Chateau Chantal: From Three Room B&B to Culinary Destination
Publisher’s note: In this three-part series, Midwest Wine Press will explore how wineries in Northern Michigan, Indianapolis, and Columbus, Ohio structure successful events that are coordinated with the operations of the winery and tasting room client expectations.
Hosting events can expose wineries to new patrons, diversify an existing customer base by offering a variety of activities, and increase sales. But wineries looking to maximize their venue’s potential must balance many considerations including supplier relations, wine-making, and the effect events have on regular tasting room clients.
Other considerations can also come into play. For example, picturesque Chateau Chantal near Traverse City, Michigan, with 65 acres of vineyards rolling out to a blue-water view, would seem the perfect spot to be married. Originally designed as a three-room bed and breakfast in 1993, the Chateau expanded ten years later to eleven rooms, adding 2,000 square feet of hospitality space. This year they’ll unveil a new wine terrace.
But here’s the catch. Peninsula zoning states all guests must stay overnight, unless the event contains a portion of wine education. This severely limits the number of people who can come to weddings or business conferences where wine education isn’t featured.
Although the winery applies for exceptions, it adheres to the rule and focuses instead on culinary tourism that dovetails with the concept of the European Chateau where guests savor wines created from the surrounding property. Wine Enthusiast magazine recently called Chateau Chantal an “esteemed wine escape” or, as marketing director, Marie-Chantal Dalese explained, “A place to enjoy a breakfast served by friendly hosts or family members, and experience a relaxing rural environment.”
‘We really began our business in culinary tourism by offering the B&B and serving breakfast. We decided to grow on the natural connection between food and wine by offering cooking classes and wine seminars in the off-season (Jan-April) each year,” Dalese continued.
‘This has proven to be a successful method for helping to fill our B&B during the winter months and showcasing our wines as they should be served with food. More recently, we added our Tapas Tour and Wine Dinner options to again enhance the connection between the enjoyment of wine with food.”
Chateau Chantal attracts clients of all ages from the Metro Detroit area who have more discretionary income. Classes range from the Tapas Tour for $26 for a two-hour tour of vineyards and winery while enjoying seven to eight bites of food and samples of wine; to a seven-course wine dinner for $70; cooking classes taught by Chef Nancy Allen cost $125; and wine seminars for $145 with lunch, plus the seven-course dinner prepared by Chef Perry Harmon, with wines.
In wineries where wine production and events share the some building, the two activities must be balanced or they can generate tension with the wine maker. Chateau Chantal relies on all its staff to keep equilibrium during events, with all stations manned. The front desk, tasting room, food prep, clean up, the cellar, and the vineyard all have dedicated folks to watch over their tasks.
Photos taken by Brian Confer, courtesy of Chateau Chantal