Aug. 6 2014 12:00 AM

Old Mission Peninsula wineries provide world-class vintages


Last month I reviewed recent winery additions on Leelanau Peninsula. A few miles away, across the West Bay, lies the equally picturesque Old Mission Peninsula, a narrow, rolling finger of land: 19 miles long and up to four miles wide. Jutting out into the moderating waters of Grand Traverse Bay, the marine influence, glacial soils and rolling hills make this one of the grape-friendliest places in the state.

Eight wineries make up the Wineries of Old Mission Peninsula ( Chateau Grand Traverse, Peninsula Cellars, Bowers Harbor Vineyards and Chateau Chantal, along with more recent additions Black Star Farms, 2 Lads, Brys Estate, and 2013 newcomer Hawthorne Vineyards. Soon to join the tasting room trail will be Villa Mari Vineyards and Bonobo Winery, bring the number of tasting rooms at 10.

Located four miles north of Traverse City on a high 80-acre site with overlooks to the west and east bays, Hawthorne Vineyards ( was established by Bruce and Cathleen Hawthorne. The winery may be new, but the array of wines made by winemaker Brian Hosmer include proven varieties: Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc, Cabernet Franc/Merlot, Lemberger, Gewürztraminer and Pinot Grigio.

Villa Mari Winery ( is a newcomer, but some of its vineyards were first planted in 1999. Founder Marty Lagina has planted red wine grapes typical to current Michigan viticulture and Italian varieties, such as Nebbiolo and Sangiovese. He is also implementing innovative new techniques to maximize ripening, such as temporary greenhouses over the vines, called a Nellaserra technique, to maximize heat and ripening. Villa Mari proprietary blend wines made using this technique include the ultra-premium Row 7, Bel Tramonto and Ultima Thule. Villa Mari is also building underground aging caverns, and a winery and tasting room scheduled for completion in spring 2015.

Almost ready to come on board to the tasting room scene is Bonobo Winery, a joint project of Traverse City native brothers Todd and Carter Oostershouse. Marketing director/tasting room manager Heather Fortin projects opening in late September, and a grand opening to follow about a month later. The winery is already generating considerable buzz. Wines initially available should include three styles of Chardonnay, three styles of Riesling, Pinot Gris and Pinot Blanc. Pinot Noir and Cabernet Franc will be released later,.

While touring the peninsula, be sure to check out Brys Estate’s innovative new “Upper Deck.” It includes what is essentially a “bridge to nowhere;” a long elevated pier extending over the vineyard. Very cool.

Upcoming event:

Be among the first to try winning wines from the 2014 Michigan Wine Competition at the Gold Medal Wine Reception at Kellogg Center on Aug. 14. ($45/$40 advance/$35 for Vintage Michigan members.)

This is a great opportunity to taste the breadth and depth of quality from Michigan´s vineyards. Many winning winemakers and proprietors will be on hand to discuss their wines and share a glass with attendees. Best of Class wines will be paired with foods prepared by the Kellogg Center´s chefs. Other double gold, gold and silver medal wines will be available for sampling. Taste for yourself what Michigan wines have to offer!

For a fun opportunity to sample Old Mission Peninsula wines paired with gourmet paella, consider attending Paella in the Park in the Traverse City Open Space West Quadrant on Aug. 15.

Michigan’s burgeoning wine scene continues to impress. Cheers.

In Vino Veritas. (Michael Brenton is president of the Greater Lansing Vintner’s Club. His column appears monthly. You can email him at