Q & A: Eddie O’Keefe

Posted April 2, 2015 in

Name: Eddie O’Keefe

Job Title: President

So… what does “Winery President” mean?

I am not one that is big on titles, especially in the wine business.  Certainly a title needs to be used in formal situations, but in day to day affairs around the winery, it often needs to be set aside.  Being a winery President means being involved in all aspects of the business, listening, learning and responding.  A president must be open to input from employees and customers to gain knowledge in order to make proper decisions that may affect the entire company.  Often, it’s a thankless job. However, it is very rewarding to work with dedicated individuals who have directly helped build the overall success of a company.

What year did you start at CGT?

I worked in the vineyards as a youngster, but I started my career at the winery literally days after graduating from MSU in June, 1985.  With a degree in Advertising and Marketing, I had my sights set for the big lights and big city of the advertising world.  Fortunately or unfortunately, the job market at the time was dismal and I quietly began working at the winery driving trucks, bottling wine and working in the tasting room.  Nearly thirty years later it’s amazing to look back and reflect on all the experiences and unique individuals that make up the history of our winery.  It’s been a fun and interesting ride.

Why should someone who’s never been to the area visit Northern Michigan?

I’ve been fortunate in my life to have traveled around the U.S. as well as many parts of the world.  Although I’ve witnessed incredible beauty and culture in faraway places, I still haven’t found a place that is better than northern Michigan.  Other than not having the mountains, we seem to have it all, and I feel fortunate to live and raise my family here.

CGT has a long legacy of winery dogs. What are the benefits of having a dog around the winery?

I am a big fan of having a dog around the winery.  Not only does it add another level of personality to the winery, it softens the mood and tends to calm a sometimes stressful atmosphere.  As the dogs mature and begin to meld with the winery staff, they literally become part of the team.  It’s sad when they pass, but the memories they leave behind live on and add to our winery’s history.

What should CGT fans be excited about for 2015?

Change seems to be the theme of the year.  We are transitioning our winery tasting room into a more experience-focused atmosphere, by adding wine by the glass, an expansive outdoor patio, as well as food offerings.  Key staff members will be retiring, moving or transitioning.  New members will be hired and trained.  It will be exciting to see what new opportunities arise as we begin our 41st year on Old Mission Peninsula.

What does your perfect summer evening look like?

For me, simple is always the best.  There’s nothing better than relaxing in the backyard with the sun beginning to set, the grass is mowed, the grill is fired up and a cold glass of Dry Riesling awaits.  Mix that together with good friends and great food and it’s a night that’s hard to beat.

You’ve done a good deal of traveling. Do you have a favorite trip?

Wow, I’ve had some amazing travel experiences, each with its own unique memory.  It’s really hard to define one as a favorite.  If I were to rank my most memorable experiences, they often revolve around meeting interesting people, eating unique foods, learning new cultures, witnessing incredible landscapes and allowing yourself to be completely immersed in your surroundings.

Is there a place you haven’t visited that you’d like to?

Strangely, I’ve always wanted to make the journey and step foot on Antarctica and see what it’s all about.  In a more civilized fashion, I think an extended trip to Southern Italy with the food, history, scenery and culture would be pretty special.  On the home front, I would also like to spend a little more time exploring the Pacific Northwest. Locally, I have yet to see Copper Harbor in the UP.

Do you have a favorite CGT wine? What is it, and why?

At the moment, my go to CGT wines are the Dry Riesling and Pinot Grigio wines.  Although I love our Gamay and Merlot, it is the dry and crisp white wines that I personally like best.  They go great with food, can be enjoyed alone and do not fill you up.  Be it summer or winter, my go to wine is almost always a dry white wine.  That is of course assuming there are no great Cabernets or Zinfandels being poured.

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