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Leorie Vineyard Merlot Cabernet Franc

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.”

By |April 17th, 2012|Farm, Featured, Media, Tasting, Winery|2 Comments

Video Feature with Don Coe & The Michigan Land Use Institute

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.

By |February 9th, 2012|Farm, Featured, Media, Video, Winery|0 Comments

Taste the Passion Recipes

Recipe for Spirit of Raspberry Royal

Recipe for Molten Chocolate Cakes  – Serves 4

  • 1/2 c butter – cut into chunks
  • 6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 3 eggs, separate yolks and whites
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tablespoon granulated white sugar

-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. 

By |February 2nd, 2012|Farm, Featured, Inn, Media, Tasting|0 Comments

Award Winning Macaroni and Cheese at Black Star Farms

Executive Chef Jonathan Dayton created the most fabulous macaroni and cheese at last weekend’s Great Macaroni and Cheese Bake-Off. Their unique and savory creation was a Baked Macaroni with Leelanau Cheese and Lamb Shoulder Confit. It was topped with toasted pine nuts and house made roasted garlic basil oil (a recipe is below). Only 30 votes separated the top three restaurants, with The Cooks’ House and Jolly Pumpkin in 2nd and 3rd.

Chef Jonathan is always creating culinary magic in the recently renovated kitchen at the Inn at Black Star Farms. Inn guests are delighted at his gourmet breakfasts and hospitality hour hors d’oeuvres.  His artfully prepared dishes inspire one to savor each bite.

Dinners are also offered at the Inn on select Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays and are open to the public. Meals are prepared from ingredients grown or raised on the farm or sourced from within a 100 mile radius. A complete list of dates can be found on our website calendar. For more information or to make a dinner reservation please call the innkeeper at 231.944.1251.

Baked Macaroni with Leelanau Cheese and Lamb Shoulder Confit

Lamb shoulder

1 lamb shoulder roast, netting removed

½ cup kosher salt

¼ cup fresh ground black pepper

5 dried bay leaves crushed

8 cloves garlic crushed

6 sprigs fresh thyme

2 sprigs fresh rosemary

6-8 cups duck fat, lamb fat, lard or extra virgin olive oil -Cure the lamb shoulder

Trim lamb into 4-6 pieces. Rub the meat with the salt, pepper and bay leaves and place in a bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 12 hours.

Marinate the lamb

Rinse the lamb of the salt mixture and dry well. Place in a clean bowl with the rest of the mix and incorporate. Cover again and refrigerate for up to 12 hours.

Confit the lamb

Place lamb in a large enough pot/dutch oven so there is at least 4 inches of space between the meat and top of the rim. Cover meat with the chosen fat or olive oil and bring to a temperature where you see just a few bubbles rising, the key being to cook at a very low temperature at a slow pace. This can also be done in an oven at around 225F. Cook the lamb for 8-12 hours until the meat is soft and almost falling apart to the touch. Cool the meat on the counter at room temperature. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Roasted garlic basil oil

12 cloves garlic

4 cups extra virgin olive oil

½ pound fresh basil cleaned and de-stemmed roast garlic on stove top at medium until garlic rises to the top. Pull off burner and let cool to room temperature. Bring 2-3 quarts of water to a boil and drop basil in for 10-15 seconds. Pour into colander and then ice bath the basil immediately. Dry basil well by pressing with kitchen towel until all moisture is absorbed. Use multiple towels if necessary. Add basil and roasted garlic oil in blender and puree well. Place oil in refrigerator for 12 hours. Strain the oil thru some cheesecloth into a container and then pour into a squeeze bottle.

Macaroni and cheese

1/2-pound macaroni

3 tablespoons lamb fat

3 tablespoons flour

½ cup leeks

3 cloves roasted garlic

3 cups milk

6 oz. fromage blanc

6 oz. raclette

2-3 cups lamb confit

¼ cup toasted pine nuts

¼ cup panko

1-tablespoon butter

In a large pot of boiling salted water cook pasta al dente. While the pasta is cooking, in a separate pot warm the lamb fat over medium heat and add leeks. Caramelize the leeks stirring frequently for 4 -6 minutes. Whisk in the flour and garlic, keep the mixture moving for about 5 minutes to create your roux. Make sure it is free of any lumps. Whisk in the milk and simmer for 8-10 minutes. Incorporate the cheese until melted. Fold in your pasta and lamb confit and season to taste. Pour mixture into a buttered casserole dish. Melt butter in a saucepan and add panko and pine nuts to coat. Top the macaroni with the panko pine nut crust and bake for 30 minutes at 300F. Cut and plate garnishing with the roasted garlic basil oil.

By |November 29th, 2011|Inn, Media, Tasting|0 Comments

5 Delightful Days in Northern Michigan

The Grand Traverse Bay area abounds with possibilities. There are endless miles of beaches alongside quaint towns with unique shops and galleries, wineries and breweries galore, and an array of culinary destinations. There is certainly something for everyone. Here we have compiled 5 days of itineraries filled with activities that will delight your senses and leave you with the most memorable experiences.

