Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Four Takeaways from Unified Wine and Grape Symposium

What can I say, I'm a sucker for a trade show.  Events where exhibitors and merchants gather, walk the aisles to buy, sell or swap stories. It's an environment I've enjoyed from my earliest days in business.  After hearing about it for years, I finally ventured up to Sacramento, California's State Capital, to visit the Unified Wine and Grape Symposium, the largest wine industry trade show in North America.  

700 Exhibitors and 14,000 attendees took over downtown Sacramento's Convention Center January 24-26 and there was much for the eye to behold.
2 minute video at Unified

Here's a list of four takeaways from this year's event by a first time visitor:

New Wine Regions Discovered

There were two wine regions in attendance that were unfamiliar to me.  Although I've known there is wine being produced in all 50 states in the U.S. I didn't know that Arizona is gaining some momentum with their wine production.  Enough so that they poured samples of Arizona wines during a regional wine tasting.  Arizona was the only place outside of California represented in the regional wine tasting.  Quite good, I thought.  Hints of cactus and red rock...

Wines from Arizona

There were also some attendees from an emerging wine region in Mexico.  I'd been told that I need to investigate Mexico further so it was nice to meeting some folks attending from the Baja wine region.  It's only about an hour and a half from the California border, I learned from Demian Sandoval and his family of wine partners, including his sister Ivonne.  The Guadalupe Valley in Mexico is where visitors are starting to come for a wine country escape and I hear it's lovely.  

Representing Wines of Mexico

 Sustainability has Arrived as a Movement

 Sonoma County, California is leading the movement on Sustainability in what has become a statewide initiative for the California Winegrape Growers and the Wine Institute.  Sustainable winegrowing is a comprehensive set of practices that are environmentally sound, socially equitable and economically viable.  In the coming years, wineries who meet the criteria will be able to identify their bottles as sustainable with a new symbol which was unveiled at the symposium by Karissa  Kruse of the Sonoma Winegrape Growers where 85% of the vineyards have already achieved this designation.    The research is bearing out that consumers will be more likely to purchase wines that meet this criteria.

The new Sustainability Logo for California 

 Wine and Viticulture Technology Advances

You could find anything you need from vineyard management, to corks to bottles to custom crush wine making at this conference.  However, it's been told to me that one of the reasons the quality of wine making in the New World regions, such as California, has improved so quickly is because of constant improvement in wine making technology. This can range from analyzing vineyards with drones, to devices that more accurately measure the proper levels of chemicals that make a wine taste better.  Lots of friendly representatives were available to show the new ways of the world.

Airstrike Bird Control
Rack & Riddle Custom Wine Services
Allary Cooperage from France
Pouring Santa Cruz Wines
Amorim Cork America

After Party by Toneleria from Chile


Sacramento is an ideal location for this major wine industry show due to it's proximity to the Northern California wine regions in easy driving distance.  However, there are 14,000 people attending this show and Sacramento only has 2,000 hotel rooms downtown adjacent to the convention center.  The exhibit halls were filled to the brim and a rooftop area was covered with a tent to accommodate some of the overflow exhibitors.  The center is just a block away from the State Capitol Building and an easy ride to popular attractions such as Old Sacramento.  Local news media was reporting about the possibility of moving the city's premier industry trade show of the year which fills the hotels, restaurants and bars with guests for several days each year.  However, the show is already showing that it is booked in the "City of Trees" in 2018.

Old Sacramento or "Old Sac" as the locals say
Delta King Riverboat Hotel 

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Wine Country Enjoyed in Texas

Story by Dan Weldy, Director, The Wine Traveler
This is a longer version of an article also published by United Airlines Rhapsody magazine

It was a quiet Monday morning in Fredericksburg, Texas just before noon the day after the big crowds of weekend tourists had gone home.  Yet, there was a couple from Maryland in the tasting room of Lost Draw Cellars enjoying a wine tasting served by the owner Andrew Sides.  The visitors were on a four- week driving tour of Texas and they heard there were wineries in this part of the state so they added Fredericksburg to their route.  Ordering wines to be shipped home, they seemed pleased with the Texas wines they tasted and being in the company of the owner-winemaker.

In his tasting room just a block off downtown Fredericksburg, Andrew described how he shares ownership of a small plane with other wineries in the region so that they can fly back-and-forth to the High Plains of West Texas to tend to their vineyards, a one hour flight to avoid the lonesome four hour drive.  While there are vineyards in the general vicinity of Fredericksburg, the rural High Plains around Lubbock is where they are cultivating most of the vineyards, he explained. 

