Most folks know Carter Oosterhouse for his TLC home makeover shows and his marriage to actor Amy Smart (of Justified fame). But now Oosterhouse is off to a new venture: Bonobo winery—the business venture of brothers Todd and Carter Oosterhouse—will open in mid- to late August. After a harsh winter resulting in construction delays, the Northern Michigan winery will finally be open for the public in late summer. The winery, located on Old Mission Peninsula north of Traverse City, will feature select wines within a relaxing tasting room that overlooks the beauty of Lake Michigan.
MyNorth’s Kelly spoke with owner Todd Oosterhouse to see what’s going on at the winery.
What has been the biggest struggle or challenge with opening this winery?
We had a tough winter in terms of construction. The winter slowed us down a bit.
How do you hope your winery will stand out amongst the others on Old Mission Peninsula?
Well, what we’re doing is trying to be a little different. We’re filled with the idea that you can hang out or enjoy this wine tasting by the bay. Rather than just coming in and doing a tasting, people can sit and relax through the afternoon.
What wines can we expect to be in your tasting room when you open?
We’ll have Chardonnay and Riesling, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, and we might have some Pinot Noir.
What do you hope the experience in the tasting room will be like?
When you look at it, our goal is to create a number of “aha” moments, as well as a different level of service. You don’t have to come in and be wearing a suit or dress up, but you’ll still get that great customer-oriented atmosphere. Here, you won’t be rushed or hurried. You can sit and relax and enjoy the wine.
What do you think distinguishes Northern Michigan wine from anywhere else?
Everyone talks about the climate and the different weather conditions of Northern Michigan compared to other places. When you look at somewhere like California or even Washington, they have a fairly consistent growing season. That’s why you can expect something different from Northern Michigan: here, we have very nice soil and we do have some great growing conditions, but it’s also a challenge because the season is not as long as elsewhere. Last year could have been different from the year before that, and that adds variety. It’s still great quality, but it makes it tough on the winemakers.
In your opinion, what is the perfect Northern Michigan summer wine?
Well, with so many varieties and styles it’s hard to capture what a Northern Michigan wine is. It’s more about “What is Northern Michigan?” It could be a long lazy day in the summer or it could be a fall day where you get lots of colors. You look for that when you’re trying to capture what the perfect wine is. Instead of going the traditional route and saying “Here’s a nice Chardonnay,” it’s more about highlighting all the senses that the customer is looking for. You want to have a nice, attractive bouquet of wine from Northern Michigan. It’s not going to be the same heavy red you can get out in California. You have an array of tastes you can offer someone and it becomes much more customer-oriented —they can find the flavor.