Trail of Wine and Food – St. Ignace, Michigan & Aunt Brenda

Spending five weeks together driving across America is a great test of a marriage. We have always done everything together – just not four hundred miles a day for so many days. The results were a stronger relationship, so many more memories together, shared delight in the God moments we witnessed, and a greater appreciation for the beauty of and freedoms enjoyed in America. This was our 2023 journey. We hope you will plan your own…

Tip: Sault St. Marie can be deceiving. Make sure you know if you are in Canada or in Michigan.

Taking Highway 31 along the coast brought us to beautiful towns like Petosky and Charlevoix. The streets were lined with beautiful hanging baskets on streetlights. The roadway hugged Lake Michigan and the parks were perfectly manicured.

We learned that the lake effect secret is the lake depth. The deeper lake does not freeze.

One of the purposes of our trip to Michigan was to visit Ron Perry, the TAMU student who encouraged us to plant grapevines at Messina Hof in 1977. He later went to Michigan State University where he taught and was Department Head. 

He introduced us to his son Drew Perry who makes wine in Michigan at Aurora Cellars and Good Harbor.

We went to Aurora Cellars and met with Drew and the co-owners Sam and Taylor Simpson. Sam came from a finance background and Taylor from Southern Wine and Spirits. 

Their dad died in 2009 and the winery was in need. They wanted to save it, and both came back to run the winery and farms. Aurora is a perfect event venue! Drew and Sam attended school together. Drew produces beautiful crisp wines. 7788 E Horn Rd., Lake Leelanau, MI 49653.

Cambria Hotel Reflection Bistro was a great find for dinner. It was the first time we had found a #1 rated restaurant in a hotel. The seating area was small with white cloth service and excellent wine list with many Michigan wines. Happy hour was 4-7 with 20% off wine by the glass and an appetizer menu that offered generous portions. 255 Munson Ave, Traverse City, Michigan 49686. 

Guess what we found! I had two tenderloin sliders on pretzel buns and walleye bites breaded in pretzel crumbs with dipping sauce. Tender and tasty. 

Paul had the veal porterhouse which was tender and served on sweet potato.

In Portland, Michigan at Fabiano’s River House Bar & Grill for lunch. Portland is a little town of about 2,000 people at the confluence of two rivers. Fabiano’s outdoor patio overlooks the water. 104 W Grand River Ave., Portland, MI 48875,  

Paul had a Goober Burger. He did not like peanut butter, but this converted him. It was a big juicy hamburger with peanut butter, pineapple, and bacon. It was most unusual but yummy good.

I had the pretzel dough bites fried and served with cheese dipping sauce and mustard.

When we reached East Lansing, we checked into our hotel at the Kellogg Center Hotel and met Ron and Ann Perry. They took us on a beautiful tour of East Lansing and MSU. It was amazing to see the similarities between MSU and TAMU. MSU was the first land grant college. Ron shared that he had served as an army officer and met Ann while stationed at Ft. Sam Houston in San Antonio. Ann was a teacher. He took graduate work at TAMU where he worked on PD and Cotton Root Rot rootstocks.

It was during his time at TAMU that we met him through Paul’s physical therapy practice. Ron was an avid basketball player and sprained his ankle severely. It was during a physical therapy session that Ron suggested grapes for us to plant in Bryan. 

After receiving his PHD he left Texas A&M and went to Michigan. There he had an illustrious career.  We had dinner at Kellogg Center State Room which boasted an extensive wine list. We had the open-faced tuna with avocado and greens and local fresh trout filets on a mango puree sauce. 219 S Harrison Rd, East Lansing, Michigan 48824. Kellogg Hotel and Conference Center.

In Paw Paw, Michigan we stopped at St. Julian winery. John gave a tour and tasting. It was very impressive to see a winery that has tested time and continues to grow and automate. We met Rosie their robot pallet stacker.  

Check out the video of Rosie!

Driving through Indiana, Illinois and Iowa were miles and miles of corn. We broke the monotony by reading the Wikipedia summary of each little community. It was a long drive with corn as far as the eye could see.

We got to Cedar Rapids in time for dinner at Biaggi’s Ristorante Italiano. Paul had boar chili on spaghetti, and I had the filet mignon with potatoes and asparagus. Both entrees and the salads were great. 320 Collins Rd NE, Cedar Rapids, IA 52402.

The next morning we went to visit Merrill’s Aunt Brenda. She is the widow of Merrill’s father’s brother, Meredith. Aunt Brenda was always an inspiration to the family. She was British and had met Meredith at Graceland College in Iowa. They married and were a faith-oriented inspiration to the family. 

Brenda was suffering from back pain and scheduled for surgery. When we got there, she told us that she could not sit. She could only stand while rocking from one leg to the other, walk around, or lay on her side. We began our visit following her around the house while she walked and then by sitting by her bed as she lay down. (She had been this way for ten months! Can you imagine?) What became obvious quickly was a God moment. Merrill thought we were visiting her aunt. The reality was that Aunt Brenda was getting ready for the exact same surgery that Paul had twice before. They exhibited the same symptoms and pain. It quickly became obvious that the reason the Lord had brought us to Brenda’s bedside was so she could hear from Paul the wisdom from his surgical journey and the rehab needed thereafter. Merrill was a grateful bystander. Praise!

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