Chatting with Carter Oosterhouse at Lake Michigan Credit Union Open House

Well let’s just start off with admitting that there is no shortage of Carter fans here at the magazine. Nope, no siree. With 20 women making up the majority in office, we’re a fan base all on our own. And you can bet that when a lucky Trav Mag gal meets up with the handsome lad, all the not-so-lucky gals hear the news. Facebook status, staff email, what have you—there will be pictures, and there will be bragging. That said…Here’s mine 🙂 Sorry I’m not sorry ladies, but this just happened.

Photo Credit: Glen Goen – Lake Michigan Credit Union

We met up with Carter at a Lake Michigan Credit Union open house last week. Carter, an HGTV personality, philanthropist and Traverse native, is the newest spokesperson for the financial institution. We drove out to the stunning home on Old Mission and checked in with our favorite carpenter over a glass of his very own riesling. Practically a date, right?! Except not. He’s married. (Ya snagged a good’n, Amy Smart…)

Well what a day to be out of the office! We’ve got to thank the Credit Union for this shindig. How’s it been partnering with them?

It’s amazing. Honestly speaking, it wasn’t a fit that I foresaw, but now it’s hard to not see it. Because, ultimately, I’m building homes, refinancing homes, and that’s what the Credit Union does too. What was really cool when I started working with them was the response I got from friends. Old college buddies and friends here in Northern Michigan, they would comment on social media “Those guys are the best!” And it’s so true. The customer service is incredible. I’m big on that.

And you’re big on giving back to your home town. What’s up with your newest project, Bonobo winery?

I love Traverse City. And I always knew I wanted to start a business and come back to this place. But with the production company in L.A., the nonprofit, 3 shows on air…. I’m kept elsewhere. I needed a reason to get me back here and regularly. Summer time, it’s easy to come back. But I wanted to give back. I think the winery can do big things with helping the area’s growth, and a growth I’m proud of. I really believe people see a bigger side to this in that we can help bring an even bigger name to Traverse City and the peninsula. My brother and I had been playing with the idea for awhile and finally, we ran with it.

So the winery doesn’t open until next summer, but we’re sampling some of the first batch now! Tell me about this pour.

Well this is our riesling. And to me, a riesling is just perfect for Northern Michigan. Ours is really light, not too sweet, and we’ve had a great response. You never know what you’re gonna get but we’re finding location is key. We’ve got the soil, the micro-climate— it’s just a great location.

Any other wines we can expect at the 2014 grand opening?

Yes! We’re aging our chardonnay now. And really, we feel it’s even better than the riesling. The beauty is that we’re not open, so we get to use this time to our advantage. We’re letting the chardonnay sit in three types of barrels: steal, heavy oak and medium oak. While we’re excited to get going with the winery, we’d have to bottle right away if we were open.

As you’re prepping for the big day, what’s the response been from the community of Old Mission vintners?

You know, I didn’t know what I was going to get coming into the vintners’ world. I was born and raised on the peninsula, and I think it gives me a little legitimacy. I do have a history and I’ve even worked on some of these cherry fields. But regardless, we’ve gotten a very good response. The support has been huge and we’re looking forward to being in the business with these neighbors.

And with wine culture such an established tradition of Old Mission, how do you make your winery stand out from the rest?

We’d like to be a little more progressive, work with what Traverse City is, and that’s a mixed demographic. A lot of young people are here who recognize youthful style and architecture, and we want to recognize that. We want it to be rustic elegance. I love that traditional rustic feel, and we’re classing it up with a few finer touches. I think that theme embodies a lot of what we’ve created.

Ah, so could one say that rustic elegance is Carter’s Way? Like the title of your new book?

Sure! The book stems from my background—I’m not a formally trained designer. I know that. But when you accumulate experience with different homes, adapting, customizing and whatnot, you learn your own design process. And that’s what the book is about, it’s my process, it’s my way. And that’s the name.

Carter and brother Todd Oosterhouse plan on opening Bonobo winery next summer 2014. Until then, keep up with Carter by visiting the sites for Lake Michigan Credit Union, Carter’s nonprofit organization Carter’s Kids, and grab his book now at Barnes and Noble.

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