Lost Draw Cellars Vineyards in West Texas
Texas Hills Sangiovese 

The discovery of Fredericksburg and Texas Hill Country as a winery destination is fairly recent for people from outside the state and the country.  However, Texans have been coming to Fredericksburg as a weekend getaway for decades. The arrival of wineries in this region over the last twenty years has made the experience all the more enjoyable, attracting a new group of visitors who seek out places where local food and wine can be explored and enjoyed.

Fredericksburg is an old town founded by German settlers in the 1840’s.  In the next century it became popular with tourists for its German heritage, unique shops, natural beauty and a reputation as the “Peach Capital of Texas.”  Now they have cool wineries, art galleries and farm to table restaurants too. Willkommen signs still greet people as they roll into this small town with 11,000 residents. Several long standing German Restaurants downtown still prepare weiner schnitzel, bratwurst, danishes and other Bavarian dishes.  There is an annual Kielbasa Festival in October so the German heritage is alive and well. 

Octoberfest in Fredericksburg

The Wineries

Fredericksburg is in the heart of Texas Hill Country, a region that is now home to about fifty wineries. 

One of the pioneers of this emerging wine region is Gary Gilstrap, owner and winemaker at TexasHills Vineyard, started with their first vineyards in 1995 and known today as the largest winery that only uses Texas grapes.  Before he opened his winery, Gilstrap was a pharmacist, chemist, software engineer and inventor. As wineries began to become established around Fredericksburg in 1999, he invited about a dozen of his neighboring wineries to a potluck dinner where they decided to form Fredericksburg Wine Road 290Today, Wine Road 290 is a 30 mile stretch of highway that runs from Johnson City to downtown Fredericksburg and just beyond.  “It was a meat and potatoes start,” says Gilstrap. 
Texas Hills Kick Butt Cab

There are now 15 wineries along Wine Road 290 including Grape Greek Vineyards, a beautiful estate that evokes whispers of “Tuscany in Texas.”  Owner Brian Heith and his team have cultivated a following of wine club members and regular visitors who are so passionate that wines are sold only through the winery.  Their guided tours on a tram through the vineyards and winery are popular. 

Grape Creek Vineyards patio
Grape Creek Tram for touring

Becker Vineyards was founded by Dr. Richard Becker, a surgeon in San Antonio and his wife Bunny.  Established in 1992, Becker is one of the original four wineries in Fredericksburg and today they are among the best known and highly respected brands in the state of Texas. 

Richard and Bunny Becker, founders of Becker Vineyards

 Fat Ass Ranch and Winery is a new cult winery popular with millennials.  The tasting room is decorated with repurposed farm equipment, implements and even silos (as bathrooms) offering a one of a kind atmosphere.  In harmony with the region’s heritage for peaches, their Peach Wine is most popular. 

Fat Ass Ranch and Winery selections

Wineries have also been established in small towns closer to the state capital of Austin, in little towns such as Spicewood, Driftwood and Dripping Springs.  Duchman Family Winery offers a gorgeous property in Driftwood and is one of a group of five wineries now gaining recognition for making exceptional wines from Texas Grapes. 

Texas Fine Wine at Cabernet Grill

The Accommodations
There are many hotel options in Fredericksburg but one of the most unique is the Hangar Hotel located adjacent to the local airport.  Built in 2004, the property has fifty guest rooms within a WWII military hangar overlooking the runway.  A vintage 1940s classic diner, 8000 square foot conference center with an old theater marquee to announce arriving parties, and the Officer’s Club Bar allow guests to step back in time. 

The Hangar Hotel with fifty luxury guest rooms

Most notably, Fredericksburg now offers over 900 guest houses and bed and breakfasts, ranging from private log homes to private cottages.  These accommodations are found in town or in the country and are most often sold out on the weekends.  Mid-week visits are recommended for a slower pace. 

Texas Cuisine and Culture

Fredericksburg boasts many dining options from Tex-Mex favorites to international cuisine.  Old German Bakery offers Bavarian specialties, one of several classic German restaurants downtown.  Otto’s offers new American cuisine with a German flair.  Burger Burger is an independently owned restaurant that the locals recommend for a burger fix and music on the patio.  

