Every now and then I guess we become bona fide tourists and while up in the Traverse City area we almost abandoned wine for a three-hour cruise. The whole crew of us boarded the Tall Ship Manitou. The Tall Ship Manitou is a replica of an 1800’s “coasting” cargo schooner similar to those that plied the Great Lakes and the Atlantic Ocean. This ship was built in 1983 in Portsmouth, New Hampshire and was finished by Vermont carpenters in Lake Champlain and eventually sailed to Traverse City. They have a couple of cruises each day and they also offer longer cruises and over-night excursions if one is interested. They also have a smaller sister ship that is usually hired out for private parties. The Tall Ship Manitou can hold fifty-nine passengers and one sits where one can on the deck, as there are no chairs, but one can also tour the galleys and bunk areas in the hold while out on the lake, and they also allow landlubbers to take to the helm, more for photo-ops, and I declined, I can just imagine reading the papers “The Wine Raconteur runs the Manitou aground.”
We were on the Ice Cream Cruise, which meant that once safely at sail, everyone was allotted a small tub of locally made ice cream to enjoy. Though to get to that point in the cruise there was work to be done. While the ship has a formal crew, they enlist the passengers to assist in the raising of the sails, which required quite a few hands pulling on the ropes to hoist the sails up, no electrical motors here. So, there were about ten volunteers for each sail and we all received special instructions to be careful of certain parts of the sails that may swing, so to prevent a “man overboard scenario.” Yes, I was part of the volunteer crew to hoist and to drop the sails, as we were approaching the port at the end of the cruise. The ship was large enough and the water was calm enough, that there were no signs of mal-de-mer among the passengers. With such a short cruise, we never left sight of the peninsula while we were in the bay.
Once we were finished raising the sails and could sit back and enjoy the cruise. Beyond the complimentary ice cream and water, any other amenities were for sale while we were sailing. I waited for crowds to disburse and I must say that beer and pop seemed to be the overwhelming beverages of choice. Of course, I found something more interesting to buy and to share with our group. The L. Mawby Blanc de Blancs Brut NV was a definite bonus. Larry Mawby is considered to be the “Godfather” of the Traverse City region winemakers and he takes winemaking very seriously. He now only makes sparkling wines, his M. Lawrence line is made using the Charmat Methode and his L. Mawby line is made in the traditional and time-honored way to make the bubbles. This wine is made entirely from the Chardonnay grape and it carries the Leelanau Peninsula AVA. Whole clusters of grapes are pressed and fermented in Stainless Steel. Then the wine is blended with reserve wines and fermented a second time in the bottle and aged “en tirage” before degorgement, the same way the big houses in Reims do it. What a wonderful way to spend a few hours drinking a very well-made wine, while on the water and enjoying the sights of the area.