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

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