CabernetGrill is casual fine dining set on beautifully landscaped grounds with lodging on the property.  Cabernet Grill Owner, Ross Burtwell changed to a Texas-only wine list recently.  Wine sales at the restaurant went up by 30%, he says. 

Fredericksburg has a wealth of high end art galleries.  Enjoy a stroll with a glass of wine to view bronze sculptures, paintings, wood works, photography, antiques, and jewelry, featuring both Texas and national artists.

Twenty art galleries are found in downtown Fredericksburg

Former U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson and famed WWII Admiral Nimitz are natives of this area. The Lyndon B. Johnson State and National Historical Parks and the National Museum of the Pacific War are popular educational attractions in their honor.

Luckenbach, established in 1849 is a short drive outside of Fredericksburg where at one o’clock, seven days a week folks can gather to hear live music and enjoy a truly Texas experience with a bottle of beer or a glass of wine, amongst the chickens and roosters who roam freely on the grounds. Operations Manager Bobbie McDaniel says the dance hall is rented for everything from Texas Two-Step gatherings to line dancing clubs on holiday from Germany. 

As an emerging wine region, Fredericksburg and Texas Hill Country will continue to grow.  The Texas Wine & Grape Growers Association reports 7,000 acres planted in Texas vineyards today which ranks in the top five of the U.S. states.  What’s astounding is that the acreage has grown 200% over a two year period, according to Executive Director, Debbie Reynolds. 

Barrel tasting at Becker Vineyards

“The fact that these wineries have clustered make it convenient and easy for people to tour wineries,” says Fredericksburg Convention and Visitors Bureau President and CEO, Ernie Loeffler.  “Being in easy driving distance to 20 million people in Texas makes this a popular destination,” he says.  While Texans from Houston, Dallas, Fort Worth, Austin, and San Antonio are regular visitors who arrive by automobile, those from further away can find air travel with international airports in Austin AUS and San Antonio SAT. Both provide excellent service with Texas-based Southwest and American Airlines as well as United and Delta. 

Fredericksburg has a reputation as a good place to come and have a good time. The wine country destinations are only broadening that appeal. 

Fredericksburg Food and Wine Festival

Photo credits:  Steve Rawls, Jonathan Bedford, Robbyn Dodd, Julia Ermlich, Claire McCormack

Story posted following a Wine Traveler visit to Fredericksburg, OCT 30-NOV 3, 2016

Monday, August 1, 2016

The Heart of Washington Wine Country

The Heart of Washington Wine Country

 Thirty years ago there were fewer than 100 wineries in Washington. Today there are more than 900.  Washington is the second largest wine producing region in America after California.  The Heart of Washington Wine Country is found 150 miles east of Seattle in Tri-Cities, named after the towns of Kennewick, Pasco and Richland.

There are 200 wineries within a one hour drive of Tri-Cities.  This is a prime agricultural region near the Columbia River, with potatoes, blueberries, apples, hops, and wine grapes among the 45 different local crops.

Red Mountain, Horse Heaven Hills, Columbia Valley, and Yakima Valley are the viticulture areas around Tri Cities which have garnered international acclaim.  The region gets 300 days of sunshine a year, perfect for wine grapes and highly popular with people from Metro Seattle who come for a weekend escape.

Wine Traveler Favorites

Maryhill Winery

 "It’s hard to wrap your mind around the beautiful view,” says owner Craig Neuhold.  Craig and his wife Vicki will celebrate the 15th anniversary of Maryhill Winery in the summer of 2016.   

Family-owned and operated, Maryhill is a favorite of the Pacific Northwest.  Enjoy spectacular views, tasting room, gift shop, world-class concerts in a 4,000 seat amphitheater, and live music on the vine-covered terrace all summer. Taste over 50 wines that have earned more than 3,000 awards, including 2015 Pacific Northwest Winery of the Year from Wine Press Northwest. Maryhill wines are a true testament to the quality and diversity of the state.

Milbrandt Vineyard 

Milbrandt Vineyards was founded in 1997 by Washington wine pioneers Butch and Jerry Milbrandt. Owning and operating their own vineyards as well as the winery, they helped establish two of the top AVAs in the state: Ancient Lakes and Wahluke Slope. Their Evergreen Vineyard has consistently produced 90-point wines with the guided talents of Cornell graduate and winemaker Joshua Maloney. The award-winning tasting room in Prosser is open seven days a week and offers seated tastings and patio parties.
Brothers Butch and Jerry Milbrandt are pioneers of the Columbia Valley wine regions. Butch started cooking in the military 50 years ago and today is known as an ace at pairing food and wine.  You can even watch Milbrandt Vineyards’ originally branded recipe show called Pair This on the winery’s website.
Their tasting room is in Prosser’s Vintners Village, home to 10 unique wineries.

