Apples to Appleicious: Sweet tang of cider leaves autumn aftertaste
Latest from our cellar
Julia Boss has been working with the mentally ill at Munson’s Mental Health Unit. And, she has spent the last 15 years taking care of her mother, local artist Debra Sanborn, as she slowly died from cancer. A week after the death of her mother in January, Julia was diagnosed with advanced stage breast cancer. At 25 years old, Julia has yet to begin her life and is now saddled with the financial and emotional burdens of cancer. Her coworkers and friends are actively working to raise money for Julia. A bake sale at Munson recently raised over $3000. But, we have a long way to go.
Please join us for a fun filled evening of cider, live music, and a silent auction. Suttons Bay Ciders will host a fund raising party for Julia on May 11, 2018 from 6 PM to 9 PM. With a suggested entry donation of $25, you can try a tasting flight of ciders, imbibe a discounted pint, and enjoy the amazing panoramic views of the entire West Bay. Proceeds and tips will go to Julia.
Our local community has generously provided intriguing items for the silent auction including designer jewelry, a rare framed photo of David Bowie, gift baskets and gift certificates from Steder’s Family Tavern, Bulldog’s Barbershop, The Little Fleet, Georgina’s, Mackinaw Brewing, and Blossom Shop, and more.
All donations for Julia can be made at www.GoFundMe.com/57hjbw8
By Bob Downing
Special to the Beacon Journal
TRAVERSE CITY, Mich.: Few outsiders ever see one of America’s most impressive floral displays.
Every May, about 2.6 million cherry trees are adorned with fragrant creamy white blossoms that fill ridges above the region’s cobalt blue waters. It is one of Michigan’s great secrets, because it happens a few weeks before tourists typically head to Traverse City, in the northwest corner of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula.
The area celebrates on May 19 at Blossom Days.
Traverse City proudly calls itself the Cherry Capital of the World with 75 percent of the country’s tart cherries — used in pies, pastries and jams — being produced within a few miles.
It’s home to a weeklong 150-event National Cherry Festival in July, and stores like the Cherry Republic sell lots of goods. It has been reported that visitors can purchase 370 cherry food and drink items in Traverse City.
The first cherry trees were planted on the Old Mission Peninsula outside Traverse City by Presbyterian missionary Peter Dougherty, who came in 1839 to work with the Ottawa tribe.
First to blossom in May are 600,000 sweet cherries. A few days later, 2 million tart cherry trees follow.
Unlike the ornamental cherries that are familiar to visitors of Washington, D.C., the Michigan blossoms are pure white. From a distance, some trees seem to have a pink hue from red twigs, while others look greenish from emerging leaves.
Typically, within a week, the colorful cherry trees are joined by the light pink blossoms of 670,000 apple trees. Apples are behind one of the newest attractions in the area: two-year-old Suttons Bay Ciders just north of Traverse City. It features handcrafted hard ciders devised by owners Mark and Madelynn Korzon.
They use different types of apples including Northern Spy, Ida Red, Honeycrisp, McIntosh, Jonathan and Rhode Island Green plus ingredients like sumac, lavender, cherries, pears, berries, ginger root, mint, mosaic hops and maple syrup to come up with palate-pleasing options.
Typically, more than a dozen ciders are available, and flights are a great way to sample them. Most are slightly carbonated through the fermentation process.
The lodge-like main building off state Route 22 features decks that offer some of the best up-high views of West Grand Traverse Bay. For information, go to http://www.suttonsbaycider.com.
The Korons are not alone. Other cideries have sprung up in the Traverse City region.
But grapes, not apples, are the biggest draw in the Traverse City region.
The area is also home to 33 wineries (nine on the Old Mission Peninsula and 24 on the Leelanau Peninsula), tasting rooms, designated wine trails and vineyards, plus a few distilleries. That’s up from 19 wineries in 2006.
The region is at the epicenter of Michigan’s booming wine business. In 2018, Michigan gained eight new wineries to bring its statewide total to 138, producing about 2.7 million gallons of wine annually. That’s up 34 percent in the last five years, says the Michigan Grape and Wine Industry Council.
