Wine cruises: Where wine and water can mix beautifully

With access to five Great Lakes and countless smaller lakes and rivers, is it any wonder that cruising and sailing are popular activities in this part of the country? Now, add a glass of wine or a complete wine-tasting to that cruise, and you have the perfect activity for those long summer days – and nights. Sip a Merlot, Chardonnay or other favorite as you sail Lake Erie, the Cuyahoga River, Lake Michigan, the Finger Lakes or the Chicago River. Take your pick from the options listed here:

A sunset to remember
Watching the sun set over Lake Erie is that much better when you’re out on the lake sipping some local wine. Sandusky-based Goodtime I offers a Wine Tasting Sunset Cruise on Lake Erie and Sandusky Bay several times throughout the summer. The two-and-a-half hour cruise will introduce you to a selection of Ohio wines followed by a four-course dinner. Cruise, dinner and tasting is $45 per person and includes a souvenir wine glass.

End-of-the-week cruise
Want to celebrate TGIF? Then head to the West Bank of the Flats in downtown Cleveland and hop aboard the Nautica Queen for its weekly Friday evening “Wine on the Water Dinner Cruise.” You’ll sail the Cuyahoga River while sampling an assortment of wine (it varies from cruise to cruise), a buffet dinner and entertainment – as well as those fabulous views of Cleveland you can only see from the water. Once you’re back on land, why not explore Ohio City, one of Cleveland’s hottest spots for night life. What a way to head into the weekend! Packages include the wine tasting, dinner and entertainment for $45 a person.

Tall ships and wine
Head north to Michigan for a romantic evening sipping wine beneath the billowing sails of a tall ship. The Traverse City-based Schooner Manitou, a replica of the kind of “coasting” cargo schooner that sailed the Great Lakes and the Atlantic Ocean in the 1800s, is one of the largest sailing vessels on the Great Lakes today – and, luckily, it offers a twice-weekly wine cruise. You’ll depart from downtown Traverse City and sail out into beautiful Grand Traverse Bay. The area is home to a number of wineries, so the wine you’ll sample will be local. On Tuesday nights, the cruise features wines from Leelanau Cellars; on Thursdays, the wine is from Left Foot Charley. Food is Mediterranean-style and comes from local caterer Silver Swan Homemade Foods. Price of the cruise is $60. And if you’re still in the area on Sunday, don’t miss the microbrew cruise, which offers a hosted tasting of beers from Traverse City’s own Short’s Brewing Company, as well as pizza from local pizza shop Crusted Creations. Cost of the microbrew cruise is $55.

Historic architecture
Chicago may be the Windy City, but it’s also home to some amazing architecture, which may explain why Wendella Boats offers an architectural tour among its array of cruise packages. Now add wine to that package, and you have Wendell’s “Wine and Wave” Tours, which leave from its own dock at 400 North Michigan Avenue, and makes its way up the Chicago River. The two-hour tour offers commentary on the passing architecture, as well as wine samples from Chicago retailer Kafka Wine Company. There is food, too, of course – from Buca di Beppo. Cost is $59 per person.

Wine and women
New York’s Finger Lakes region is, of course, fabulous wine country with scores of boutique wineries producing award-winning wines. But ladies – you’ll want to head toward Seneca Lake on a Thursday evening to experience Finger Lakes wine in a whole new way. That’s when the Rose Lummis slips from its port in Geneva and takes off on Seneca Lake for its “Wine-ing Women” cruise. Cheese and crackers are served along with the wine tasting – and the package costs $35 a person. Of course, men are invited along as well. If you prefer to gather your own group for a wine-tasting tour, the Rose Lummis is happy to accommodate you – and you can opt to cruise the Erie Canal if you prefer. Contact the company and they’ll set it up for you.

A winery crawl
Rather than enjoy your wine on a cruise, you can always cruise to a winery and enjoy your wine on dry land. School’s Out Charters offers small group tours to the wineries around Cayuga Lake, one of New York’s Finger Lakes. The excursion can include trips to any of the following wineries: Sheldrake Point, Thirsty Owl Wine Company, Goose Watch , Lakeshore Winery, Buttonwood Grove, Long Point, Bet the Farm, and Cayuga Ridge. The six-hour wine cruises (11:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m.) are $109 per person, $199 per couple.

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Our goal is to educate, in a reader-friendly fashion, and take the intimidation out of wine, beer and spirits in order to enhance its enjoyment.


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