Winin’ and Dinin’ at Pere Marquette


GRAFTON — For those who are not sure whether it’s a Cabernet Sauvignon or a Pinot Noir that goes best with a filet mignon, or a Chardonnay that brings out the flavor of pan-seared salmon, Pere Marquette Lodge’s Gourmet Wine Dinners offers a chance for a little education.

Originally established in 2007, the monthly “wine and dine” in the lodge dining room features good food, good wine and great conversation.

Leslie Franklin, director of marketing and events at Pere Marquette, said it might be a specific ingredient that is central to the dinner, such as apple, coconut or strawberries; or it might focus on a country such as Germany, Morocco, Ireland or Thailand.

Chef Mike Westerfeld, who is also the general manager at the lodge, uses his creative expertise to prepare dishes based on the chosen theme for the evening.

Ted Fuehne, of Southern Wine and Spirits, pairs three perfect specialty wines for the four courses and explains why he made the specific choices.

He explains how each wine’s flavor works with particular dishes, and talks about how the wine works with the food to bring out the flavor of both, indicating how subtle notes work with each specific dish.

“Ted is always happy to answer questions about the wines,” Franklin said. “Some of the guests are often wine connoisseurs themselves, and they help others to learn even more about wine.”

Held the third Wednesday of selected months, the Gourmet Wine Dinner has the feel of an intimate dinner party. Soft candlelight sets the scene for conversation and new friendships.

“We have people from all over the country who come to stay overnight, and they often go to the wine dinners,” Franklin said. “Then there are people from the local region who come every month, some who come occasionally, or it might be their first time.

“There’s an opportunity to meet all kinds of people, and it’s always fun,” she said.

The dinner generally lasts for about two hours. The evening begins with soup or salad, followed by an appetizer and entree, and finished off with a scrumptious dessert.

But Franklin said guests often sit and talk for hours afterward. The lodge great room is open to the public 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and couples or small groups will sometimes drift into the seating around the fireplace, sip wine and talk the evening away.

“I see their faces. Sometimes they’re surprised, and they’re always excited about what our chef comes up with,” Franklin said. “Everyone talks about the food and wine, and I am asked to go to the kitchen and extend compliments to the chef time and time again. It’s great.”

Other past dinners have included wild game, maple, bacon, peppercorn and chocolate. One month, the theme was flowers, and Chef Mike included dishes with different types of edible flowers.

“It’s always something special, and gives guests the chance to experience something different and imaginative,” Franklin said.

Call (618) 786-2331 for more information or to make a reservation for the dinner or overnight stay. Mary Michelle Winery is located in Carrollton, and features a wine tasting room in the lodge. Wine Club membership is a one-time lifetime membership fee of $20. Wine Club members receive a 10 percent discount on the Gourmet Wine Dinner, lodging, gift shop purchases and wine case purchases.