J. Bookwalter Winery

Owner-Winemaker John Bookwalter has taken his family name to make a perfect pairing between wine and literature.

The winery’s flagship tasting room in Richland, named one of the best tasting rooms in the United States by Sunset magazine, now includes a full-service restaurant, Fiction. In the category of “winery restaurants,” Fiction is often mentioned as one of the finest in the country. J. Bookwalter also operates an attractive, modern tasting studio in Woodinville in suburban Seattle.

With literary brand names on the label such as Antagonist Syrah and Subplot 31, Bookwalter wines keep connoisseurs deeply involved from beginning to end like a good book.  For those who like Cabernet Sauvignon, the flagship Protagonist is not be missed with 91% premium cabernet and 9% Syrah in a supporting role.

J. Bookwalter has grown from one of Washington’s oldest wineries into one of the Pacific Northwest’s most recognized boutique wine brands, relying on exceptional vineyard sources and meticulous winemaking to produce some of the world’s finest wines.

Tourists Welcome

The region is well known for local wineries, expanding craft beer offerings, wide open spaces, and the new arrival of legal cannabis.  It also should be recognized for its friendliness.  This is not a place where you find pretentious people.  It’s a place here the local residents welcome visitors.  They are just glad that someone took the time and trouble to come visit them out in the country, I think. 

“Our region has become popular with tourists who come not only to enjoy the wines, but meet with the owners, experience a walk through the vineyards and learn about the industry,” says Visit Tri-Cities President Kris Watkins. 

There are many opportunities to explore the outdoors between winery visits.  Go horseback riding with Red Mountain Trails, stroll to ten wineries clustered together at Vintner’s Village in Prosser, or enjoy desert beauty with Columbia Kayak Adventures. Walk the 23-mile continuous riverfront path along the Columbia River, known as Sacagawea Heritage Trail

Two major additions have come to the area in the last couple years. The Clore Center welcomes you with an operating tasting room with $5 wine tastings featuring a different region each month.  The wine education is casual.  “It’s learning a little with a glass of wine in your hand,” says Executive Director Abbey Cameron. 

Ste. Michelle Wine Estates WSU Wine Science Center opened in 2015 in Tri-Cities, expanding Washington State University’s highly esteemed program in viticulture and enology.  WSU is known as one of the “Big Four” in U.S. schools for learning how to grow vineyards and produce wine at the highest level. 

Fly into wine country to Tri Cities Airport in Pasco, an expanding regional airport just a short, one-hour flight from Seattle. The airport has many connections from airports in the western United States.  Some of the airlines allow you to check through cases of wines for free. 

A visit to Tri-Cities and the surrounding wineries enlivens the senses, captures your heart and makes you long for the day when you can plan another visit.

 CAPTIONS (from top):  Red Mountain, one of America's most widely respected wine growing regions;  Summer concerts at Maryhill Winery;  Milbrandt Vineyards tasting room at Vintner's Village in Prosser;  The tasting room and Fiction Restaurant at J. Bookwalter Wines;  Grape stomp in Tri-Cities wine country; St. Michelle Wine Estates WSU Wine Science Center;  Hot Air Balloon Festival provides views of wine country

Republished and expanded from Delta Sky, May 2016, The Wine Traveler 

Friday, July 1, 2016

A Toast to the Central Coast of California



The drive between Los Angeles and San Francisco is about 7 hours.  In between these cities, lies one of the most beautiful stretches of wine country that you can find in the world.  The gateway to central coast wine country is the Pacific Coast Highway (ocean side) or “the 101" (inland) as it’s called in these parts.  If you find serenity in wine country the scenic wine trails in Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo and Monterey counties are well worth exploring.

Pick a month, any month to tour wine country on the Central Coast.  The weather doesn't change much all four seasons except for high heat in the summers where the Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfindel thrive.  It's always a good time to set out and visit.  Central coast wine country destinations continue to gain notoriety around the world, becoming one of the Golden State’s most popular tourism destinations with more visitors each year than San Diego, according to Visit California.

