3 Michigan inns, hotels win top spots in national competition

Greg Tasker
Special to The Detroit News

    For the third consecutive year, a hotel or inn located in a Michigan wine region has won the top spot in USA Today’s annual 10Best Wine Country Hotel competition.

    Not only that, but, for the first time, three Michigan inns or hotels have garnered the top three spots in USA Today’s annual readers’ choice travel awards contest.

    Chateau Chantal Winery and Inn on Old Mission Peninsula, near Traverse City, was voted 2021 Best Wine Country Hotel. Placing second and third, respectively, were previous first-place winners, Hotel Walloon in Walloon Lake, near Petoskey, and the Inn at Black Star Farms near Suttons Bay, on the Leelanau Peninsula, outside Traverse City. 

Chateau Chantal Winery and Inn on Old Mission Peninsula, near Traverse City, was voted 2021 Best Wine Country Hotel.

    The upscale properties -- all located in northwestern lower Michigan -- were competing against hotels and inns in well-known wine regions such as Napa and the Willamette Valley. 

    The 10Best Readers’ Choice nominees were chosen by a panel of wine industry experts and then voted on by the public. The nominees provide a “perfect place to relax over a glass of wine after a day of touring and tasting in wine regions around the country.” Also making the Top 10 were hotels in California, Oregon, Virginia and Texas. 

    The 2021 competition marked the first time Chateau Chantal had been nominated. 

    “A wonderful moment of recognition for us at Chateau Chantal to be listed among some of the best in the country, and a true honor for us Michigan companies to take the top three,” said Marie-Chantal Dalese, president and CEO of the family-owned, 65-acre estate. “It’s a joy to share our local beauty and delicious wines, plus a well-deserved thanks to all of our staff who work diligently to make this business thrive.”

    Chateau Chantal, the editors noted, “combines a vineyard and winery with a luxurious B&B lodging. All suites and rooms have exceptional views of vineyards or Grand Traverse Bay, many with private patios or balconies, and many rooms include wet bars and whirlpool tubs. The inn’s amenities include fireplaces and sitting areas, plus an exceptional breakfast.”

    When Chateau Chantal opened in 1993, it was a three-room B&B. An expansion was completed in 2003, creating a dozen rooms and suites. Eleven of the suites are named after French artists; the well-appointed rooms evoke the style and spaciousness of a French chateau.

    “My parents were looking to create a European-style winery experience, one where you could stay in the home of the owners, drink wine from the grapes grown outside your window, and relax in the rural landscape,” Dalese said. 

    “Our B&B provides a unique experience since you are in the same building as the wine-making facility, tasting room and inn keeper’s residence,” she added. “It’s still a family home, and we pride ourselves on making guests feel very welcome and well taken care of … we experience a high rate of return business -- a lot of guests return year.”

    Hotel Walloon, a luxury boutique hotel located on the shores of Walloon Lake in the Petoskey Wine Region, took second place. The 32-room hotel won top honors in 2019. The hotel offers guests complimentary valet service, complimentary food offerings, a private bar, a billiards room, fitness facility and outdoor heated spa whirlpool. 

Coming in third was Inn at Black Star Farms, a Kentucky-style estate home. Black Star garnered the top spot in 2020. The inn features 10 classically furnished guest rooms, with touches of contemporary and equestrian flairs. Some rooms include fireplaces, hot tubs or private patios. Every afternoon, guests enjoy a wine reception in the Pegasus Lounge, with a glass of Black Star’s award-winning wines and freshly made bite-size appetizers. 

Both Chateau Chantal and the Inn at Black Star Farms are surrounded by vineyards and are part of the Traverse Wine Coast.

“For a long time we’ve been talking about how the Traverse Wine Coast has come of age,” said Trevor Tkach, president of Traverse City Tourism. “The 40-plus wineries are producing award-winning wines. They have top-notch facilities. They have become an important part of travel to northwest Michigan. To have the properties stand out as the best in the country is remarkable … We are excited to have them at the top of the list, and it highlights the whole winery experience in northwest Michigan.”

More than 3.3 million people visit the Traverse City area each year and wine tours have become an “integral part of the Traverse City experience,” Tkach said. Visitors looking for information about the 40 or so wineries in the region are among the most frequent questions. “Guests frequently come here to sip wine with friends, relax and look out over stunning vistas of Grand Traverse Bay. It’s a critical part of the experience.”

Best Wine Country Hotel

Chateau Chantal Inn and Winery, Traverse City, 2021

Inn at Black Star Farms, Suttons Bay, 2020

Hotel Walloon, Walloon Lake, 2019