Growers harvest about 13,100 acres of grapes, the fourth highest state total in the U.S. They also grow 3,050 acres of wine grapes, in the Top 10 in the country. Michigan wineries get 2 million visitors a year, the council reported.
Most of them are within 25 miles of Lake Michigan. The lake protects the vines from snow in the winter and from late spring frosts. The water also extends the growing season up to four weeks.
My wife Pat and I have our favorites after multiple trips to Traverse City over the years: Chateau Chantal, 2 Lads, Peninsula Cellars, 45 North and Brengman Brothers.
In addition to cider and wineries, Traverse City is known for sugar-sand beaches, aquamarine waters, casinos and golf courses. It is Michigan’s No. 1 summer beach resort and a growing foodie town, with 4,200 motel and hotel rooms for summer visiting families.
It is a winter sports center with up to 150 inches of snow every winter, and lots of venues. There are many trails, with some of the most spectacular 25 miles west at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.
The 71,199-acre federal park features sand bluffs that stand hundreds of feet above Lake Michigan. They are especially stunning at sunrise and sunset.
They’re the largest freshwater dunes in the world and the beaches are among the very best on the Great Lakes.
Glaciers left behind rubble and fine-grained sands. The southern part of the lakeshore features beach dunes, created by winds blowing sand onto low-lying dunes. Perched dunes, built by wind-blown sand accumulating atop piles of glacial debris, sit high on the bluffs. The dunes cover four square miles.
The park’s signature hike is the Dune Climb. It’s 110 feet, equal to the height of a 10-story building. It provides up-high views of Lake Michigan, an inland lake and trees. It takes about 10 minutes and is surprisingly tough.
You can then slide and tumble your way down the sand to where you started. That’s half of the fun.
At the very top, you can continue 1.75 miles on a blue-blazed trail to a spot above Lake Michigan or you can simply drop down the face of the dune. Wear shoes and bring drinking water for sand hikes, the National Park Service says.
A favorite hike is the 2.7-mile loop to Pyramid Point. You’ll be 260 feet above Lake Michigan on a perched dune. In all, the park offers 105 miles of trails.
The park also features a ghost forest where sand has partially buried trees, a historic farming district, 26 inland lakes, 12 miles of streams, forests, an 1871 lighthouse, three old Coast Guard stations and a Great Lakes maritime museum at Grand Haven.
A new 27-mile bike-and-hike trail stretches 35 miles along the Michigan shoreline. You can also drive the 7.4-mile Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive that is open from early May through mid-November.
It’s named after a Michigan lumberman. He developed a road to the top of the dunes in 1967 to share the views he loved with the public. He operated the road until his death in 1976. The following year, the road became part of the federal lakeshore.
Stop No. 9 on the drive may the most scenic spot in the lakeshore. You are high on a bluff overlooking Lake Michigan with steep banks of sand dropping 450 feet down to the water. It is not climbable and warnings are posted. The views from the wooden observation deck are impressive.
The park includes two offshore wilderness islands, North and South Manitou, accessible by private boat or by ferry from Leland from May to October. It is also home to shipwrecks.
The lakeshore gets 1.1 million visitors a year. Park admission is $10 for seven days.
For information on Traverse City, write to 101 W. Grandview Parkway, Traverse City, MI 49684, or call 800-TRAVERSE. You can also check out http://www.visittraversecity.com.
For Sleeping Bear Dunes information, write to 9920 Front St., Highway M-72, Empire, MI 49630, or call 231-326-5134. The Web site is http://www.nps.gov/slbe.
WJR's Paul W Smith will be getting Mark and Madelynn out of bed by 5:00 am to start the day on the radio from our beautiful setting!! With its large broadcast area we're sure to have a few people up and listening!!
Love you Paul W
Suttons Bay Ciders will be here this Saturday with Gordie, the cider dog!!
Each year we celebrate the bounty of area vintners and brewers with the Northport Wine and Craft Beer Festival. Our festival is our own special summer party showcasing area wineries and breweries. Join us from 1-6 in Haserot Park. Coming for the dog parade? No problem. We're Michigan's only dog-friendly wine festival. Featuring- BIG BOSS BAND CLICK HERE
GENERAL ADMISSION $15 PRE SALE, $20 AT THE DOOR PURCHASE TICKETS HERE
The first thing I noticed when I walked into the tasting room at Suttons Bay Ciders was the fireplace. Actually, no. The very first thing was what just might be the best view of West Grand Traverse Bay in our entire region. But then, through the wide-open vista behind the bar, I noticed the stone fireplace. And on an early summer's day in 2016, when we in Northern Michigan were still thawing out from last winter, my first thought was, "I cannot wait to come back here in winter."
