Dining in the Vines of Bowers Harbor Vineyard

The vineyards of Bowers Harbor

Last weekend, my husband and two other couples and I participated in Dining in the Vines at Bowers Harbor Vineyard, featuring a paired wine dinner by Chef Eric Nittolo from the Boathouse Restaurant. The experience was a foodie’s dream.


We were greeted by Brix, the winery dog, and a delicious reception featuring Blanc de Blanc Sparkling wine. This was held in the tasting room as the weather was a bit chilly outside.

Tasting gallery sign

Reception featuring artisan meat and cheese plate, quince jam, and fresh fruit

To our delight, the servers were quite liberal with the sparkling wine. We were reaffirmed in our decision to take a cab from the condo where we were staying. Everyone enjoyed the various creamy cheeses and gourmet crackers.

Preparing the scallops

Our first course featured scallops. According to the website it was originally supposed to be Kobe Carpaccio, but apparently it made guests from an earlier weekend nervous. Chef Eric explained that he was going to be cooking the proteins the way they are supposed to be cooked, not to order. Since the scallops were sashimi grade they would only get a light sear and not be overcooked.

Staff plating the first course

It was delightful to be able to watch the chef and staff in action cooking and plating our meal. It felt like we were watching a Food Network show. Except we were up close and able to taste the results!

First Course: Scallop, Mano de Leon, acorn squash puree, pine nut custard, Speck ham, morels, saffron butter

The first course, served with 2010 Pinot Grigio, was a great taste of things to come. The caviar was a nice touch, and I could tell it was a high quality scallop, but what really blew me away in this course was the pine nut custard. The Pinot Grigio was smooth, and not as mineral as most Northern Michigan whites I’ve come across.

Lobster tail

The second course featured lobster. While we waited the 2009 Wooded Chardonnay was poured. The oak jumped out on my palate, and my companions also gave a face at first sip. I realized that I would need to try it with the food, thinking that the taste was affected by the relative sweetness of the Pinot I’d had with the first course.

Second Course: Maine lobster, lobster stuffed, roasted tomato polenta, lemon lobster butter

It’s impossible to describe how good the second course was. When I took the first bite I thought, “oh my, I need to have a few minutes alone with this!” It was almost orgasmic. The butter, the creaminess of the polenta, and the best flavored/textured lobster I’ve ever had. And the Chardonnay? It was suddenly transformed into the perfect accompaniment.

Filet Mignon

Chef Eric explained the different grades of beef, and explained that this was Wagyu. One of the best you can get. Therefore, he would (as with the scallops) be cooking it the way it was supposed to be cooked. No well-done here!

Wine for the third course--2007 Langley 2896

The wine that accompanied the third course was one of the best red wines I’ve had from a Northern Michigan winery.

Third Course: Filet Mignon, portabella spelt pilaf, parsnip puree, onion ring, maple cabernet demi glace

The Filet Mignon did not disappoint. It was a very close runner up to the lobster as a favorite course. Every bite was savory, buttery, and you could cut the meat with a fork-it was that tender. A couple of my companions were not able to eat the meat as they are used to having their meat well done; their husbands were more than happy to eat the pinker insides!

Dessert: Lavender Champagne Creme Brulee, cotton candy

Looks closely. Those are Pop Rocks atop the cotton candy! It was a super fun addition to super sweet cotton candy atop creme brulee. The crust was nice on the brulee, but I was not able to taste lavender or champagne. In fact it seemed a bit savory in comparison to the sweetness of the candy. We had been instructed to eat the candy and brulee in one bite, but even that did not seem to balance out the flavors. For that reason it was a wee bit disappointing, but the 2010 Langley Riesling helped make up for it.

Sunset among the vines

At the end of the evening, order forms were distributed (I notice they do this at the end of all wine dinners; very dangerous for the pocketbook!) We sighed with contentment. Chef Eric said there is a beer vs. wine dinner coming up this fall and everyone agreed that we will try to attend. It was a magical evening of fine food, local wine, and laughter among friends.

If this sounds like an experience you would enjoy, there are still some dates available in August and September. $99 per person.

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