Roadtrip Along Lake Michigan

After a fun day in the suburbs of Chicago and a good night’s sleep at the Le Meridien in Oakbrook, my friend Lynn and I were off to see more of the Midwest.

One of the reasons I chose Southwest Michigan as our next stop was for the chance to be along Lake Michigan and our route would take us right along the Great Lake.

We were making good time so we decided to take a slight detour to Indiana Dunes. Even after seven years in the Midwest I am still in awe when I look at Lake Michigan and the Dunes were another example of the beauty of it.

Lynn and I walked along the beach for a bit and then headed back in the car for the scenic drive to Baroda, Michigan.

Along the way we remarked about how we’d love to have one of those houses overlooking the lake and the beach.

Our first stop was at a place I can’t compare to another in the world, despite all the wineries, distilleries and breweries I’ve been to. We met Millicent Huminsky, Executive Director of Southwest Michigan Tourism, for the introduction.

Round Barn Public House is a family run all in one destination – a restaurant, a brewery, a distillery, and a tasting room for the winery’s products.

What I found even more amazing was that they did it all very well. The food was incredible, from the Greek Goddess Pizza, to Lynn’s Salmon Sandwich and my unique and delicious veggie burger.

We also got to do lots of sampling during the meal. Round Barn Public House lets you do flights mixing beer and wine, and that’s just what Lynn did, while I stuck with a selection of some of my favorite white wines.

I really enjoyed the Sauvignon Blanc and the Weekend White, and surprisingly loved the Farm Market Blueberry, made from 100% blueberries.

Lynn was a fan of the Cabernet Sauvignon and the Cream Dream beer, a dark brew with hints of vanilla.

As for the spirits, the bourbon, rum, and vodka were very good but the DiVine Back Walnut Crème Liqueur really won me over. I’d take this as a substitute for Irish Cream any day.

We took off from the Round Barn’s Public House to their winery. The Round Barn is quite a unique spot and I’m glad we got to tour it a bit and check out some more of their wines before heading to nearby Berrien Springs for a visit at Domain Berrien Cellars.

Domain Berrien does handpicking of the grapes in their vineyard, which is just outside the winery. They specialize in Rhone varietals and also have the distinction of being the first Michigan winery to grow and bottle Syrah.

As far as the red wines are concerned, it was actually the 2013 Lemberger which caught the attention of Lynn and me. It was filled with dark fruit and not a lot of oak, though it did have a bit of white pepper.

I surprised myself by picking the 2012 Oaked Marsanne as my favorite white. I rarely go for oaked wines, but this one was a creamy butter blend filled with vanilla and melon.

I also loved the Domaine Berrien Vignoles, with its tropical notes.

We had one more winery on the list for the day and that was Contessa Wine Cellars in Coloma.

Winemaker Tony Peterson uses creative license at Contessa for some very interesting blends.

My pick was the Bianco Bello (Lovely White), a mix of French and American varietals that had a complex taste of semi-sweet fruit and rich floral.

I also liked the Celeste, a Riesling and seyval blend that produced a sweet green apple, and the Pinot Grigio which was crisp and easy drinking.

Lynn, the red drinker, went for Tre Tenores (Three Tenors), a mixture of cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon, and merlot.

Our next stop was for a different type of tasting.

I had been waiting for the truffle tasting all week at The Chocolate Garden did not disappoint.

Owner Tina Buck took us through her company and told us about how she built this business of quality chocolates.

Of course, we needed to form our own opinions so she set us up with truffle tastings, available to all customers.

It was not easy picking six from the huge variety at The Chocolate Garden, but I did:

Dark Chocolate Raspberry was wonderful, with a real fruit taste;
Milk Chocolate Pomegranate was also fruity, but not as sweet;
Dark Chocolate Cherry was not quite as unique as truffles I’ve had before;
Cinnamon Love had the perfect hint of the spice to not lessen the chocolate taste;
White Chocolate Latte was the creamiest, with subtle flavors;
Lago Rosso was my favorite. It is actually made with Contessa Cellars Lago Rosso wine.

All of the truffles had melt-in-your-mouth chocolate.

Lynn had a lot of the same, but her favorite I did not taste Be Licorice.

We thanked Tina and took off for the Inn at Harbor Shores in St. Joseph, where we would be spending the next two nights.

We took our time unpacking and relaxing, and working up an appetite for dinner.
It had been a long day so we made it a quick one downstairs at the Inn at Harbor Shore's Plank’s Tavern. Their Beer Cheese Dip was flavorful and filling. I also had some potato soup and Lynn had a salad.
After dinner, we shared the Blueberry Tart and were quick to head back to our suite and go to sleep. We had another long day of activities ahead in St. Joseph, Michigan.


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