With the planting of the first wine grapes in northern Michigan’s Old Mission Peninsula back in 1974, Ed O’Keefe Jr. drew much criticism and stirred a controversy about the region’s suitability to wine growing. With the guidance of some of Europe’s foremost experts, he had selected a plot of land perched on a hilltop that offered a perfect combination of bright sunlight, excellent drainage, and the temperature moderating effect of Grand Traverse bay. This location, planted with carefully selected European varietals has proven that northern Michigan can produce wines of exceptional quality, a fact that Chateau Grand Traverse has demonstrated for over 4 decades with a broad selection of fine wines including some really outstanding Rieslings.
The tasting room is a large, lodge inspired space with a long tasting bar that can accommodate many guests with a friendly and knowledgeable staff who provide excellent guidance as they lead them through the extensive wine list. Of the dozen or so wines that I tasted, all European styles with a German influence, three Rieslings stood out as particularly good; a dry, a semi-dry, and a late-harvest Riesling that took me back to the wine village of southern Germany that we used to call home.
Dry Riesling – A classic-style dry Riesling, with crisp flavors of green apple and honeycomb. This expressive dry white wine is crisp, fruity and fresh. Its assertive and clean style is an ideal match for most seafood, shellfish, or delicate cream sauce.
Semi-Dry Riesling – A Semi-dry crisp white wine with medium sweetness flavors of citrus and fresh fruit abound, balanced with crisp acidity and a lasting finish. From the basic stir fry, barbecue, or even Indian chutney, the fruit undertones will enhance a broad range of the most unique meals. Serve slightly chilled.
Late Harvest Riesling – A sweeter style Riesling with rich flavors of crisp citrus and wonderful acidity. This exceptional Late Harvest Riesling from Michigan abounds with dazzling fruit and crisp citrus flavors balanced with a naturally sweet finish. This after-dinner wine pairs perfectly with cheese and fruit as well as roast pork, glazed ham, poultry, or most barbecued fare.
The Bed & Breakfast
Nestled in a wooded area overlooking the extensive 120+ acre vineyard is the Inn at Chateau Grand Traverse, a luxuriously appointed, cozy yet modern 6-room guest house that offers wine travelers a quiet, comfortable, and elegant accommodation among the vines. Each room offers a private terrace and is the perfect place to enjoy a bottle of wine while enjoying the vineyard ambiance. With extensive common areas including amenities such as fitness center with sauna, large, comfortable seating areas with large screen televisions and an elegant dining area, the Inn is ideal for hosting private events. Each morning the self-serve breakfast room is stocked with a selection of fresh fruits, baked goods, quiche, yogurt, gourmet coffee, and everything else you need to start the day.
Though many consider the Michigan wine trail a warm weather attraction, the winters up here are equally beautiful. After all of the grapes have been harvested and the vines are bare, the legendary annual snowfall transforms northern Michigan into an exciting destination for downhill and cross-country skiing; while the tasting room at Chateau Grand Traverse with a fireplace blazing is open to wine tourists offering seasonal hot mulled fruit wines to ward off the winter chill.
The Chateau Grand Traverse (231/223-7355) located at 12239 Center Road, Old Mission Peninsula, produces award-winning Riesling, Chardonnay and Gamay. The tasting room is open Monday to Saturday 10am to 5pm and Sunday noon to 5pm.