Wine Tour: Chateau Grand Traverse Chateau Grand Traverse has put Northern Michigan on the wine map with its award-winning Riesling. BY TOURING & TASTING
Photo courtesy of Chateau Grand Traverse
Beautiful northern Michigan vineyard Chateau Grand Traverse produces some of the best Rieslings in the world.
“ Since the late 1980s, Chateau Grand Traverse has won countless awards for its many Rieslings and is credited for putting Northern Michigan on the map of international Riesling critics.”
Founded in 1974, Chateau Grand Traverse is the oldest and largest commercial winery and vineyards in northern Michigan. It represents the vision of Edward O’Keefe Jr., who despite plenty of contrary advice, uprooted his family from Detroit and moved to the pristine Old Mission Peninsula to plant European vinifera vines. Today, Chateau Grand Traverse produces about 100,000 cases of wine each year, from its vineyards’ multiple sites covering more than 200 scenic acres.
Family owned and operated, the winery is now managed by Edward’s two sons, Eddie and Sean. They focus on a dozen key European varieties including Riesling, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Gewürztraminer, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc. "We’re virtually surrounded by Grand Traverse Bay here," Eddie says, "The water is very deep— up to 600 feet. This tempers the air temperature in our vineyards and protects the vines during critical growing periods."
Sean oversees the vineyards and works closely with Winemaker Bernd Croissant, who grew up in Germany’s renowned Southern Rhône Valley region, to develop highly drinkable wines that are characterized by lower alcohol levels and high acidity. They have developed an extensive portfolio that includes an impressive range of Rieslings. Since the late 1980s, Chateau Grand Traverse has won countless awards for its many Rieslings and is credited for putting Northern Michigan on the map of international Riesling critics. In the words of noted wine writer and Riesling authority, Stuart Piggot, "Anyone who has tasted the previous vintages with mind and palate open for this grape will have discovered that this producer is right at the cutting edge of Riesling in north America."
The views from the winery overlooking Grand Traverse Bay are absolutely inspiring. Just steps away, the Inn at Chateau Grand Traverse awaits. It’s a beautiful six-bedroom inn offering quiet, well-appointed guestrooms with en suite bathrooms, plenty of comfortable common areas, and breakfast each morning. In a setting like this, it doesn’t take long to settle in and feel like part of this second-generation winemaking family.
WHAT TO BUY '11 Whole Cluster Riesling - $15 Crisp apple, ripe peach
'11 Gamay Noir - $14 Tart cherry, red plum, black pepper '11 Late Harvest Riesling - $14 Dazzling fruit, crisp citrus, sweet