From staff reports
A long-awaited wine tasting room, which also features small plates and seasonal dinners in downtown Suttons Bay, opened Sept. 1. Gilchrist’s tasting room will offer a selection of whites, reds, and frozen beverages. In addition to their wine menu, Gilchrist’s culinary team has developed a seasonal menu of 7-9 small plates that will rotate with the seasons and highlight local produce with a balance of creativity and simplicity.
The design of the tasting room draws inspiration from “the comfortable but elevated feel of a country pub along with the bright, airy coastal modern design,” said Alyssa Brittain, designer and co-owner. The color scheme is homey but well-refined and curated to include vintage nautical maps, and beautiful wood furniture that not only offer functionality but are key talking pieces. Nestled in the front window room is a cozy fireplace with an abundance of natural light perfect for families and couples alike.
Co-owners Marc and Elizabeth Huntoon are Michigan natives who recently retired. Life has brought them much joy from their extensive travels and great experiences with wine and food with family and friends. “Visits to the Traverse City area turned an idea into an opportunity, leading to the current vineyard and tasting room. Although the Leelanau Peninsula viticultural scene is robust, we show our commitment to the land through practices that go far beyond typical organic farming standards.” Marc said.
Overlooking Lake Leelanau, the vineyard boasts 22 acres of vines. Gilchrist’s produce is tended using regenerative techniques from the Soil Food Web’s arsenal of information. These practices elicit beneficial bacteria, fostering organisms that produce rich fruitful soil.
In addition to vines, the farm also is home to an ⅔-acre estate garden and a ¼-orchard tree plot. The estate garden produces fruits, vegetables, and herbs tended by Laurel Huntoon, soil scientist and daughter of the Huntoons. Laurel has worked tirelessly over the past three years to utilize techniques from the Soil Food Web’s regenerative agriculture practices. Her work restores soil microbial life and provides natural disease mitigation.
The produce from the estate garden, in turn, feeds the culinary program at the tasting room. Each of the small plates created by the Gilchrist culinary team highlights the ingredients of the season and compliments the wines offered by the tasting room. The current menu features local bison meatballs, housemade focaccia, as well as a corn bechamel ravioli. Vegetarians and picky eaters will find something for them on the menu. The menu is kept intentionally small, to ensure the freshness of the ingredients, cross utilization of local produce, and to allow the culinary team to focus on presentation and balance over quantity of items. At Gilchrist, beverage options don’t stop at wine. Gilchrist’s tasting room will offer both cold brew coffee and brewed coffee, regular and decaf, from Fortunate Coffee based in Traverse City.
The tasting room anticipates to be open from 10 am – 9 pm daily with offerings for breakfast as well as lunch and evening shareable plates. With room for more than 50 guests inside, there is the perfect space for groups of many sizes. With two kids of their own, George and Alyssa Brittain have placed thoughtful touches for families throughout the tasting room such as toys available for children and kid-friendly beverages. The rustic yet elegant furniture and fixture choices and large patio to enjoy the view of downtown Suttons Bay, offer a comfortable yet polished wine-tasting experience.
With a focus on hospitality, Gilchrist’s name also connects with the intention and care behind each customer experience.
“The name Gilchrist is from my mother and in Scottish Gaelic literally means “servant of Christ.” We liked the symbolism of serving others and hope you enjoy our hospitality,” said Elizabeth Huntoon.