Frostbite Trail, First Fridays and more turn ‘Charlevoix the Beautiful’ into ‘the Eventful’ this winter

People walking in the snow

Crowds disperse as snow serenely blankets Charlevoix, which transforms the bustling summertime destination into a hidden gem of a winter wonderland. Winter’s elements shine a new perspective to “Charlevoix the Beautiful” to observe, along with a growing event lineup.


The Charlevoix area features plentiful winter activity staples, like skiing at Mt. McSauba or hitting some groomed trails for cross country skiing and snowshoeing. Winter’s also a good opportunity to head inside and peruse Charlevoix’s cultural corridor, which showcases the region’s storied history and inspiring arts community.

Charlevoix’s uncrowded winter versatility encourages visitors to create an autonomous itinerary that emphasizes their own pace and interests. A growing menu of events —many of which are recurring — also provides some organized entertainment to build a Charlevoix winter experience around.


Decanter of red wine

In the heart of Charlevoix, Lost Cellars Winery stands as a testament to family history and the pursuit of a winemaking dream.

Since its inception in 2007, the 13-acre property has undergone near constant evolution. Initially started as a hobby project, the winery transformed under the ownership of Jay and Lora Higdon from a modest production of 150 cases sold at local farmers markets to a winery that now boasts an output of nearly 1,000 cases. The transition has also involved rebranding the vineyards under the Lost Cellars name and introducing new product lines such as Creepy Tree Ciders and Rebar Distilled Spirits.


That name, Lost Cellars, comes from Jay unraveling the family lore surrounding his great-great-grandfather. At a celebration of life for Jay’s grandmother in 2015, he was at the family plot in New Brunswick, New Jersey, and stumbled upon a gravestone with two unfamiliar names: Nunzio and Mariana.…

Charlevoix Welcomes Lost Cellars

Our vineyard is located just north of the 45th Parallel, about two miles east of Lake Michigan in the Tip of the Mitt American Viticultural Area (AVA). The company was established in 2007 as a vineyard supplying local wineries with four varietals of grapes and then in 2015 branched out to develop and sell custom boutique wines. These small batch award winning wines represent the best of northern Michigan, with both estate grapes and select local fruit to curate a collection of specialty wines enthusiasts search out. Purchased by Drs. Jay and Lora Higdon from founder and winemaker Tom Jaenicke, “The Man in the Moon”, this venture fulfills a lifelong dream of the Higdons to bring their own twist of the vino lifestyle to Charlevoix. Dr. Lora Higdon, CEO and president of Christie’s – Autograph Real Estate in Traverse City has a successful track record of building customer focused businesses around lifestyle and concierge services. This knowledge will build on the brand and hard work of the Janickes and bring their legacy directly to consumers with the addition of an estate tasting room. The estate will undergo a rebrand as Lost Cellars but will retain the vineyard brand as the “Moon Vineyard”. This preservation of Charlevoix Moon will help keep the brand loyalty alive while taking the business to the next level. Lost Cellars was incorporated in 2015, and was a result of the Higdons being exposed to several family stories about Jay’s great-great grandfather’s immigration from Sicily to start a winery in California that was eventually lost. Waiting for the right moment to bring their dreams to life, they kept the shell company alive until they found Charlevoix Moon Vineyard.

Wine Under Way from the 2019 Harvest

This year I decided to concentrate mostly on creating Estate Wines from the Charlevoix Moon Vineyard. Grape production was up from the previous year, in spite of the challenging growing season. We have five wines in various stages of fermentation.

My favorite red wine grape, Marechal Foch, is going to be produced as a unique rosé wine this year. I used the limited skin maceration style of processing which should produce a richly colored rosé wine that you are not likely to find anywhere else.

This will be the first single varietal vintage year for my estate grown Petite Pearl grapes. This cold hardy red wine grape was developed to thrive in cold climates and reliably ripen in the Fall and it seems to like the Charlevoix Moon Vineyard. I am looking forward to producing a smooth wine with a dark red garnet color. The Petite Pearl is going through fermentation under full skin contact.

The estate grown Riesling grapes are on their way to becoming a medium dry Riesling white wine. Customers are often surprised at the rich flavor of a medium dry Riesling wine, compared to the sweet wine version that others seem inclined to produce. I am hoping for another award winning year with Riesling.

The estate grown Cayuga White grapes will once again become a dry white wine, with the mouth feel of a Sauvignon Blanc wine and a unique grape flavor. The OOGA OOGA Cayuga wine has become a customer favorite for good reason. This should be a good vintage year for OOGA OOGA lovers.

I ventured down the road a few miles to harvest La Crescent grapes from Chickadee Hill Farms, owned by a good friend of mine. I am, once again on my way to making a medium sweet white wine from the La Crescent grapes. This mild white wine tends to have a great mouth feel and fruity flavor that customers enjoyed this past summer.

There may be blend opportunities for the wines under development so you may see the first vintage of Lunatic White to accompany the Lunatic Red that is in the lineup from 2018. We will do some tasting trials this winter to see if that becomes a reality. I don’t force blends, so it has to be right or we wait another year.

Most of the initial fermentation should be finished before year end, with some of the wines going through a secondary fermentation that could go through much of the first quarter of 2020. We won’t be doing any bottling before March. Watch for our call out for volunteer cellar rats at that time.

The Challenging 2019 Grape Growing Season

The 2019 year has been a challenge for grape growers in Northern Michigan and many other parts of the Midwest. Cold Spring weather dragged on to mid-June and slowed down budding and blossoming of all our grape varieties. Once summer finally arrived it was catch-up time for vine and grape growth. We also dealt with only a moderately warm summer, a bit of drought in August, and lots of rain this Fall. These kinds of challenges in the vineyard always make it interesting for the winemaker. That is why I look forward to each vintage year and the difference I can make along the way in the vineyard and in the final wine making process. Having total control of what goes on in the vineyard and having a hands on approach in making all our wines gives me an advantage that shows well in your wine glass. That is what making small batch “artisan” wine is all about.

The 2019 harvest takes place in late October, two to three weeks later than last year. Harvesting that late is always a gamble against early frosts and winter setting in sooner than expected. The reward can be lush ripe grapes that need little extra attention to make great wines. This year I am ready to take that gamble. You will be able to taste the results in Spring 2020.

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