Ours and Theirs: Old Mission Peninsula

OMP winemakers, winery owners weigh in on ‘must-try’ wines

In the latest edition of our “Ours and Theirs” series, we’ve asked winemakers and winery representatives from northern Michigan’s Old Mission Peninsula to weigh in on which of their wines they consider the standout from their own portfolios, as well as a wine they would highly recommend from one of their neighboring wineries.

Located near Traverse City, the Old Mission Peninsula is home to nine wineries: 2 Lads, Black Star Farms-Old Mission (their main estate is on Leelanau Peninsula), Bowers Harbor Vineyards, Brys Estate Vineyard & Winery, Chateau Chantal, Chateau Grand Traverse, Hawthorne Vineyards, Peninsula Cellars, and the newly opened Bonobo Winery. A tasting room for another OMP winery, Villa Mari, is in the works, though the winery’s products have been available at local wine shops and select restaurants for a few years.


Marie-Chantal Dalese, CEO, Chateau Chantal

Ours: Two of my favorite wines at Chateau Chantal are the Proprietor’s Reserve Chardonnay and Proprietor’s Reserve Pinot Gris. Since we’re sold out of the Chardonnay for a while, I’ll talk about the Pinot Gris. Made in a more Alsatian style of the Pinot Grigio grape, our Gris comes from our original 1986 estate planting and is fermented and aged in neutral oak barrels for a round mouthfeel and complex finish. Depending on the vintage year, the wine can display a tropical fruit cocktail of lime, tangerine, mango, to melon and green apple. What I particularly enjoy is the more rounded, lush mouthfeel, giving the wine a medium body.

Theirs: Let it be known that I thoroughly enjoy wine from all of the OMP wineries, and to choose a favorite is near impossible. One wine I do enjoy is the 2012 2 Lads Cabernet Franc. 2012 was a great vintage on OMP; we were able to enjoy a long, warm summer that made a nice ripe vintage. I’ve enjoyed 2 Lads Cab Franc since moving back to TC in 2009. It’s a complex wine with lots of red fruits, smooth texture, and spice components, depending on the vintage. My first experience with the wine was on a boat in West Bay, paired with a dark chocolate brownie — not a bad experience!


John Kroupa, winemaker/owner, Peninsula Cellars

Ours: The 2012 Hogsback Vineyard Merlot/Cabernet Franc. A must try because it has always been a good wine in my opinion, but has really developed a depth of character in the last couple of months that is surprising. The dark fruit flavors are richer and the tannin structure is more velvety.

Theirs: 2 Lads 2012 Pinot Noir D. Cuvee. I’m usually not a fan of Pinot Noir, but the 2 Lads version is an exception that I’m happy to make. Great balance and complexity of flavors, rich and dark, make this much more than just a glass of red wine: This is an experience. My hats off to the Lads on this one.


Kristy McClellan, director of operations, Bowers Harbor Vineyards

Ours: Pinot Grigio. Our Pinot Grigio is our No. 1 selling wine. We were the first to make a Pinot Grigio in the state of Michigan and are committed to producing the highest and most consistent quality Pinot Grigio every year. By picking the grapes a little early, we utilize the bright acidity, creating explosive, expressive tropical flavors of pineapple and grapefruit. Because of the bright fruit and crisp clean finish, this wine pleases a variety of palates and is wonderful to serve for large parties and celebrations.

Theirs: 2 Lads Sparkling Pinot Grigio. 2 Lads also celebrates the northern Michigan climate for growing Pinot Grigio with a sparkling version, the Sparkling Pinot Grigio. This style is very lively and effervescent. Because they are dedicated to the traditional method of making sparkling wines, you will enjoy both the bright fruit up front and a nutty complexity on the finish.


Lee Lutes, winemaker/managing member at Black Star Farms

Ours: From the Old Mission Peninsula location of Black Star Farms, and with one of the OMP vineyards as the source, I would suggest that serious wine people should try our 2013 Arcturos Grüner Veltliner. This is a little-known variety from Austria, and it’s always fun to discover new varieties. For the dry white wine consumer, there is so much in this wine that will make you smile — fruit-driven aromatics, spicy nuances on the nose and palate, an exotic herbaceous-ness that adds to the complexity, balance, and acidity that makes it perfect with food, and a finish that has you yearning for more! It’s a variety that is relatively new to the region, but is sure to find a solid foothold in our production well into the future.

Theirs: As for another winery recommendation, I would suggest that if you haven’t had it recently, then you must try Chateau Grand Traverse 2011 Gamay — not the reserve, but just the straight Gamay (the reserve is very good as well, but for purity of variety, this is my personal preference). I believe this to be one of the finest red wines grown and made on Old Mission, and is a wine that is inspiring many of us to re-evaluate our own interest in this variety. It is bright with juicy fresh fruit on the nose and palate, has great spice that naturally occurs in this variety, and has that perfect balance of weight and vibrancy that makes it so good at the table. We may never be known for making big “fruit-bomb”-style reds, but when you taste this Gamay, my notion is to think, “Who cares, when we produce wines like this?”


Jan Van Maanen, tasting room manager at Hawthorne Vineyards

Ours: If I had to pick just one wine from Hawthorne Vineyards, it would be a very difficult task! However, since this is the task at hand, I would highly recommend our 2012 Cab Franc/Merlot. This is a luscious Bordeaux blend, displaying aromas of tobacco, plum, and red berries. On the palate, it’s very smooth and well rounded with softer tannins. “Jammy” would be a good descriptor for this wine. It’s certainly drinkable right now; however, it will become more complex with age.

Theirs: A wine I would pick from another winery on OMP would be 2 Lads Sparkling Pinot Grigio. I am a “bubblehead” at heart and also enjoy Pinot Grigio. This bottle of sparkling wine is the best of both worlds for me. It’s a fresh, crisp, dry wine that tastes great any time of the day or any time of the year. All I can say is, “Cheers!”


Patrick Brys, director of operations at Brys Estate Vineyard & Winery

Ours: For Brys Estate, I would recommend our 2012 Cabernet Franc. This wine showcases our dedication to producing world-class red wines, and with its list of awards and accolades, this wine proves that red wines from northern Michigan can compete on an international scale. Complex dark cherry and berry flavors complement red meats —  especially seasonal game.

Theirs: Since we are talking red wines, I would suggest trying the 2012 2896 Langley from Bowers Harbor Vineyards. This wine is rich and powerful. It is another example of the exceptional reds being produced on Old Mission Peninsula.

Cortney Casey is a certified sommelier and co-founder of MichiganByTheBottle.com, a website and online community that promotes the entire Michigan wine industry. She’s also co-owner of Michigan By The Bottle Tasting Room, joint offsite tasting rooms in partnership with multiple Michigan wineries, located in Shelby Township and Royal Oak. Contact her at cort@michiganbythebottle.com.