In hindsight, it was an appropriate thought. Suttons Bay Ciders has a decidedly alpine feel to it, as if a little part of the German Alps had been airlifted to the Leelanau Peninsula and set just below the summit of Hilltop Road, right above the now-famous M-22.
Maybe it's the "lodge feel" decor that owners Mark and Madelynn Korzon are going for. Maybe it's the incense smell of fallen needles off the pine trees that surround the tasting room. Everything about the experience here wants to pull your senses higher. That starts with the wooden staircase that leads to the weighty front door of the bar. When you reach its peak and head through, you feel like you've summited a mountain. And like climbing a mountain, the view is the ultimate payoff, a reward for stumbling across such a special place.
The view certainly lures people into the cozy environs of the Suttons Bay Ciders tasting room, with its floors made of white pine from Beaver Island and walls covered with the tattered sides of an old Michigan barn. The place feels like a lodge.
But once you get past the wow factor of the view, the hospitality of Mark and Madelynn makes you want to linger, chatting with the other folks at the bar over a pint of cider made with local ingredients like sumac, culinary lavender, cherries and maple syrup. The ciders are the product of Old English, French and early American apple varieties with peculiar names like Brown Snout and Kingston Black. Suttons Bay Ciders offers a singular experience, something residents of this patch of Northern Michigan and visitors alike will appreciate.
I sat down with Mark recently, right next to that fireplace, and talked with him over a creation called Sumac, a cider made with Northern Spy, Ida Red and Honeycrisp apples infused with sumac berries and aged in a bourbon barrel they got from the Traverse City Whiskey Company. Suttons Bay Ciders had just celebrated their one-year anniversary in September and I asked Mark, why did they choose to get into the cider business?
"About 15 or 20 years ago, I started talking to Madelynn about our next venture in life because I was getting a little bored with what I was doing. We knew that cider was the next wave," he told me while Madelynn tended bar and entertained a couple from Colorado. "And I grew up in [now] extinct apple orchards. We grew up having apple wars and eating apples. And apples lend themselves to this area. They are conditioned more for harsher climates."
Mark and Madelynn's philosophy revolves heavily around what comes naturally to the area.
"Because we come from a horticulture background, we've seen some of our native plants underappreciated."
The result of that philosophy is using as many local ingredients as possible to make a wide range of ciders, from bone dry to naturally sweet. When they first opened in September of 2015, three ciders were on the menu. Today, that number is up to eight–and it is ever-changing, thanks to the efforts of cidermaker Chris Guest and his assistant, Todd Morgan.
"I like ciders that are high in tannins and bitter sharp," Mark tells me before he gets up to go check on Gordie, his border collie pup named after hockey great Gordie Howe. Gordie's collie instincts mean you'll probably be herded into the tasting room upon arrival. What makes Mark nervous is that those same instincts mean Gordie is leading visitors' cars out as well. But he walks back in with Gordie in tow.
I ask about their current favorites. "Right now, Smitten is our biggest seller. It's lower in alcohol because we back-sweeten it after fermentation with fresh cider, instead of using sugar. I like it because it tastes like apple," Mark answers.
A visit to Suttons Bay Ciders can be as varied as the menu. They offer a wide variety of tasting flights and you can also get full pints of cider and small plates along with the bowls of popcorn that are always on the tasting bar.
But a highlight no matter the season is the deck that overlooks West Bay. On a clear day and without the help of the ever-present spotting scope, you'll have a commanding view of Power Island and the entire length of the Old Mission Peninsula. Suttons Bay Ciders may still be a bit of a secret to savvy locals, but it won't be for long.
And this winter, Mark and Madelynn plan to turn their 10-acre property, complete with apple orchards (500 trees and counting), steep valleys, hardwood hollows and pine forests into a winter wonderland. Once the snow starts falling, make sure you bring a pair of snowshoes with you when you visit. Mark has cut out a snowshoe path that takes in the best of their beautiful little patch of Northern Michigan. He's currently working on a bridge made from fallen maples to take visitors across the stream.
