Annual Spring Sip & Savor event draws 1,200 to wine pairings on Leelanau Peninsula

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How about some corn and whitefish chowder to go with a glass of semi-dry Riesling — not to mention a lovely view of Omena Bay — at Leelanau Wine Cellars?

Or maybe a small plate of spring pasta with prosciutto and three-cheese and roasted garlic cream sauce to accompany the 2013 pinot grigio at Blustone Vineyards, where the tasting room is planted amid rolling hills between Leland and Suttons Bay.

If your palette prefers sweet over savory, then go for the "all star" cream puff with caramel drizzle with a Riesling being poured at Brengman Brothers, where guinea hens patrol the vineyards just northwest of Traverse City.

The wineries are among nearly two dozen participating in Spring Sip & Savor, an annual pairing of food and wine along the Leelanau Peninsula Wine Trail. Now in its 15th year, the annual event is expected to draw 1,200 enthusiasts Saturday and Sunday. Tickets are $35 and include a souvenir wine glass and wine and food pairings at each of the wineries.

Participants check in at a designated tasting room and then are free to visit as many wineries as they wish, though most people fall far short of hitting all of them, even after two days. One of the wineries is actually a popular cider maker, Tandem Ciders, just north of Suttons Bay. Tandem is pairing asparagus and fromage blanc crepes with a cider called the Greenman.

"Spring Sip & Savor honors spring, kicks off the new growing season and celebrates the promises of a great new vintage," says Lucie Matthies, one of the proprietors of Chateau Fontaine, which counts Riesling, pinot gris and chardonnay among its top sellers.

Chateau Fontaine (the name is Lucie's middle name and pays homage to the region's French settlers) is serving a green chili chicken enchilada to complement its 2012 Woodland White.

"It's a fun time to celebrate spring and taste new vintages," Matthies says.

Most of the wineries tap the talents of local chefs to create their wine pairings and also use locally grown fare as well as regional artisan food products.

Adding to the merriment is a Sip O' de Mayo Hat Contest. Enthusiasts are encouraged to celebrate spring, Mother's Day (next weekend), Cinco de Mayo, and the Kentucky Derby (this weekend) by wearing hats.

"It's really the first big weekend of the season," says Lorri Hathaway, executive director of the Leelanau Peninsula Wine Trail, which promotes the peninsula's wineries and related events. "It's always a happy group of people."

The wine trail organization and individual wineries are giving away prizes for the best hat in several categories. The best overall hat wins a two-night lodging package, which includes tickets to the 2016 Spring Sip & Savor. Among the wineries, Aurora Cellars is giving a private wine tasting and production tour for six with its winemaker for the "most glamorous hat."

"There are lots of great prizes for this year's wildly popular Sip O' de Mayo Hat Contest," Hathaway says.

'Spring Sip & Savor'

11 a.m. - 6 p.m. Saturday, noon - 5 p.m. Sunday

Leelanau Peninsula wineries

Tickets $35

lpwines.com

Note: Black Star Farms will have tickets available at the door the morning of the event.

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