By Rick Coates
What do Dan Aykroyd, Mario Batali, Antonio Banderas, Tommy Smothers and
Carter Oosterhouse have in common? They all own wineries. At least that
will be the case soon for HGTV hunk and heartthrob Carter Oosterhouse.
Last week Oosterhouse hosted an open house for close friends to show off
his new vineyard and winery location on the Old Mission Peninsula as well
as introduce his fiancee, actress Amy Smart, to family and friends.
Oosterhouse joins the growing ranks of celebrities worldwide venturing
into the wine industry. Last year celebrity-owned wineries saw a 25%
increase in wine sales from the previous year. While their celebrity may
be a factor, many of those wineries do not even have the stars names on
the labels. Ask any celebrity why they opened or purchased a winery and
making money off of gimmick wines will not be on that list -- and that is
also the case for Oosterhouse.
It is funny but growing up here I couldnt wait to get out of here, said
Oosterhouse. But after living in LA for several years now I am always
trying to figure out how I can get back here more often. I always knew
that I wanted to have a business here in Traverse City. Growing up on the
Peninsula and watching the wine industry emerge. I thought it was a good
While Oosterhouse will be a hands-on owner, his work with HGTV along with
a modeling career and owning his own production company will keep him from
managing the operation daily. He will leave that in the hands of his older
Todd has been successful in business. I can trust him and when I asked
him he was excited as I was with the potential for this project, said
Oosterhouse. He will manage the day-to-day end of it, but I will have
Oosterhouse Vineyards will have 20 acres of grapes to start and a tasting
room located off Nelson Road near Chateau Grand Traverse. They expect the
tasting room to open in the spring of 2014.
So, for two brothers who grew up with construction backgrounds, exactly
what is their wine knowledge?
We feel very fortunate that so many people have stepped up to give us
input, said Todd. For example Cornell of Two Lads Winery is consulting
with us. We both like to ask a lot of questions. We are basically figuring
it out as we go along.
Their open house included an opportunity for guests to help plant some of
the vineyard; for the Oosterhouse brothers this concept of community is
We want this be a very community-oriented winery, said Carter. We want
the community to be a part of what we are doing and participate along the
Carter Oosterhouse graduated from TC St. Francis (as did Todd) and
attended Central Michigan University. Carter worked construction during
the summers and moved to LA after graduating from CMU where he worked in
the building trades before being discovered by talent scouts. He has been
selected People Magazines Sexiest Man on TV. In addition to his
television work he has had several modeling projects; currently hes the
male model for Nautica. Oprah used Oosterhouse on occasion to oversee
on-air makeovers for fans of her show.
He has used his celebrity resources to bring attention to Traverse City
having a few television shows filmed here of home remodeling projects. In
addition, he and his family secretly remodeled one of the Old Mission
Peninsula Fire Department buildings to the tune of $130,000. Last summer
his charity, Carters Kids, built a childrens playground at the harbor at
Greilickville Harbor Park in Elmwood Township.
Oosterhouse, now 34, started to get the itch to come back to Traverse City
six years ago and bought an old Victorian style farmhouse and some acres
about 10 miles out on the Old Mission Peninsula. Despite living in
California with its famed wine country Oosterhouse kept hearing about
I would mention to friends I was from Michigan and they would talk about
how great the wines are from there and that was really a selling point for
me as well, said Oosterhouse. Plus every time I would come back home I
would go out to dinner at the Peninsula Grille and order a glass of
Riesling and that first sip of wine just reminds me of all the great
things about Northern Michigan.
So do the Oosterhouse brothers plan to focus on Rieslings?
I thought about it at first, certainly our region is known for that but I
decided to take the approach I have with my career, to be more of an
opportunist, said Oosterhouse. Todd and myself are going to keep an open
mind to our approach and maybe even help usher in some new ideas for the
We have a pretty diverse vineyard right now and certainly a lot to learn
as we move forward, he said. This is a delicate business and we had to
buy land away from where Carter bought his farm because the growing
conditions were not right.
Carter jokes: It is funny but I guess I never figured I would lay awake
at night trying to figure out how to get rid of weeds. There are so many
weeds. But Todd and and I also want to use the best farming practices at
As for how much his new fiancee will be involved, that remains to be seen.
Amy is very busy with her acting career; she is excited about the winery
project, said Oosterhouse. I have joked with her that I will name a
section of the vineyard after her, but we have to be married for awhile
before I commit to that.
Oosterhouse and Smart are known as Hollywoods green or eco couple.
They plan to spend as much time here as possible. They met last fall and
were engaged this past spring.
I have spent a lot of time up here, my parents live in Omena, said Smart.
As for a wedding date and location, Oosterhouse just smiled as the couple
has several Hollywood friends and revealing too many details will
certainly result in the papparazzi showing up.
We are planning on this September, said Oosterhouse. Location to be
determined, Ill get back to you on that one.
In the meantime Oosterhouse is leaving this week for the west coast to
start filming for some upcoming HGTV shows. His production company is also
in negotiations for a brand new show as well. Todd will stay focused on
tending to the vineyards along with processing the mounds of paperwork the
state and federal government require to operate a winery.