"We're going to have a fire going here all winter. And on some days, we'll have three fires going: one in the tasting room, one out on the deck where people can roast some hot dogs, and we'll also have a fire going out by picnic table," Mark says.
In addition to the snowshoeing and daytime winter fun, Mark and Madelynn plan to continue their regular game nights throughout the season. The usual suspects of darts, Jenga and playing cards around the fire will be there but they are also planning on bringing the outdoor game of Cornhole indoors to add an extra element of fun to the tasting room.
For those in the Grand Traverse region who get a little case of The Shining from our long winters, Suttons Bay Ciders looks to offer a bit of reprieve from those North Country blues. And for those who embrace winter and are looking for a new adventure not far from home, Mark and Madelynn–and Gordie–are waiting for you at the summit of Hilltop Road.
IF YOU GO:
Suttons Bay Ciders
SuttonsBayCiders.com • 231-271-6000
10530 E. Hilltop Rd., Suttons Bay
Bob Lovik is a journalist and travel writer living in Traverse City. He also runs his own tour company, which includes education on the wine and craft beer scene in the area. Reach him at GrandTraverseAdventureCompany.com.
The 12th Annual
Great Lakes International Cider and Perry Competition
April 20-21, 2017
Grand Rapids, Michigan
1,206 Total Entries
870 Medals Awarded — 98 Gold, 332 Silver, 440 Bronze
Best in Class Awards [PDF]
Suttons Bay Ciders picks up a Silver and 2 Bronze medals in the 2017 GLINTCAP. It's the first time we have entered into competition and we came away with 3 awards!
In case you haven’t been paying attention, the next big thing is here. What started as wine country and has also become a haven for craft brewing is now developing a taste for cider. From Peninsula Cellars on Old Mission to Short’s in Bellaire to a host of cideries on the Leelanau Peninsula, hard cider has rapidly become another reason to tout the region’s culinary prowess.
Looking back, it seems only natural. The plethora of apple orchards and the experience of area vintners and brewers make for a beautiful marriage of convenience. One of the most respected locally is Tandem Ciders north of Suttons Bay. Husband-and-wife owners Dan Young and Nikki Rothwell first discovered the joys of cider while bicycling through the English countryside on their two-seater. When the two moved to northern Michigan following that trip, Young, who had previously opened and operated a brewery in Massachusetts, was struck by the amount of fruit grown here.
He tagged along when Rothwell, who works for Michigan State’s Extension program, went to an agricultural meeting in Grand Rapids. One of the sessions was about creating hard cider.
“I was interested in fermentation and brewing,” said Young. “I bought some apples from Kilchermans (owners of Christmas Cove Farm, which produces more than 200 varieties of apples). There was a plentiful supply and it’s an old tradition. It just made sense.”
Today, Tandem features a number of cleverly-named ciders, such as Crabster (with crab apples), Ida Gold (Ida Red, Rhode Island Greening, and Yellow Delicious), and its flagship brand, Smackintosh (McIntosh, Rhode Island Greening, and Northern Spy).
Another pacesetter is Left Foot Charley at The Village at Grand Traverse Commons in Traverse City. Self-styled wine Sherpa Bryan Ulbrich was one of the first to see the possibilities, making his first 200 gallons of cider in 2008. Last year Left Foot Charley produced over 20,000 gallons of cider. Varieties include Perry, made exclusively from pears, Henry’s Pippin, and Cinnamon Girl.
“It’s grown significantly for us,” said Ulbrich.
One of the challenges of the industry is the fact that hard cider is typically made from specific varieties of apples that are only just now gaining support from growers. Honeycrisp, Golden Delicious and Galas are shunted aside in favor of the likes of Kingston Black and Brown Snout.
“We just don’t have the bitter or tannic varieties. Kingston doesn’t grow well here,” noted Mike Laing, who creates the sparkling ciders for L. Mawby.
