Marie-Chantal Dalese remembers a wintry day at her year-round winery and bed-and-breakfast. Several corporate team members had been in meetings all day and wanted some play time.
“We offer a seven-course wine-pairing dinner and this particular group, because they were spending the night, sensed that it was OK to over-consume a bit,” laughs the cheerful Dalese, president and CEO of the bucolic Chateau Chantal winery and B&B, on Old Mission Peninsula 12 miles north of Traverse City. “Before we knew it, they had gone outside, burrowed through the drifts, and were rolling down the snow-covered hills!”
Dalese’s parents (her father is a former priest and her mother is a former nun) planted the winery in 1986, enjoyed the first fruits of their labor in 1991, and opened the winery and inn in 1993. “My dad didn’t know much about growing grapes but, as a former priest, he certainly knew a bit about wine,” she says.
Growing up amid grape vines, canes, buds and canopies, Dalese can certainly tie, prune, tuck, taste and harvest grapes, but she admits that there are folks at the winery far more proficient than she at growing and making wine.
As Mother Nature does her work out in the vineyard, Dalese’s main focus is to carry out company strategy and tasks such as running the day-to-day operations, checking on everything from the new interior designs in many of the inn’s overnight rooms to working with the chef on a menu for an upcoming meeting. “I did partake in a course while at college [DePaul University in Chicago] to learn more about the world of wine,” she recalls. “That was really my first time exposed to wine because my dad always stuck to the law. He’d say, ‘You won’t have wine until you’re three times seven!’”
For Dalese, balance isn't just about the ratio of acid, alcohol, sugar, tannin, and water to ensure well-balanced wines. Balance is also about maintaining a quality family life. Her husband, Paul Dalese, is the vineyard manager, so she sees him regularly. Their 3-yearold son, Luca, also spends time at the winery. Dalese’s parents live in an apartment on the second level of the main building.
Visiting groups draw wonderful parallels between vineyard life and their own business goals. Creating wine, she says, requires dedication and commitment and—if all goes as planned—you get a thriving vineyard. Chateau Chantal has 11 guest rooms, and offers seated dinners for up to 80 and “walkaround” dinners for up to 110. The group/ hospitality space is 2,000 square feet. A popular program for meeting guests is the cookingclass station experience, where the chef shares cooking tips and teams follow along, creating a meal they’ll later enjoy with wine, of course.