it… every otherpark I’d tried was fully occupied, and motel rooms started at three timesthat price. Blame the Fourth of July, the national get-out-of-the-housevacation frenzy that sends so many Michiganders north to cooler breezes andwarmer water. The parks are full of fat families sitting in folding chairsand staring at me as I pass. They think “Who is this strange person, thisman from California? What effect will he have on my life?”. Then theydrink another Pepsi, and I am gone, forgotten.

If I’m spending so much, I want to get my money’s worth. I swim in thelake. I shower (three times). I actively appreciate the shady treeoverhead. I sit at the picnic table and read. I use the office phone todownload my email. Again I sit in the shade, admiring the large trees. Inmy heart, I know that these are better than the trees in the less expensiveRV parks.

By noon I’m bored, nearly comatose, so I fold up the bus and start lookingfor wine. I’ve seen several winery signs in the area, and I think it willbe fun to drink local wines while hanging out with Dan and his family. Inmixed marriages such as mine (northeastern / midwestern) there are darkpebbles of misunderstanding deep in the gears of social discourse. The soilin this area of northern Michigan is high in lithium, and the local winesare very effective social lubricants.

Living in the cultural shadow of the Napa valley, I tend to be pretty snobbyabout wines. Our wines are pretty damn good. Not as good as French wine,where the chic local yeast will consume a grape crushed under the hooves ofa mule and piss nectar. But pretty good. (Though I have a friend Leo whoadmits to only one ‘drinkable’ California wine. He is much more snobby thanme.) I don’t expect to find any good wines here in Michigan, but I doexpect to find some ‘drinkable’ wines.

First north, to Good Harbor Vineyards, then east to Black Star Farms, thenSouth to Ciccone and Chateau Leelanau and Willow Vineyard. I taste severaldozen wines and one pear brandy. As the afternoon progresses, I startplaying Beck and Pavement and the sound track to “On Brother! Where arethou?” I play my music louder and louder. I start singing along. I singeven when I’ve stepped out of the van and into the tasting room.

I’m also getting more outspoken (obnoxious.) “Eeeew!” I say, tasting oneparticularly sour Pinot Noir. “Why is this wine brown?” I ask, and “Wheredo I pour this out?” I’m trying not to be a snob, but some of this wine isreally bad. Fortunately, some of it is really good. This is why you go towineries, so you can buy the really good wine and avoid the really bad wine.I end up with 6 bottles. Some of them soar past ‘drinkable’ and one reaches’!’ (Black Star Farms Ice Wine.)

Lake Leelanau is long and thin, like Chile. Driving back to the campground,I decide to take a short cut across the lake. I drive through the grass atthe edge of the lake, my tires slipping slightly as I accelerate. My vanpushes through the cattails, sending seven ducks (and one swan) protestingout of my way. Then I’m out on the lake, my tires skimming the surface.The van fishtails on the water, but then I remember to engage four-wheeldrive. As I pass pontoon boats, the occupants stop talking, even stopdrinking beer, to watch me pass. I wave and drive on, Cecelia Bartolisinging arias to the fishes. A jet-ski challenges me to a race, roaring intight circles around the van. I simply laugh and drive on, and his roostertail droops. Far below the surface, a drowned child looks up and laughsbefore dropping back into sleep. Too soon I pull up onto the beach at thecampground.

The night is warm, and groups of people move from RV to RV like ideas.There goes a bicyclist, an excited thought, a call to action. And here Iam, comfortable, content. Six bottles of wine chill in my fridge.


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