Featuring Venison and Cranberries – December 11th at 6:30 pm
Offered at the Inn the second Wednesday of every month these dinners include a five course meal that features the best of what’s in season from the farm at Black Star Farms as well as from other local area providers. Cost is $75 per person. There will be a savory sampling of dishes featuring local ingredients. Each course is also paired with Black Star Farms’ wines.
Stay at the Inn after the dinner and receive a 20% discount off your room rate.
Call 231-944-1251 to make a room or dinner reservation.
As autumn arrives in NW Michigan we hope for the usual warm days and cool nights to ripen the grapes to perfection. We never know just what Mother Nature has in store, and that’s the exciting part. By the end of September the palette changes to all shades of gold, red and ocher, the leaf peepers arrive to take in our glorious landscape, and the grape harvest begins.
October is our busiest month at Black Star Farms. Wine making is in full swing with long hours for our winery teams. The Inn is full of guests lucky enough to have booked their color tour early. All three tasting rooms are teeming with folks stocking up for the long winter ahead. Hearth & Vine is open for the last month of their season, still serving up delicious farm-raised fare. And it’s harvest time for our farm animals, too, who have provided such enjoyment for our visitors all summer. This is the cycle of life at the Farm.
Come November things quiet down, but we’re still here, year ‘round, and hoping that you’ll make a visit during one of the “off” times when we have more time to spend.
“Promoting Stewardship and Protecting the Environment…”
The farm in Suttons Bay and the Montana Rusa vineyard on Old Mission Peninsula (adjacent to our tasting room) are proud to be verified in the Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program (MAEAP). This is a voluntary program that helps our farm and the one of our vineyard owner (on Old Mission Peninsula) prevent and minimize any agricultural pollution risks.
MAEAP is a holistic approach to environmental protection. Farms, orchards and vineyards are verified in many different systems. Those applicable to Black Star Farms and our grape growers include Farmstead and Cropping. These pertain to the management of farm infastructure, site conditions and evaluation of vineyard management practices. A complete description of the program and systems is available from the MAEAP site. Or if you prefer the condensed version take a look at our infographic below.
We salute the Michigan farms and vineyards that are verified. Six of those include our neighboring Wineries of Old Mission Peninsula vineyards that were recognized in a ceremony with Governor Rick Snyder this afternoon. The photo below shows winemaker Lee Lutes and vineyard owner Bob Mampe with their MAEAP plaque.
The Michigan Land Use Institute honored those who help carry out its important mission at the annual Milliken Reception on July 27, 2012.
The reception bears the Milliken name in honor of Governor William Milliken and his wife Helen, longtime member of the Institute Board of Directors, who dedicated their lives to defending Michigan’s environment. They believe that a clean, healthy environment is necessary for a prosperous economy.
The event is the Institute’s yearly celebration where members of the Milliken Circle are honored for their support and it gives the MLUI a chance to honor supporters who have helped in other significant ways.
This year, recognition was given to Managing Partner, Don Coe, a strong proponent of the local economy; Denis Pierce, president of Chicago-based law firm Pierce & Associates and a philanthropist with a deep belief in sustainability and fairness; and former MLUI staff member Janice Benson, who was responsible for much of the success of the Taste The Local Difference food local marketing program.
“Without the input and support of people like Don and Denis, and the work of people like Janice, our efforts to promote clean energy, support local food and farming, build thriving communities, and encourage a strong local economy would be impossible,” said MLUI Executive Director Hans Voss.
In 14 years of ownership and management Black Star Farms has emerged as a world-class winery and a shining example of the importance of local food to a local economy. Don’s actions are tied to a simple but powerful belief that farming matters in Michigan; and a conviction that if we take bold steps now, we can create a durable agricultural economy that creates lasting opportunity for generations to come. Coe received the Milliken Distinguished Leadership Award for his work.
We are honored to have managing partner Don Coe be the recipient of this special Miliken Distinguished Leadership Award. Congratulations Don!
Is wine “made in the vineyard?” Winemakers and viticulture experts often agree to disagree on this topic. Head Winemaker Lee Lutes generally believes that it is the symbiotic relationship of viticulture and oenology that make for a phenomenal wine.
“Walk with me”…says Lutes on a crisp fall afternoon while visiting the magical Leorie Vineyard on Old Mission Peninsula. This vineyard is home to the Merlot and Cabernet Franc that make the distinguished Leorie Vineyard Merlot Cabernet Franc. A brief bit of history ensues as we journey through the rolling hills overlooking West Grand Traverse Bay.
