BY KATHY GIBBONS
TRAVERSE CITY — A Benzie County winery is setting up shop in downtown Traverse City.
Northern Natural Wine and Cider House will open a tasting room and bar in the space previously occupied by The Chocolate Den in the 300 block of East Front Street.
Northern Natural Sales Manager and Director Jen Mackey said renovation is underway for the new wine and cider bar. An opening day is tentatively scheduled for Feb. 14.
Northern Natural operated a tasting room at 3020 Benzie Highway in Benzonia for the past two-and-a-half years, Mackey said. That location will close when the Traverse City shop opens. The company also operates a production facility in Kaleva.
Northern Natural’s owners grow organic apples, cherries, strawberries and peaches for making wines and hard ciders, which are sold retail and wholesale.
“We also support other certified organic family farms in Michigan when our crop is down,” Mackey said. “Like last year was a devastating year, so we pull from some of our other family farms that have the same (philosophy) in farming.”
The Traverse City store will be set up bar-style and offer eight to 11 hard ciders on draft including one made from northern Michigan pears. Its wines include peach, strawberry, cherry, apple, pinot noir, chardonnay, Riesling and dessert. There will also be a light tapas menu.
“We’ve been looking for the right location in Traverse City for the last seven months,” Mackey said. “”We tried to jump on it as fast as we could.
It had a great vibe to it and we felt it would be a very cozy atmosphere to try to bring it as much into an English farm-style cider house as we can.”
Jennifer Peck is a commercial agent with Schmidt-Rogers Management LLC. The company manages the building “and the entire block basically,” which she said has “become more of a prime location” downtown.