Not far from Forty-Five North, you’ll find Ciccone Vineyards. Tony and Joan Ciccone started planting vines in 1995 — by hand, a true labor of love. These two are passionate about making wine (can you see the trend going on up here?).Tony says its in his DNA as a son in an Italian family who — like many Italians of that time — made wine in the basement for personal consumption. Tony did so like his father before him.
At 84, his enthusiasm has not faded. After raising eight kids, you might think you’d find these two sailing the shores of Lake Michigan, feet up and wine in hand, instead of under their fingernails, so to speak. But no. While this scene, they admit, is tempting, working hard for something they love — like this land — is where it is at for them. “If it’s in your blood to work hard,” he warns me, “you won’t stop. It’s what you love.”
I just hope at 84 I’m still putting the brush to canvas as well as Tony still makes wine. He is training his daughter, Paula, and son, Mario, to take over someday. Paula is the assistant winemaker, and Tony even admits sometimes she knows best — a good sign for the future of Ciccone. One thing is for sure, tradition and love and history are deeply steeped at this vineyard, like at so many along the trail. I could stay and talk all day, but I do have a job to do, so I reluctantly leave Tony and Joan to their work.
While I explore the property looking for a place to paint, I could have chosen many spots, but when the view of East Grand Traverse Bay — vines in the foreground, Power Island in the background — unfolded before me, up went my easel. I would have stayed into the night had the rains not come. The view was so lovely, I even painted through the drizzle until the rain began to wash away my painting and, with a sigh, I called it a day!
Stay tuned for more adventures from Project 24!