BOS Wine pushes boundaries in Michigan wine scene

In Michigan’s still-young but expanding wine industry, there’s always room for people who want to try something new, challenge the norm and push boundaries.

Include BOS Wine among those innovators. New to the state’s flourishing wine scene, with a tasting room far off the beaten trail, BOS Wine offers customers something entirely new: A menu that highlights both Michigan and California wines, as well as seated tastings (so far, a fairly new practice at tourist-driven wineries) at its location in Elk Rapids.

If the inclusion of California wines raises eyebrows, consider that owner David Bos has spent extensive time in Napa Valley, tending some famous vineyards, as well as in Michigan, where he began to learn viticulture and more . The common denominator between California and Michigan vineyards lies in farming practices; Bos is both a practitioner and advocate of bio dynamic farming (more on that below). 

Dave Bos and his wife, Jackie, moved to northern Michigan four years ago. Their winery is producing noteworthy red, white and sparkling wines with grapes grown on Old Mission and Leelanau peninsulas and Interlochen (outside Traverse City) and in Napa Valley. Here’s the story of BOS Wine.

Where is the tasting room: BOS Wine is located on Ames Street in Elk Rapids, just off Route 31.  The renovated farmhouse, formerly a coffee shop, seats just 22 people. Reservations are recommended but walk-ins are welcome. Guests can choose from a few different wine tastings, pairing experiences or just a glass of wine. The tasting room also offers a variety of dips developed by a local chef and charcuterie boards. “We like to push the envelope,” says Jackie Bos,  who designed the company’s wine bottle labels. “We are highly focused on the wine tasting experience and our wine club. We want people who come in here to be part of the wine club and to learn about the farming process, to learn about where the grapes come from. Wine is like the art on the walls. Wine is an art form.”

A sunflower garden -- which is also planted with other flowers and herbs -- behind the farmhouse also is open for tastings.  “The BOS Wine Garden gives us a great way to talk about farming and what we’re doing with biodynamics,” Dave Bos says. “It’s like a chef tasting and talking about arugula or carrots fresh from a garden, all grown biodynamically. There’s such a difference in taste and quality, and it’s the same with wine.”

How BOS Wine differs: It’s not just their farming methods that separate BOS Wine from other Michigan wineries. The couple is also working with growers in both California and Michigan to produce their portfolio of BOS Wine. These are vineyards Dave Bos is intimately familiar with and whose owners also are practicing biodynamic farming. Producing and serving Michigan and California wines is a business model like no other in the Great Lake State. 

How they came to northern Michigan: The couple met in California and married in 2008. Their passions and talents aligned and they created a vineyard consulting firm. With access to high quality fruit, it wasn’t too long before Dave and Jackie began producing their own wine -- their first vintage, a California Syrah in 2010 -- and began planting the seeds to create their own winery. Looking to where they wanted to raise their family and grow their business, Dave and Jackie began looking for property outside of Napa Valley. They had a dream of being a part of a younger wine growing region, where they could play a role in influencing quality wine making and farming practices. Frequent visits to northern Michigan during family trips and solid connections with winemakers here and others convinced them to settle outside Traverse City.

What is biodynamic farming:  Dave Bos became familiar with biodynamic agriculture while tending vineyards in Napa Valley. A form of organic farming, biodynamic agriculture eschews pesticides and chemicals, turning to natural composting materials from the farm to nurture the soil. Biodynamic methods, Dave says, bring health and vitality to a farm. They involve composting, planting cover crops and using biodynamic preps—made from herbs, mineral substances and manure—in field sprays and compost to influence the soil. It’s also about working with the rhythms of nature, and learning that chores like planting and pruning are better on some days than others.

Spreading the word: Since returning to Michigan, Dave has been working with other vineyards, including Mari Vineyards on Old Mission Peninsula, where all 70 acres of vines have been converted to organic farming. Sharing the message begins at the tasting room or the garden. Dave Bos also collaborates with local farmers, who are taking healthier steps in growing crops.

The winery also sponsors D.I.G. Night, an in-person and virtual discussion about bio dynamic farming, with winery owners, restaurateurs and others focused on producing quality products in northern Michigan. “Michigan is going greener,” Dave Bos says. “A lot of Michigan organizations are looking at getting greener … if you look at some of the best wineries in the world, many of them are doing biodynamic farming. A lot of people see the benefits of biodynamic farming. It has taken sick vineyards and made them healthy again.”

The wines: The BOS portfolio includes sparkling, rosé, white and red wines. The white wines are produced from grapes grown in Northern Michigan vineyards. The reds are culled from vines in California’s Mendocino County and Napa Valley. The first Northern Michigan red to be featured in the BOS Wine portfolio is a blaufränkisch from Vineyard 15 on Old Mission Peninsula. Not surprisingly, customers often come to the tasting room with prejudices against Michigan and California wines:  “I get people who say ‘I really don’t like Michigan wine or I don’t like California wine,” he says. “I say, ‘Why not?’ Let me tell you about Michigan wine. Let’s talk about California wine. It’s part of our story, part of our narrative.”

What’s next: BOS Wine celebrates its first year anniversary in September. Jackie Bos says the couple is focused on continuing to offer a great experience for “everybody that comes here for the tasting experience.” They’re also readying the garden for the season. “The garden is a beautiful place to come and enjoy BOS wine and hear our story,” she says. “There will always be something in bloom until the frost.”

Enjoy this story? Sign up for free solutions-based reporting in your inbox each week.