They join us in Northern Michigan from around the globe and bring with them their unique experiences and backgrounds leading to a dynamic and varied lineup of world-class wines, all being produced right here in Traverse City. Take a look at who is crafting your favorite bottles from Old Mission Peninsula:
Caleb Bancroft, 2 Lads
A Michigan native and the youngest of five children, Caleb grew up on a 50-acre farm with his family just north of Lansing. He started making wine at 15 years old with his mother as a hobby. As a self-taught enologist with a degree in physics from Central Michigan University, Caleb immersed himself in the grape growing industry in northern Michigan five years ago. Since then he has gained experience not only locally, but also through working at wineries in New Zealand, Portugal, and South Africa.
Lee Lutes, Black Star Farms
Head Winemaker Lee Lutes directs a team of winery staff in crafting white and red wines grown and produced on both the Leelanau and Old Mission Peninsulas. This dual-region commitment is part of what makes Black Star Farms unique in the northern Michigan wine community. Vladimir Banov spearheads production oversight on the Old Mission Peninsula, while Kevin Uhl manages production at the Suttons Bay facility. Our winery team is committed to producing wines of high character and balance from some of the best vineyards and growers/partners in northwest Michigan.
Bryan Ulbrich, Bowers Harbor Vineyards
Our Winemaker, Bryan Ulbrich, has has been making wine for over 25 years, and for BHV since 2000! He loves making the Riesling Block II. The planting of Block II to Bryan represents the second era of vinifera being planting after Chateau Grand Traverse. It was one of the first single-vineyard blocks planted back in 1991. The terroir characteristics fascinate him every year, as there are such expressive identifiable spices and flavors that come of out of that block solely from the unique terroir. Due to the geography and topography of our land on Old Mission Peninsula, the land gives us the perfect foundation to make 2 to 3-acre spots to grow single-vineyard wines. He loves making small batches of wine to show off the differences from the terroir. Our Block II Riesling recently won a Double Gold medal at the San Fransisco Chronicle Wine Competition, a Gold at the Jefferson Cup Invitational, and scored 93 points on the James Sucking Report.
Coenraad Stassen, Brys Estate
Coenraad Stassen grew up in the Western Cape, South Africa among the grape vines of the famous Cape Town wine region. Coenraad says “For me winemaking is an art and a passion. Old Mission Peninsula and Brys Estate allow me to make that passion a reality in handcrafting some of the best wines in the world!” Brys Estate, under the guidance of Coenraad’s winemaking, has earned over 500 medals in national and international wine competitions.
Brian Hosmer, Chateau Chantal
Brian found wine while working as a philosophy teacher in Europe and traveling through their many great wine regions. The desire to bring that experience home inspired him to begin his studies towards a Master’s degree in Horticulture, focusing on winemaking at Michigan State University. Brian started making wine at Chateau Chantal in 2007 and has continued to push Michigan winemaking forward throughout his career.
Brian Hosmer is also Hawthorne Vineyards’ founding winemaker. After discovering their mutual love for Pinot Noir & Chardonnay, Brian was approached by owner Bruce Hawthorne in 2010 to cultivate a wine style highlighting the unique characteristics of the vineyard’s terroir, with an intent to produce bigger, more full-bodied Michigan wines.
Bernd Croissant, Chateau Grand Traverse
Bernd Croissant is the head winemaker at Chateau Grand Traverse. His passion for winemaking started as a child, when he would assist his father in their family vineyards in Germany. To become a winemaker, he had formal training and apprenticeships at several wineries while earning a wine studies degree. After intensive wine studies and experiences, Bernd became the winemaker at CGT in 1993.
Sean O’Keefe, Mari Vineyards
Mari Vineyards’ winemaker Sean O’Keefe’s winemaking pedigree is unparalleled. A member of Michigan’s “First Family of Riesling,” Sean brings his 20+ years of experience to Mari. After receiving formal training in Germany, Sean was eager to bring his honed craft back to his home in Northern Michigan. Sean is known for having one foot planted firmly in cultivating traditional Northern Michigan varieties, and one foot dedicated to progressing the repertoire of Old Mission Peninsula to include the beautiful Italian wines Mari Vineyards has become renowned for.
John Kropa, Peninsula Cellars
John Kroupa is the managing partner for Peninsula Cellars. John has been involved in the business since it began in 1994. Originally working in the vineyards and orchards as a child, John moved into the cellar after graduating with honors from Michigan State University in 1998 with a degree in Horticulture. After handling the lead winemaker responsibilities from 2007 to 2013, John now focuses on the hard cider program and managing the many diverse facets of the Kroupa family businesses. In coordination with our new winemaker, Mike Altesleben, John oversees the wine and cider production. Mike, who is the newest member of the Peninsula Cellars family, joined our team in early 2020. He brings a wealth of experience to an already diverse cellar.
Mario Tabone, Tabone Vineyards
Mario A. Tabone is the owner and winemaker of Tabone Vineyards. While being Old Mission Peninsula’s newest winery, Tabone Vineyards’ estate vines (including Riesling, Chardonnay and Pinot Gris) are between 20 and 30 years old, with the winery’s first commercial vintage being 2014. Mario’s focus is on the small-batch production of bright, fruit-forward wines, preferably dry. As a child, Mario grew up picking cherries, peaches, and other fruits and selling at farmers’ markets in addition to harvesting grapes for sale to local wineries. Mario is also a practicing patent attorney and earned his MBA and JD from the University of Detroit in 2006.