An intimate Traverse City wine dinner brings together new friends and old to delight in the magic of expert wine and food pairings at Chateau Chantal.

We turn onto a winding drive named Rue de Vin. The French words translate to “street of wine,” aptly named as we pass rows of vines—chardonnay, merlot, pinot blanc, cabernet franc and more—on our way up the hill to Chateau Chantal. Throughout the year, the Traverse City winery and inn on Old Mission Peninsula hosts wine pairing dinners, thoughtfully crafting menus that showcase local ingredients and the farms that produce them. And tonight, we will be at the table.

This evening’s six-course wine dinner is inspired by St. Vincent, the patron saint of winegrowers. Each January, vintners in the villages of Burgundy, France, gather for several days of wine drinking and feasting to thank St. Vincent and ask him to protect future harvests. A secret wine society, the Brotherhood of the Knights of Tastevin, started the wine festival in 1938.

More than 80 years later and 4,000 miles away, 30 guests are arriving at Chateau Chantal for a Northern Michigan version of the celebration.

Pictured Above: Mike Dubois

Wine specialist Mike Dubois welcomes us with a flute of sparkling wine, a dry riesling-chardonnay blend called Tonight, and leads us downstairs for a behind-the-scenes tour of the sprawling wine cellar. He tells us about the winery’s founders, Robert and Nadine Begin, and their daughter, now the president and CEO, Marie-Chantal Dalese. Robert and Nadine purchased the 65-acre estate, then a cherry farm, in 1983. The first riesling grapes were planted at the top of the hill in 1986, and the winery opened in 1993.

Back upstairs in the kitchen, Chateau Chantal’s in-house chef de cuisine, Chris Mushall, is preparing the first course—potato scallion croquette with cornichons, whole grain mustard and Gruyere fondue. As glasses are filled with the first wine pairing, the 2017 Chardonnay, we get to know our tablemates. Carla and Rob Cooper are visiting from Chicago with their friends Cindy and Jim Wise who live in Battle Creek. They’re staying the night at Chateau Chantal and spent the day exploring the shops in Suttons Bay, a small town on the neighboring Leelanau Peninsula. It’s dark now, but during the day, you can see West Grand Traverse Bay and the shores of the Leelanau Peninsula from the dining room windows.

As we finish the first course, Mike explains to us that stainless-steel aged white wines, like the 2017 Chardonnay we’re sipping, are lighter, sharper, fruitier and more acidic than the bigger, rounder oak-aged wines. The latter, including Chateau Chantal’s 2017 Reserve Chardonnay Rigan Vineyard, pairs better with the earthiness of the second course, a frisee salad with roasted beets, candied hazelnuts and Chablis vinaigrette.

The vibrant green frisee was grown at Lakeview Hill, an organic farm in Traverse City. Chateau Chantal’s wine dinners are Certified Local Food Events, meaning at least 20 percent of the ingredients are locally sourced. Chef Chris changes the menu for each Traverse City wine dinner, depending on what’s in season and available.

“Using local ingredients is a natural extension of the ‘what grows together, goes together’ principle executed in wine regions around the world,” Chris says. “We take sustainability seriously using no chemical fertilizers in our vineyards and supporting 40 percent of our building’s energy with our own solar array. As stewards of this beautiful land, we work to support others who take the same care in the cultivation of what we pair with our wines.”

The pairing star of the next two courses is pinot noir. Fittingly, it’s the most common variety of red grapes grown in Burgundy, Mike shares, and also very popular in Northern Michigan. A wild mushroom and goat cheese strudel, featuring locally foraged dried morels, rests in a pinot noir veal glace and is paired with the 2018 Pinot Noir. We’re treated to the 2017 Proprietor’s Reserve Pinot Noir with the main course, grilled chicken tikka masala with a cilantro yogurt dipping sauce.

Of course, the cherries in tonight’s dessert, a “cherries jubilee” sundae, are Michigan grown. Chef Chris fills dark chocolate cups with the port-soaked cherries and tops them with whipped Chantilly cream and crème fraîche. This delicious final course is not without a pair: Chateau Chantal’s cherry port, Cerise.

Finishing this last pairing, our palates and senses complete satiated, our new friend, Jim Wise, sums up what we are all feeling: “This is a great, great world.”

Experience a Traverse City Wine Dinner at Chateau Chantal

Chateau Chantal’s wine dinners are hosted on select days. Events begin at 6 p.m. with a cellar tour. The winery also offers private wine dinners to guests at the inn for an additional fee. Reserve your spot.

Wine Dinners // Begin June 17
June: Wednesday, Saturday
July–August: Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday
September–October: Wednesday, Thursday, Friday

Themed Wine Dinners // Select Dates
Pinot Celebration Dinner: April 25
Mother’s Day Wine Dinner: May 10

By Carly Simpson, curator of MyNorth’s wildly popular Daily Splash newsletter. Are you a subscriber yet? // Dan Stewart is a documentary photographer, capturing wedding and lifestyle portraits in Northern Michigan.