In its olden days this 15 acre plot was a gravel pit built into the hillside. When it was purchased 30 years ago its amphitheater shape was originally designed for development. However, with the assistance of local vintner Bernie Rink the owner was convinced of its prime suitability to grow grapes. What followed was the planting of Riesling, Cabernet Franc and Merlot. The 15 year old Riesling and Cabernet Franc are located at the bottom half of the hill preceded by the 20 year old Merlot at the very top. The entire plot faces South West, another added advantage for growing red grape varietals in a cool climate. “The directional element and hillside placement provide numerous benefits for these grapes,” notes Lutes as we continue to walk through the rows of meticulously cared for vines.
Facing South West this site typically retains heat and provides more insulation to the vines. The benefits of this are two-fold, one being that it warms the soil earlier in the season and reduces the risk of frost damage and the other being that it extends the growing season further into the fall. Both of these maximize the total growing degree days, a much needed strategy for growing Merlot and Cabernet Franc in a cool climate.
“Have you ever stood at the top of a hill and felt as if the air was warmer?” asks Lutes. Being on the hill is advantageous throughout the growing season because it results in more heat than being at the bottom. In this vineyard the average difference from top to bottom is typically 15o – 20o with the hottest part being at the top where the Merlot is located. This is another advantage for growing this varietal in our region.
Lutes picks up a handful of the gravel soil and proceeds to explain how this course and porous soil provides better drainage and helps keep the vines “feet” dry throughout the season. He also notes that this soil type is very similar to that of vineyards sites in the Bordeaux region of France.
While standing on the hillside overlooking West Bay, Lutes elaborates more about the exceptional care this vineyard receives and how this in addition to all of the above leads to the birth of his prized red wine. “When these grapes arrive at the winery they are never diseased, they are ripe (often averaging 23-24 brix) and they are picture perfect. It is then the skillful job of our winemaking team to take it to the next level.”
The grapes are individually batch fermented and blended the following spring. The wine is left to meld and age for 12-16 months in new and nearly new American, French and European oak barrels. This wine is very reminiscent of a Bordeaux style blend with a higher percentage of Merlot than Cabernet Franc. The end result being a full-bodied red wine rich with dark berry fruit flavors, earthy spice and complementary oak.
When asked again if he believes that a wine is made in the vineyard, Lutes nods his head and says, “A wine may be conceived and born in a vineyard but it is carefully raised and aged in the winery.”
Black Star Farms and Managing Partner Don Coe have been longtime supporters of the Michigan Land Use Institute (MLUI) and their Taste the Local Difference program. Learn more about the environmental and community initiatives from the MLUI by visiting their website or by viewing the video below featuring Don discussing local agriculture.
We are proud to support this dynamic organization that continues to work for a healthy and green future.
|Recipe for Spirit of Raspberry Royal
Recipe for Molten Chocolate Cakes – Serves 4
-Preheat oven to 400 degrees F spray four – 6 to 8 ounce ramekins and dust the insides with granulated white sugar. In a heatproof bowl, placed over a saucepan of simmering water, melt the butter and chocolate. Remove from heat and set aside.
-With an electric mixer, beat the egg yolks and 1/3 cup sugar until thick, pale, and fluffy, then beat in the vanilla extract and then fold in the melted chocolate mixture.
-In a clean bowl whip the egg whites until frothy. Slowly add 1 tablespoon of the sugar and whip just until stiff peaks form. With a rubber spatula gently fold the beaten whites into the chocolate mixture, just until incorporated. Do not over mix or the batter will deflate. -Divide the batter between the prepared molds. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes or until the outside edges of the cakes are set but the middle still looks moist. Remove from oven and cakes can be served in the ramekins or popped out and served on a plate.
The local food movement is at the forefront of the Traverse City culinary scene. We sat down with our Executive Chef Jonathan Dayton to discusses his culinary background, his dedication to the farm to table concept and what’s instore for the culinary future at the Inn at Black Star Farms.
1. How long have you been working in the Traverse/Northern Michigan restaurant industry?
I started working in the restaurant business back in 1987 as a dishwasher at Sweitzers by the Bay. It was an easily available job in this tourist town for a high school student and I was quickly addicted to the fast pace and sense of community and family in the kitchen. I was a quick learner with a good work ethic so it wasn’t long before I was moved out of the dish pit and into prepping food and then cooking on the line. I’ve always joked that this career is one that chose me. I never went to culinary school for this chef’s life I now live. The kitchens I’ve worked in, the chefs I’ve cooked alongside and the owners that have employed me have been all I needed in this life degree. This is an ever-changing industry with new trends and techniques coming along constantly. Being a chef has been a lifelong education. I learn, see, smell or taste new things everyday I am at work. I have to evolve constantly to keep pace with it all.
