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Chateau Grand Traverse
K.L. Sullivan

Summary: Chateau Grand Traverse is a unique site. With a lovely inn accompanied by many extras and a large tasting room that has a good number of wines, wine accessories and gifts available this is a relaxing vacation destination. The view of the vineyards and Traverse Bay add even more to the ambience of the location.

Chateau Grand traverse vineyardWe met the three family owners of Chateau Grand Traverse, Edward Jr., Edward III and Sean O’Keefe. This is a large family-run winery and the future looks bright for their goals.  Edward Jr. O’Keefe is the CEO and founder of the winery. In the early 70’s, Ed wanted to plant European vinifera grapes here in northern Michigan. Although several people, who knew the climate of the area advised him not to plant vinifera vines, Ed persisted with his dream of growing vinifera grapes. Today visitors can see the results of Edward Jr.'s persistence in the large tasting room where bottles line walls and many are award-winning wines.


Chateau Grand Traverse tasting roomEdward, III is President of Chateau Grand Traverse and he spoke with us at length about the winery as a family business, the goals of the winery and the desirability of Riesling wines. The winery is beginning to achieve national and international attention for its wines. Just recently, it was decided wines will be distributed in the Los Angeles area. Ed related an experience they had in Germany a few years ago. The three O’Keefes went to an upscale restaurant where they ordered a bottle of German wine. When it arrived at the table, the waiter opened the bottle and poured the wine. Next they ordered a bottle of Austrian wine. After that wine was finished, they ordered an Australian wine. This time the waiter brought the wine with pomp and ceremony. Ed asked why they treated the Australian wine so highly and the waiter said because the wine was so good - not like a German wine. Ed said the German wine was just as good as the Australian wine and should be treated with the same respect. According to Ed, “regional wines are not given the same credibility.” Ed seeks to continue advertising Chateau Grand Traverse wines regionally, nationally and internationally.

barrel room chateau grand traversetasting wine from tanksIn 1985, the winery was producing 6500 cases of wine and by 2007 the number of cases was up to 67,000. The vineyard has about 120 acres and produces 35,000 to 37,000 cases from these grapes. The winery purchases other grapes from the Old Mission Peninsula AVA. They hope to have close to 200 acres in the next three to seven years.

After talking about the goals of Chateau Grand Traverse and the importance of Riesling with Edward, we met Sean O’Keefe, vineyard manager and specialty winemaker, who led us on a tour of the winery. As we toured the building, Sean would stop and have us taste wine from tanks so that we were able to learn the differences in wine as they change during production. After this private tour, we went to the tasting room with Sean where he led our tasting.

ship of fools

Visitors choose five to six different wines from a long list. We tasted a 2006 Dry Riesling, which had fruit flavors and a long aftertaste. The wine was very dry. It had a good acid balance and could pair with many different foods. Don’t miss the label on the 2006 Ship of Fools bottle. This wine was dry with a fruit taste and sweetness on the finish. The 2006 Pinot Noir was red with a tinge of orange. It has nuts and cherries on the nose and red fruit and earthiness on the taste. Gamay Noir 2004 had a tart cherry taste with an earthiness and fruit on the aftertaste. Edelzwicker 2006 was a blend with a peachy aroma. It had floral and fruit on the nose. The blend of this wine created a “fruit salad.” Riesling 2004 was a pale yellow. It had a citrus fruit and soft petrol on the nose with a soft light petrol on taste and an aftertaste of limes.  Late Harvest Riesling 2006 was floral and fruity. It had a good acid balance.


While tasting wines, take the opportunity to peruse the lovely, quality gifts displayed in the tasting room. Both traditional and unique gift ideas are presented throughout the room.

Sean summarized our discussion with, “Sometimes you need to be taught about what you like.” When you visit Chateau Grand Traverse, if you have the chance to meet any of these busy O’Keefes, you will enjoy their friendliness and passion about wine. However, even if you don’t have this opportunity, the friendliness of the staff at the winery, will put a sparkle in your day.

Chateau Grand Traverse
12239 Center Road, Traverse City, Michigan 49686

GPS  N 44° 51.914'  W 085° 31.169'

Related article: The Inn at Chateau Grand Traverse





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