In CGT Blog

Chateau Grand Traverse is the leading wine producer in Traverse City and, as a pioneer, has been paving the way for decades.

So how exactly did this family-owned-and-operated Michigan winery get to where it is today? Dive in to the storied past of CGT’s wine production and history to find out how one family’s passion and vision grew from local wine production to shipping their wines to 19 states and distributing to five.

CGT History of Wine Production

In 1974, Edward O’Keefe Jr. founded Chateau Grand Traverse and began producing world-class Rieslings he knew would, eventually, revolutionize the Michigan wine industry. When CGT first opened, it was producing less than 6,000 cases annually. By the mid-to-late 1980s, annual wine production gradually quadrupled to more than 26,000 cases.

Today, annual wine production at CGT is more than 126,000 cases. Even though production has increased so significantly, CGT still operates with family- values intact, focusing as always on quality, consistency, and sustainability.

Variables that Have Impacted CGT Wine Production

Weather and Climate

Before CGT started producing wine on scenic Old Mission Peninsula, many industry experts regarded Michigan’s weather and climate as too cold and harsh to grow and sustain commercial wine grapes. However, with warm summers and moderate winters (thanks to being close to the water), Old Mission Peninsula‘s climate helps produce healthy crops of grapes with unique and crisp flavors with a growing season between 145 and 160 days.

Types of Grapes

To produce enough to meet CGT’s wine yearly production, the vineyard team grows 12 varieties of grapes: Riesling, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Gewürztraminer, Grüner Veltliner, Muscat Ottonel, Gamay Noir, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, and Cabernet Franc on more than 200 acres on Old Mission Peninsula.

Quantity of Grapes

The number of grapes produced also impacts the wine production each year. Two consecutive tough winters in 1995 and 1996 completely wiped out the entire Old Mission Peninsula grape crop, forcing wineries to get creative with production. This led to the creation of the still popular Grand Traverse Select line, which is widely distributed across the Midwest. When the winery sees a high grape yield, they’re often able to create more wines or new products, which is what led to the creation of our boutique-style Eclectic line of wines.

Current Demand

Each year when planting and acquiring new vineyards, CGT must take into consideration the current popularity of each style of wine, new wine launches planned, and restaurant orders for the upcoming year. Planning is incredibly important, as grapes can’t be grown at the last minute and the O’Keefe family wants to make sure there’s enough wine to cover all of orders and events throughout the year.

Chateau Grand Traverse Wine Production Today

As the oldest winery on Old Mission Peninsula, Chateau Grand Traverse has grown from a small operation to the nationally recognized wine brand it is today. Even though CGT is smaller than many wineries in California and Washington, we’re still making a ripple in the national scene while operating as a small, family-run business. With 12 varieties of grapes and over 30 wines being sold at retail in the Midwest and shipped across much of the United States, CGT is looking forward to continued local and national growth.

View Our CGT Wine Production Process

Ready to experience our history of wine production for yourself? Visit us at CGT today or join an upcoming tour. Interested in enjoying the fruits of CGT’s wine production from the comfort of your own home? Find us at your favorite local wine shop or shop our online store today.