Two Nights in Santa Barbara County
It seems to me that most people outside the state seem to know four places in California:  Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego and Santa Barbara.  Santa Barbara is called the “American Riviera” where cruise ships disembark and tourists come for the beachside resort community.

 Not everyone seems to know that 45 minutes north of Santa Barbara, wine country begins with the Santa Ynez Valley.  Miles and miles of vineyards come into view for another five hours of cruising on this highway, along with rolling mountain ranges and coastal views. 

There are five wine trails in Santa Barbara County, home to over 170 wineries.  I have often visited, the Foxen Canyon Wine Trail which takes you out of the city and deep into wine country with exceptional tasting rooms. 

 The region has become a famous for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay wines. However as one of the coolest wine growing regions in California, over 20 different types of wine grapes are cultivated here.  The Wine Ghetto in Lompoc and the Funk Zone in Santa Barbara have popped up in recent years to give visitors a unique wine tasting experience.

Santa Barbara offers a full range of hotels and accommodations to fit any travel lifestyle.  You can venture into small wine country inns such as the Fess Parker Inn in Los Olivos or the Santa Ynez Inn.  The quaint towns of Santa Maria, Buellton, and Solvang can be relaxing overnight stopovers with wine and craft beers native to the region offered to those who are inclined to drink local.   

Two Nights in San Luis Obispo County

SLO County (as you can call it) is the halfway stop between LA and SF.

With more than 280 wineries, it is California’s fastest growing wine region. I have never seen congested traffic when traveling on the wine country roads in SLO County.  That doesn’t mean people aren’t coming.  The tasting rooms are always occupied.  It’s still undiscovered by some measure and frankly it takes a little more effort to reach these beautiful wineries that are about 3 hours from the big cities. 

In the middle of the state, SLO feels like quintessential California. The wineries have prospered located next to one of the most highly regarded wine and viticulture programs in the world at Cal Poly.

SLO Wine near the town of San Luis Obispo is one of the must-see wine trails in America with fewer than 25 wineries.  The wineries boast an average distance of just five miles from the ocean, which in turn yields remarkable wines.  Wineries are on the seafront side of the Santa Lucia mountain range where you can enjoy stunning views from the tasting rooms. 

Traveling north from San Luis Obispo over a mountain pass lies Paso Robles. Paso Robles was discovered as one of the great new wine regions of the world about 40 years ago with soil and climate that is ideal for growing vineyards.   That’s not a secret to wine drinkers in California. Since the region is dominated by boutique wineries, you almost have to come here to taste some of the best wines. 

Popular hotels such as Apple Farm in SLO and La Quinta in Paso Robles act as ambassadors for the region with complimentary wine tastings for guests in the afternoons.  For a true wine country experience, Biddle Ranch and Justin are among the wineries that offer accommodations on their property. 

Two Nights in Monterey County

The first time I visited the coast of Monterey County I could only describe it as Shangri-La.  There are so many places of earthly paradise such as Carmel By-The-Sea, Pebble Beach and Big Sur. The northern most region of the Central Coast, Monterey County attracts visitors for everything from whale watching to golf. Many include trips to some of the 80 wineries in the region.

I chose to have a guided, educational tour, with Ag Venture Tours to learn how Monterey County is known as “America’s Salad Bowl.” A large majority of the salad greens consumed in the U.S. are grown within this region due to the leafy crops which share the land with the vineyards.

Carmel Valley Road takes you to a village that is home to 20 tasting rooms.   Cima Collina, Bernardus and Talbott are but a few.   Farm-to-table restaurants and art galleries enhance the neighborhood.  Carmel-By-The-Sea has luxury inns, art galleries and tasting rooms, all within a short stroll of the coastline.   

Venturing into the vineyards, Hahn Estate provides a stunning view of the Santa Lucia Highlands as you enjoy a glass of Pinot Noir or Chardonnay in their tasting room.   Some of the most well-known wine producers in California, such as J. Lohr got their start in Monterey. 

Just two hours from San Francisco, Monterey is growing in popularity as a first-choice wine country destination for many Bay Area residents. 

90+ scores from wine critics are most common among the cast of wineries along the central coast.  The tasting room fees range from free to $15.  The wines are not the most expensive from California just among the most hard-to-find until you visit. 

You can fly into Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, Santa Maria or Monterey to commercial airports.  I often travel on Amtrak.   Or pack up for a nice, long drive between LA or SF.   Taste and tour for yourself through this prime offering of California's abundant bounty of wine.

