Northern Hospitality from Chateau Chantal in Traverse City, Michigan with Marie-Chantal Dalese and Brian Hosmer
Interviewer & Writer:
Uncorked Monthly Contributing Writer, Kim Brittingham
Practitioners of southern hospitality can no longer afford to rest on their laurels.
Not when “northern hospitality” is giving them such a run for their money.
Just ask the lady who coined the term. Marie-Chantal Dalese recently celebrated her one-year anniversary as CEO of Chateau Chantal in Traverse City, Michigan. And if anyone knows how to extend a warm northern welcome, it’s Dalese.
The only daughter of the winery’s founders, Dalese grew up on the estate and worked there in the capacity of Director of Marketing prior to taking her place as CEO. Chateau Chantal is her idyllic world and, for a little while, it can be yours, too. Its 65 ridgetop acres incorporate a winery, vineyards, bed and breakfast, residence, plus six additional private home sites – not to mention some of the most picturesque views in Michigan.
Heartfelt focus on hospitality
Dalese’s heartfelt focus on hospitality touches visitors year-round at Chateau Chantal, and there’s a little something for everyone.
“We are an 11-room bed and breakfast that’s open year-round,” says Dalese. “Wine, of course, is our business and the key to everything, but we do have a lot of diverse activities around here, too,” says Dalese. “We do an amazing assortment of tours. Some seven-course wine dinners, some specialty sensory tours in season, we have live jazz here.”
If you want to “get away from it all” you can withdraw into a sumptuous room at the B&B, enjoy the whirlpool tub and breathtaking views from your balcony or terrace. If you love to learn, Chateau Chantal offers culinary educational experiences all year long. Says Dalese, “In the off season, January through May, two weeks out of the month we have a different cooking class. Half of them are run by our in-house chef, Reuben Rosales, and the other half are our local chefs and they each bring their own interesting and diverse topics to the table…You get to pair the creations you are making with our local wines, and it’s a real fun afternoon.”
Friendly staff, a roaring fire, and, of course, fantastic wine
Winemaker Brian Hosmer adds that the hands-on seminars at Chateau Chantal are better than watching your favorite cooking shows on TV, “because you get to eat everything along the way.”
If you need to reconnect with nature, the local trails and beaches of the Traverse City region will be a balm for your soul, and you’ll be welcomed “home” to Chateau Chantal by a friendly staff, a roaring fire, and, of course, fantastic wine.
Hosmer says, “When you’re a guest here…it’s expected that you treat it like your home away from home…you get to feel like you live in a winery for a little while.”
Chateau Chantal is one of nine wineries situated on the Old Mission Peninsula, a slender, 20-mile-long arm reaching toward Lake Michigan and hugged by the East and West Grand Traverse Bays. At the base of the peninsula sits Traverse City, one of Michigan’s premier tourist destinations. Traditionally a favorite of families, the past 20 years have seen Traverse City growing in the esteem of foodie travelers – and it’s no wonder. Traverse City is replete with restaurants embracing the farm-to-table movement, as well as distillers, brewers, cider producers, and wineries like Chateau Chantal. Collectively, they’re helping to amplify Dalese’s concept of northern hospitality.
A cursory study of a regional map hints at a Traverse City/cherry connection: Cherry Bend Road, Cherry Capital Airport, Cherryland Center mall. Dalese explains, “We (of the Traverse City area) traditionally, and still are, the nation’s largest producer of tart cherries. Many, many farms in Old Mission Peninsula and Leelanau Peninsula were planted over 100 years ago and are still around…Cherries are the traditional fruit crop here, along with apples, some other tender fruits, and more and more these days and over the past 25, 35 years, you’ll see vinifera (grape crops used in winemaking) also being grown.”
Hosmer explains that, “The peninsula situation allows us to grow grapes a little farther north than a lot of the other places in the continental United States where we have the water that protects us from huge, swift, extreme changes in weather.”
Chateau Chantal sources fruit from its 100 acres on Old Mission, as well as from outside vineyards. Their line of Malbecs, for example, come from Argentinian grapes.
A little something for everyone
Chateau Chantal makes a little something for everyone, offering about 30 different wines. For readers at home who may be looking for a tasty bottle to pair with winter comfort foods like stews, pot pies, casseroles and dumplings, Dalese suggests Trio, a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and just a little bit of oak-aged Pinot Noir. “Our current vintage is from a really terrific year that made a really ripe red wine, which doesn’t always happen in our cool climate,” says Dalese. “It’s got a real deep red berry/plum flavor with that spicy, toasty oak character to it.”
Hosmer’s pick would be one of the Pinot varieties. “If it’s a white,” he says, “I really like Pinot Grigio. It’s something that’s very special to this area…we have very bright fruit flavors, and we don’t have quite the earthy flavors you get from a lot of regions. It’s a very pretty wine and it’s very versatile.” And as to the red? “We have one of the higher numbers of actual Pinot Noir acreage here in Northern Michigan, just between us and our contacts. So we make a lot of Pinot Noir. It doesn’t all end up as our reserves, so we have a lot of choices when I’m playing around and trying to figure out which one will be the reserve, or blended into something else, or just our standard Pinot Noir.”
Chateau Chantal has, of course, paid tribute to the cherry heritage of the region with a sparkling cherry wine (“one of our more popular ones,” says Hosmer), a distilled cherry “table wine”, and a dessert wine called Cerise. Hosmer says it’s “more of a port style wine where the fermentation is halted by adding cherry spirits back to it. We also make those cherry spirits separately into an eau-de-vie,” which he says is “like eating a fresh piece of cherry pie.” In fact, Hosmer offers a fun baking tip: “Get a brownie mix and cut the water in half and add the cherry wine to it…the alcohol bakes off a little bit so it makes and cherry brownies more fudge-like and less cakey.”
Consider fleeing to Chateau Chantal
Wherever you are, you can bring the flavors of Chateau Chantal’s Michigan into your home by shopping at www.ChateauChantal.com. But if you’re burning up with cabin fever, consider fleeing to Chateau Chantal where, at any time of year, you will be welcomed by Dalese’s northern hospitality and treated to just the kind of getaway you crave.
NEW BOTTLE EXPERIENCE REVIEW & RATING:
Once we’ve completed the New Bottle Experience review and rating, it will be published here. Cheers!