June 2018 marks the 25th anniversary of the winery and B&B.
The year leadership transferred to the second generation.
Acres of land in vineyards on Old Mission Peninsula
Marie-Chantal Dalese grew up in a family business that included a vineyard, winery, and bed & breakfast. She
left the business after high school to attend college and to expand her knowledge of the industry. When Ms.
Dalese returned to the business, she served as the Director of Marketing for 6 years before taking over the
helm of leadership. As she embraced her new role, she looked for ways to increase profitability margins and to
How the SBDC Helped
After Ms. Dalese was introduced to the Michigan SBDC through a co-worker, she began to utilize the available
consulting services to assist with her transition from employee to President and for guidance in discovering
what measures could be taken to improve profitability and augment operations. Those services included
receiving of audit of their website and online marketing strategies, internal/operational needs assessment, and
comparisons of their benchmarks.
Working with the SBDC helped them to focus the management team during a stressful time of change, which
allowed them the opportunity to improve employee morale, productivity, and accountability through facilitated
dialogues and prioritization of goals.
Marie-Chantal Dalese was just a baby when her parents moved from the metro Detroit area to Traverse City in
order to pursue her father’s dream of building a European-style winery chateau. Her parents had a passion for
serving others which was evident in their first career choices. Her father, Robert Begin, had been a Catholic
priest for 12 years before deciding to leave the diocese to run a construction business. Her mom, Nadine, was
once a Felician Sister who earned a Master’s Degree in Home Economics and taught for 22 years.
The groundwork for what is today Chateau Chantal Winery & Inn on Old Mission Peninsula in Traverse City
began to take shape in 1986 when her parents removed the existing cherry trees from the land and planted the
first crop of vinifera grapes. When the winery and inn opened for business in 1993, the 65-acre property
featured over 35 acres of vineyards and a wine cellar, tasting room, 3-bedroom bed & breakfast, and the
family’s private residence. Expansions in 2003 and 2010, grew the business to include a 10,000 square-foot
cellar, 2,000 square-foot Hospitality Room for special events, outdoor patio, expanded tasting room, and 8
additional rooms in the inn.
As a teenager, her parents never demanded she work in the business. In fact, it was quite the opposite as her
father encouraged her to work a variety of jobs to gain a broad base of experience. After earning her
Bachelor’s Degree in Marketing, Management, and Entrepreneurism from DePaul University, Ms. Dalese
remained in Chicago working for a wine company and then a distributor. She also studied abroad for a year in
the graduate wine business program at the University of Adelaide in Australia.
“I never saw myself as an entrepreneur like my father – starting something from scratch,” said Ms. Dalese.
“But I had the desire to learn as much as I could about the industry outside of wine production in order to come
back and be a valuable part of the Chateau Chantal team.”
In 2009, Ms. Dalese returned to the family business as the team’s Director of Marketing. After serving in this
role for 6 years, she transitioned to the role of President and CEO. In this position, she is responsible for
overseeing all operations, which includes growing grapes, wine production, hospitality services, retail sales,
distribution, and wholesale business.
In the midst of Ms. Dalese transitioning from an employee mindset to the leadership position of President, the
team’s founding employee – Elizabeth Berger – met representatives from the Michigan SBDC at a local
chamber of commerce event. Ms. Berger shared the info and together they began to tap into the no-cost
consulting services available from the SBDC.
Initially, they received a Search Engine Optimization (SEO) audit and succession planning support that
included a Strategic Needs Assessment (SNA). The SNA proved to be a powerful tool in helping them to
identify areas that needed to be strengthen; such as, transition of management styles, staff accountability,
employee communications, and employee coaching. They also began working with an SBDC consultant to
benchmark where they fall within industry standards each year.
“The Strategic Needs Assessment was a helpful tool for us during the change in leadership,” shared Ms.
Dalese. “Through the assessment of our team, assessing where we stood in the industry, and hands-on
coaching, it fueled our progression toward improvement and growth.”
In addition to working with the Michigan SBDC, Ms. Dalese worked with the Michigan Economic Development
Corporation (MEDC) in 2015 as Chateau Chantal was the recipient of a Technology Innovation Challenge
Grant that allowed them to put in a 148.5-kilowatt solar panel system. She also worked with the Edward Lowe
Foundation in 2017 on an economic gardening project.
As they approach their 25th anniversary, Ms. Dalese is proud to celebrate the hard work of her parents and the
business they created. What started with her father, founding wine maker – Mark Johnson, and founding
employee/Operations Manager – Ms. Berger, has grown to include 20 full-time employees and 60 part-time
seasonal employees. Wine production has increased to 24,000 cases annually and many new
partnerships/ventures have been formed along the way. During this journey, they have also received many
accolades, including being honored as the 2018 Best Small Business Honoree for the Michigan SBDC