Five wineries have just opened or are set to open within the next 18 months in the Traverse City area. The boom is not only good news for Doug Matthies, a consultant who helps launch commercial wineries, it’s also good news for the region.
“[The area’s] wine reputation is growing, so there’s more demand,” says Matthies, who has advised wannabe winemakers from Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and downstate Michigan on the ins and outs of winemaking Up North.
In tandem with the demand for Michigan wine, the winemaking profession is also flowering.
State agriculture records show 250 winemakers in the state – 100 of whom entered the line of work since 2006.
So who are the newest additions to the northern wine world? One is HGTV star Carter Oosterhouse. A TC-raised carpenter who has plied his trade on reality shows for years, Oosterhouse plans to open Oosterhouse Vineyards on Old Mission Peninsula with his brother Todd.
Robert Brengman is a graphic designer who has grown grapes with brothers Ed and Gerald that other winemakers have turned into award-winning wines. This summer, the siblings plan to release their own 2010 vintage under the label Brengman Brothers and open a tasting room. Their Crane Hill tasting room will be located on Crane Hill Road between Traverse City and Suttons Bay.
Paul Hamelin, who just opened Verterra Winery in Leland, is a retired pharmacist and pharmaceuticals executive.
That background comes in handy in limited ways. He says there are similarities in production and bottling methods between the two industries “on a macro level.”
But that’s not why he opened the business with his son, Geoff.
Like many others, he had dreamed of retiring to grow grapes and turn them into the kinds of wine he likes to drink.
“It’s something I’ve always found intriguing,” he said. “I’ve always enjoyed trying different wines from different countries and saying, ‘We could do that.’”
He constructed the winery’s name Verterra by fusing the Latin words for truth and land, which helps explain his view of the wines he makes in Leelanau County.
He says his mission is simple: “I try to give the truest expression of the land in this county and interpret it into wine.”