CAPTIONS (from top):  Santa Barbara County Vineyards; Santa Ynez Valley in Santa Barbara County; downtown Los Olivos;  Edna Valley along the SLO Wine Trail;  Chamisal on the SLO Wine Trail is renowned for their Pinot Noir;  Pismo Beach has wine and waves;  Halter Ranch Vineyards in Paso Robles; Hahn Estates vineyards in Monterey County;  Bernardus Winery patio in Carmel Valley

Republished from Delta Sky, September 2015, The Wine Traveler 

Saturday, June 4, 2016


Wine People of Traverse City, Michigan

Take a priest, a carpenter, a pirate and what do you have? A sample of Traverse City’s remarkable wine-growing community.  These individuals now count themselves as some of the unique people who own wineries on Old Mission Peninsula in Traverse City, Michigan along the Great Lakes.

The Carpenters/Bonobo Winery
Brothers Todd and Carter Oosterhouse are from Traverse City. Todd moved to Texas to work in construction for 15 years.  Carter landed in Los Angeles and works construction and television.  Carter has been the host of national TV shows, including Trading Spaces and The Great Christmas Light Fight.
Meantime, their hometown’s reputation was growing as a wine and culinary destination.  They made a decision to join the movement and returned to Old Mission Peninsula to open Bonobo Winery in 2015.
“We wanted to come back to our hometown and move the needle as a mecca for food and wine, more than just a place where you come to play in the sand,” says Todd.  “We want to be as authentic as possible, to show the wine world that Traverse City is a special place and capture it in a bottle,” says Carter

                                       The Priest/Chateau Chantal
Bob Began and his wife Marie could write a book, “From Church, to Cherries, to Chardonnay.”   Bob, 81 started as a Seminary Priest and Marie was a Felician Nun in the Archdiocese of Detroit, devoting over two decades to the church. 
While in their forties, their lives came together in marriage and they welcomed a daughter, Marie in 1978.  Ready to leave city life,  Bob says he was “looking for land on the water.” He purchased a 65 acre cherry orchard on Old Mission Peninsula which would eventually be the site of Chateau Chantal.  “The winery is elevated so we have beautiful views of both bays,” says Began. 
Memories of an earlier station in life remain with Began who quoted the Bible, “I am the vine; you are the branches.”  Today their daughter, Marie Chantal Dalese has branched out to become the President & CEO of the winery.

                                       The Pirates/Villa Mari Vineyards
The Lagina Brothers, Marty and Rick, will soon open Villa Mari Vineyards, the most anticipated new winery in Traverse City, perhaps in history.  When they are not working on Villa Mari, you can see them looking for buried treasure on “Curse of Oak Island” on History Channel
The television show is the pursuit of something that fascinated them as boys, according to Marty.  The investment in a winery on Old Mission Peninsula is a different type of treasure hunt.  “When I realized grapes could be grown on the southern Peninsula, with the same sunlight as Bordeaux without the heat, we started growing,” says Marty. 
The brand new tasting room, winery facility and underground caverns will be open in late spring.  “It’s an Italian design and looks like it could come from Tuscany,” Lagina says.  To this day, Marty says he speaks Italian to the grapes so they think they are in Italy.  

Dad Rock/Ciccone Vineyards & Winery
On my first trip to Traverse City to visit wineries, someone mentioned in almost hushed tones, “Madonna’s parents own a winery here.”  That would be the Ciccone family, owners of Ciccone Vineyards & Winery on Leelanau Peninsula.
The pop superstar, Madonna is the oldest of eight children.  Today, Tony and Joan Ciccone enjoy a wine country lifestyle as owners of a popular winery on Leelanau Peninsula. 

Photos (top down) Todd and Carter Oosterhouse building Bonobo Winery; Bob Began at Chateau Chantel; Marty & Rick Lagina, the new Villa Mari Vineyards Madonna's dad, Tony Ciccone

Republished from Delta Sky, May 2016 with edits. The Wine Traveler.  


Todd and Carter Oosterhouse had some help but the brothers can say they built Bonobo Winery.  It's fantastic inside and out.  

Chateau Chantal's patio overlooks the water on both sides of the Leelanau Peninsula.  

Local cheeses at Cicccone Vineyards.  The Madonna labeled wine is sold out.   

Villa Mari Winery will elevate the region's reputation as a wine destination, opening in 2016