The winery currently makes three varieties: Bright made strictly from apples; Wild, with cherries; and Centennial, adding hops. According to Laing, the decision to branch out into cider from wine was more or less made for them: “We had two bad grape harvests (2014 and 2015). We wanted to diversify.” Owner Larry Mawby had a history of making ciders, and the winery began producing its own about a year ago.
Laing said one advantage of making cider rather than wine is that apples will keep much longer than grapes.
“We sat on the apples and processed them after the grapes,” he said. Another, of course, is the abundance of apples. “Because apples are around it makes sense to explore cider in more detail. It’s a product we can make from locally-sourced fruit.”
Chris Guest seconds both those thoughts. A 20-year veteran of the wine scene in Leelanau, he teamed up with his high school friends Mark and Madelynn Korzon at Suttons Bay Ciders.
“Apples are a fruit that can be stored, processed and held. With grapes, as the harvest comes on you take the process straight through,” he said. “Apples can be pulled out of storage, and you can work throughout the year.”
While Guest knew the drill, the Korzons did not. The recession had proven difficult for their downstate landscape and design business, plus they had been burglarized three times. So they decided to move north from Ann Arbor. While their first thought was to open a winery, people told them cider was an up and coming beverage. So they talked with Guest and friends from Willow Vineyard and opted for apples and cider.
“It took three years to get through all the permits, from township and county to state and federal,” said Madelynn. That was a year ago, and they are already pleased by the amount of business they’ve seen. “It’s been as successful as we’d hoped and the reviews and wows have been so gratifying.”
Most of the ciders are lightly carbonated naturally through the fermentation process.
“It’s about like beer,” said Paul Salvatore of Taproot Cider House in downtown Traverse City. He’s the general manager for Taproot, owned by his longtime friend Jen Mackey. It serves cider from a number of Michigan cider producers, including Tandem, Northern Natural in Kaleva, Aurora Cellars in Lake Leelanau, and Blake’s Hard Ciders in Armada near Detroit. Among other local operations, Green Bird Cellars in Northport is an organic cidery, while 45 North outside Suttons Bay; Bel Lago Vineyards and Winery in Cedar; and Black Star Farms of Suttons Bay and Old Mission Peninsula are all producing cider.
GRAND RAPIDS, MI -- Hard cider lovers in Grand Rapids will want to mark their calendars for the week of April 17-22.
The Michigan Cider Association and Experience Grand Rapids plan to hold the first-ever "Cider Week GR" event celebrating the apple-based alcoholic beverage. The celebration includes an international cider competition, local tap takeovers and a festival on downtown Grand Rapids' iconic "Blue Bridge."
As the country's second largest producer of apples and with a growing number of craft hard cider-makers, Michigan is well positioned to make a name for itself in the worlds of cider and perry.
For the uninitiated, perry is a product similar to cider, but made from fermented pear juice instead of apple juice.
The week-long event in Grand Rapids coincides with the Great Lakes International Cider and Perry competition (GLINTCAP). The competition, in its 12th year, features professional and amateur cider and perry makers competing for awards in three different categories.
The competition, which is closed to the public, runs from April 19-22 and is hosted at the Courtyard by Marriott in downtown Grand Rapids.
The week culminates with an opportunity to toast to the success of Michigan's cider industry with a sparkling glass of the stuff, all on the historic railroad bridge now open to pedestrian traffic crossing the Grand River.
The event will run from 2-7 p.m. on Saturday, April 22. Attendees will enjoy a line-up of local musicians alongside cider and food, available for purchase from area vendors. Tickets to the Blue Bridge event are available for $25 each through Eventbrite.
Though only a handful of events are posted on the Experience Grand Rapids website in connection with the week-long celebration, organizers promise to announce more events in the days ahead.
A new Northern Michigan hard cider tasting room opened in Leelanau County this September, just in time for your fall color tour! Consider a stop at Suttons Bay Ciders for a beautiful vista view of Grand Traverse West Bay—all the way from Traverse City to Eastport—colorful fall foliage, and a pint of hard apple cider. In this MyNorth video, Kris Riley and Courtney Jerome introduce you to the new business in Suttons Bay that honors local partnerships.
Suttons Bay Ciders is located on East Hilltop Road in Suttons Bay, right off M-22. Did you know M-22 was recently voted the Best Scenic Autumn Drive in the Nation by USA Today? Just one more reason to visit!