My husband and I spent Labor Day meandering our way home from Kalamazoo, MI where we'd spent the weekend helping friends get settled in their new home. With adventurous spirits and no agenda or time restraints, we ventured off the highway at several different exits, bent on exploring and celebrating the beginning of autumn.
At our first stop we enjoyed free tastings at two different wineries (the second included a tour also). From the first we selected a bottle of red currant wine. We walked away from the second (a little unsteadily...that was quite a bit of wine before lunch!) with a bottle of concord dessert wine. Thankfully, there was an Irish pub right across the street where we steadied ourselves with a very-non-Irish but delicious chicken pesto pizza. After that it was back to the highway.
Several more miles down the road we pulled off I-94 at Exit 39 (Coloma, MI), which turned out to be a wonderful decision. First we visited The Chocolate Garden, which is heavily promoted by billboards on 94. We weren't impressed and declared it overrated. Next we visited Grandpa's Cider Mill, where we bellied up to the bar for another free tasting; this time, the offering was custom-mixed cider, available in over 25 flavors! We tried probably 12-15 flavors before deciding on peach, amaretto, and horchata for pints to purchase and take home. Since by that point we'd pretty much established that the whole day would be one big sugar fest, we picked up pumpkin and blueberry donuts as well.
We continued down the road and stopped at Vineyards Gourmet Chocolate--unadvertised, but vastly superior (in our opinion) to The Chocolate Garden. It's a family owned shop (dad, mom, and son were all there working, and friendly as could be) and they had a wonderful selection of chocolates, candies, and fudge. After more sampling, we each decided on a sliver of fudge to take with us: maple walnut for Travis, and Pumpkin Pie for me. This shop also had decor items for sale, and we decided one of the Amish-made wooden signs belonged in our home:
Since we'd had such a great time picking blueberries earlier in the summer, we were hoping to find a fruit farm where we could do some more picking. Enter Jollay Orchards, where we quickly picked a bushel of apples (Gala, McIntosh, and Cortland) for 89 cents per pound.
We rounded out our trip home with some shopping at the Lighthouse Place Premium Outlets in Michigan City, IN. I was on the lookout for a celebratory "Welcome Autumn" sweater or jacket. Travis helped me pick out a cozy zip-up jacket in deep eggplant at Gap.