Two brothers, Todd and Carter Oosterhouse, long time natives of Traverse City established Bonobo Winery four years ago. The brothers are attempting to maintain the classic Up-North feel to the winery while bringing in the new chic concepts that have been evolving in the area. They want to bring world class wines with a rustic setting, but with elegant tones. They wish to blend the traditional, ecological and philosophical feelings of the community. The nineteen-acre estate grows Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Riesling, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Franc and they also have agreements with some of the local growers as well to boost the production.
If you are like me, you might think that the winery has a unique name and it does and it is named after the Bonobo Conservation Initiative to preserve the Bonobos monkey, preserve the tropical rainforest and to try to empower local communities in the Congo Basin. It is quite a goal for a couple of brothers in Traverse City. The winery is following the trend of the other local wineries by having a couple of different wine clubs, having a small plate menu and they charge ten dollars for five tastings. They do have a nice view and some outdoor lounge areas, if you want to get a larger glass of wine and just relax and admire the setting.
Somehow, we ended up tasting six of the seven wines being offered that day and only one of the wines offered carried the America AVA, the rest were Old Mission Peninsula AVA. The first four wines that we tasted all spent two months aging. We were really going with the white wines at the winery and the first was the Pinot Gris 2018 and it was aged in Stainless Steel and offered a very pretty wine with a soft nose and Michigan apples in the finish, the production was 345 cases. The Pinot Blanc 2018 was also Stainless Steel aged and offered Fuji apples and a bit of crispness and a production of 350 cases of wine. The Chardonnay C 2018 offered some floral notes and lemongrass and was a nice glass of wine, and they made 250 cases of it. The Rosé 2018 spent twenty-four hours on the lees and then two months in Stainless Steel and this was made from Pinot Gris and offered a very distinct finish of pear and they made 620 cases. The Chardonnay Select 2017 was aged for seven months in neutral French Oak and offered some hints of butterscotch and it was very easy to drink, though not as dry as I would have preferred. Our hostess decided that we were rather serious, since we were taking notes, photographing and came by ourselves and not in a party bus, so she wanted us to try the new wine. We were there on a Friday and the wine was just bottled Sunday of the same week. The Bonobo Red America AVA 2018 was a fun wine that offered some red fruit, a bit of vanilla and some pepper. The wine was forty percent Merlot from Saugatuck, Michigan, forty percent Cabernet Franc from the estate and twenty percent Cabernet Sauvignon from Walla Walla, Washington. The juice was first aged separately for two months in Stainless Steel and then blended and aged for an addition eight months in French Oak. There were 465 cases produced. You could feel some pride about the winery even in the tasting room, where sometimes you encounter individuals just going through the motions, and we liked that.