Currently writing this from a plane en route to Abu Dhabi, 35 hours until I FINALLY land in Bangkok!
This past week has been full of ~fun~ goodbye festivities, including a mini-road trip to Michigan with some of the home gals to wine taste, courtesy of my eternally sober and top notch DD, Mama O. We’re basically 40-year-old soccer moms in training, we turn up for these types of semi-classy soirees. Mama O came up with the idea and volunteered to drive as a final way to spoil me before she’s deprived of taking me shopping for a year, talk about mother of the year.
A little less than a 2-hour drive from Chicago, Michigan is chock full of wineries and strawberry farms. A hidden gem, it’s the secret Napa Valley of the Midwest. And I really mean hidden gem, my parents have been coming here for years, but we only knew about it because of family in the area. Right now most of the people that go to these wineries are the bored elderly on bus tours and Chicago-based bachelorette parties, but I predict that it’ll blow up with tourists in 10 years.
There’s a Michigan wine trail that covers the WHOLE STATE. Back in the day a couple years before I turned legal (as in like 3 years ago), these wineries actually did all their tastings for free. That’s right. FREE. Like you could go and get plastered on top notch vino without dropping a penny. However, due to the ever increasing popularity of the area, mostly by word of mouth, you now have to pay a couple bucks per tasting, ranging from about $6-$15 depending on the winery. Lacking time and liver capacity, we decided to stick to the closest southwest region this time around.
We started our post-grad tour de not Franzia at Lemon Creek winery. The tasting room is literally just that, a counter where you can taste plopped into the middle of their gift shop. At $8 a tasting for 5 wines, it’s cheap thrills no frills. It’s small and charming, and when you pull up it looks like any old Midwest farm, aside from a massive 4-foot wine glass parked next to the road. I’d recommend Lemon Creek if you’re in the area, this was my second trip there and it’s never crowded, plus the staff is nice. The cherry wine they serve is also the bomb.
After that, upon recommendation from our sommelier, we hit our next stop, Gravity. Despite the name making it sound like a seedy mostly-underage club, Gravity looked like it fell off a postcard, and had a cute little pooch named Ollie who wandered around the vineyard begging for your leftovers. Instead of doing the normal pony show where your sommelier tries to seduce you into purchasing with rambling about the “undertones of oak” and “hints of tobacco” in your glass, Gravity gives you a flight of wine with cheese & crackers to pair with. You had me at food. I was a fan, as I didn’t have to nod my head and pretend like I can actually taste more than one thing at once despite the fact that I only have 1 tongue per usual.
Our final stop was Round Barn Winery. Plot twist, at Round Barn you physically taste inside none other than -gasp- a round barn. While Round Barn is slowly becoming tainted with commercialism, Round Barn is a personal fave. They’ve upped their game, they give you not 5, not 6, but SEVEN tastings for the bargain price of $15 a head. They also have a little bit more than just wine, including their house vodka, various fruity beers catered to my girly taste in booze, and my poison of choice, tequila. Your tasting includes 4 wines, either a premium wine or a house-distilled vodka shot(ew), a tequila shot or cocktail, finishing with a shot of their praline-walnut liqueur. We were definitely feelin ourselves by the time we hit about the halfway point in our tasting.
Feelin fly and wanting to play with my DSLR, we decided to go & take ~cute~ pics by a gazebo behind the barn. With the squad tipping and feeling sentimental, my BFF Other Tina decided that I should hop on a dilapidated crusty old barrel while they coddled me for an Insta-worthy shot.
Other Tina: TEEEEEN GET ON THE BARREL we’ll all hug you since you’re leaving it’ll be v-cute
Me: F no you dunce, my romper is so short that you can see my soul and I don’t want splinters anywhere that would make someone uncomfortable to pull them out
Other Tina: You won’t get splinters come on it’ll be SO CUTE I can picture the Insta already
Rest of the squad: COME ON TEEEEN GET UP THERE
(me to myself in my head with thoughts filtered with wine) Well why not, I’m already buzzed so I won’t feel a thing, #doitfortheinsta.
What happened next was legit Three Stooges material. Cue me athletically jumping on the weathered old worn-out out barrel, the top of said barrel busting, me falling through, ending with my booty stuck in a freaking barrel while everyone was too drunk and laughing too hard to help me get out. And did we get a pic of this tragic moment? No, the photographer(Mama O) was too busy cracking up at her daughter writhing in pain and splinters while stuck in a barrel.
Moral of the story, never listen to Other Tina.
If you’re in the area, definitely plan a trip(or a stumble) to the wineries in Michigan! Like I said- a less popular less snooty Napa, bring the kids.
Landing on Tuesday at noon(Thai time, midnight Monday Chicago time) I have connecting flights in Abu Dhabi and Sri Lanka. I have 12 hours in Abu Dhabi, so I’m hoping to be able to leave the airport and do a little sightseeing. In the mean time I’ll be stuffing my face with paneer and baba ganoush on this flight where I’m the only non-Arab, like seriously no joke the flight food menu on Etihad is DOPE.
Thanks for reading!