2. How would you define the “local food movement?” How long have you been a part of this movement?
The attention the local food movement has been getting the last few years is nothing but positive for all involved, but keep in mind this so called “movement” has been being practiced by people and businesses for a very long time. I think the biggest difference in the last 10 years alone has to do with the availability and amount of product at hand. There has been an explosion in Northern Michigan for produce and proteins being accessible to the homeowner and restaurants like never before. The definition of this movement changes based on the consumer and what the needs for the consumer really are. Whether for yourself, a family or a business, the idea should be practiced the same throughout. Support yourself first, then your community, followed by your state and finally your country. You want to purchase any given product from a source as close to you as possible and you want this product grown or raised by methods that are healthy for the environment and humane to the animal. You also want the people who provide these services to make fair wages. Sustainability. It feels better knowing where your food comes from and I think that feeling makes it taste better. It was somewhere in the early 90′s that I really started noticing the farm to table idea catching on in local restaurants in this area. An elevated sense of pride went into each plate with the knowledge of where the food that was on it came from. This feeling is even stronger today working where I do.
3. What do you consider “best practices” that support using locally grown produce and locally raised animals?
Well the best practice to use for me is taking advantage of what is supplied from the property I work on. The beauty of Black Star Farms in a culinary sense is that what I cook revolves around the availability first and foremost of the ingredients that are outside my kitchen back door. I have the fortune of having a creamery, bakery, winery and distillery on this property, along with the raising of some of our own proteins and the harvesting of our own agriculture. However, our food service department is far too busy to be supplied by this location alone, so other than the farmers markets and food stands I shop at the best thing that has helped supply me and other Northern Michigan restaurants with locally raised and produced products is a company called Cherry Capital Foods. They focus on sales of products primarily grown and raised in the region and state. I am supplied with a weekly availability list of produce, proteins and dairy and my menu offerings are often based off of that availability. Vice versa I can tell them what it is I’m looking for and they take that knowledge back to the farmer. It’s a very unique and involved working relationship. I consider my work with them a key component to my success in supporting locally grown produce and products.
4. Do you at times find it difficult to adhere to using only local foods throughout the year? If so, what do you do to plan for the winter months when local produce is not as abundant?
It is difficult living in this place on the planet and staying true to buying local. As a chef, creatively it can get a little boring in the long months of the winter. Fresh produce is by far the hardest do deal with out. There are only so many things you can do with root vegetables. Believe me, I’ve tried them all. But with the darkness of winter come slower times. You just have to plan ahead the best you can by preserving as much as possible and filling up the freezer and pantry. With the emergence of farmers using more green houses and hoop houses the season can be extended later or started early but even then produce is difficult to find. I guess at the end of the day it comes down to the business you’ve built and what the clientele expect from it.
5. Do you believe there is a future for culinary tourism in N.Michigan? If so, does it revolve around this region’s acclaim as a local food haven?
The future for culinary tourism has already arrived. It’s been fascinating to watch and a privilege to be a part of this growth in Northern Michigan. Agriculture and tourism in this state are the second and third largest industries. People have always traveled to this area for the beauty and way of life. I believe culinary tourism has been here for some time, but I do believe a significant rise has come from the emergence of our wine industry. The wine trails, both on Old Mission Peninsula and Leelanau Peninsula have been essential for pulling in a whole other type of crowd, the foodie type of tourist, not only from our own state but more importantly from out of state. It’s given our region notoriety in national papers and magazines, and with the rise of the restaurant also comes the rise of the farmer. The interest from this clientele for a more creative meal and wider range of offerings has expanded the culinary industry, which then allows the farmer to grow and evolve as well.
6. What are your current and future plans in the kitchen that support this movement?
Currently during these winter months I’m buying what’s left out there of the available produce. Apples and pears are still around so preserving those for the winter. Root vegetables and squash are also still abundant and if properly stored last for months. We had a huge basil and tomato harvest in my own garden here at the farm this past summer so a lot of pesto and purees were made along with soups and sauces, they are all in the freezer for upcoming menus now. As far as the future, we are just planning on doing more. Growing more produce. Raising more animals. Taking what we have at the different times of harvest in the year and creating better ways of preserving. Trying to stretch the season out. Always thinking ahead and improving. Expanding. Always learning.
Last week one our Stables’ veterinarians, Dr. Tanja Molby received the Legend of the Year Award. This is an award that is considered the equivalent to the Nobel Peace Prize in the horse world, and is sponsored by Bayer Animal Health.
Dr. Molby runs Equine Veterinary Services of Leelanau County and provides services to half of the horses we board in our stables. ”We are so proud of her for receiving this special award,” notes Stables Manager Kari Merz.
Read more about Dr.Molby and the award from the Ticker story here.