Day One:

Start your tour in the village of Suttons Bay. The main street is lined with colorful store fronts where you could easily shop and spend several hours. There are beaches, galleries, antique shops, boutiques featuring clothing and accessories, as well as the historic Bay Theater dating from the 1940’s. There are 14 different dining choices in the village ranging from deli-style to sit-down featuring gourmet local fare.  The schooner Inland Seas, a schoolship fostering knowledge of the Great Lakes, is moored in the harbor.  If you are up for more we recommend visiting the nearby Leelanau Peninsula Wineries for wine tasting. Several are close to the village, including L. Mawby, Shady Lane Cellars, Ciccone Vineyard and Winery, Chateau de Leelanau, and Willow Vineyard. Close out the day with a casual meal at one of Suttons Bay’s most popular pubs, Boone’s Prime Time. They feature superb steaks, fresh seafood and great burgers in a cozy rustic atmosphere. 

Day Two:

Relax and take your time on a scenic drive north along M-22 that hugs the western shore of Grand Traverse Bay. Cherry and apple orchards dot the landscape along this sublime route to Leelanau State Park with its Grand Traverse Lighthouse. A mid-route must is a stop at Tandem Ciders just off Setterbo Rd. where you can nibble on peanuts and sample sweet and hard ciders in a quaint tasting room filled with antiques and unique art. After visiting the State Park drive back through Northport and continue your scenic drive southwest along M-22 to Leland, a picturesque 145-year-old fishing village. Be sure to visit the historical district, known as Fishtown, where you can browse in shops that were once rustic fishing shanties alongside docks reminiscent of life and commercial fishing one hundred years ago. Stop for lunch and a bowl of locally renowned seafood chowder from the Cove or pick up a sandwich from the Village Cheese Shanty.  In Fishtown you can stock up on sweet treats at the Dam Candy Store where you’ll find old fashioned sweet treats along with ice cream or coffee. After a day of exploration relax for dinner back at one of the fine restaurants in Suttons Bay or in the Arcturos Dining Room at the Inn at Black Star Farms (subject to availability, please call ahead to make a reservation, 231.944.1251).  

Day Three

Plan a day of shopping and dining in downtown Traverse City. You will find more than 150 unique boutiques, galleries, restaurants and coffee shops along Front St.  Shopping highlights include Wilson Antiques, The Cherry Stop, and Ella’s Fashion and Furnishings. During the summer and early fall on Wednesday and Saturday mornings don’t miss the downtown Sara Hardy Farmer’s Market. It’s a delight to the senses! Rainy day activities in Traverse City could include a visit to the Dennos Museum on the campus of Northwest Michigan College or a first-run movie at the renovated State Theatre. For lunch try the Green House Café for fresh homemade soups and sandwiches. After lunch head a few blocks west over to the Village at Grand Traverse Commons; one of North America’s largest historic redevelopment projects. Here you will find the century-old Victorian-Italianate style buildings that were once part of the Traverse City State Hospital, and previously, the Northern Michigan Asylum. The Village is a marvel to explore. From the miles of hiking trails and expansive lawns to the shops in the Mercato, one can easily spend several hours here. Don’t miss wine tasting at Left Foot Charley followed by a Matterhorn Grill Dinner at TASTES of Black Star Farms.

Day Four

Take a leisurely drive to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore Park with its variety of touring options.  The Dune Climb is a must, as is the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive, and you can also step back in time with a visit to the U.S. Coast Guard Museum. Dine where the locals do for lunch at the one-of-a-kind Art’s Tavern in Glen Arbor. Just a walk up the road from Art’s is the original home of the Cherry Republic, a haven for all things cherry!  You can sample cherry salsa, cherry ice cream and even cherry wine. Take the scenic route back to Suttons Bay and enjoy wine tasting at any of the nearby Leelanau Peninsula wineries, Good Harbor Vineyards, Bel Lago, and Chateau Fontaine.

Day Five:

Start the day with a south-bound drive on M-22, along the bay in Traverse City, and towards the Old Mission Peninsula. Follow M-37 all the way to the top of the Peninsula, ending at the Old Mission Point Light House.  You can tour the grounds of this historic 1870’s lighthouse and see how the peninsula people lived in the adjacent turn of the century Hessler Log Cabin. Stop at the historic Old Mission General Store for a gourmet deli sandwich or pizza and a few pieces of penny candy. A visit here is like stepping back in time.  Continue south on M-37 with stops along the way at the Wineries of Old Mission Peninsula. There are seven wineries all situated right off of M-37. Each winery has a signature wine and they are all different in décor. With a designated driver one could easily visit all seven. A day of wine tasting will no doubt work up an appetite.  No visit to the Old Mission Peninsula would be complete without a meal at the Jolly Pumpkin featuring microbrew beers and artisan cuisine served in a uniquely historic building.

Do you have more plans on your intinerary? We’d love to hear how you spent your days in N.Michigan, please share your story and photos, cbriggs@blackstarfarms.com.

By |June 30th, 2011|Farm, Inn, Media|0 Comments

Pear and its Spirit

Many of our visitors are curious how we get the pear in the bottle of the Pear and its Spirit brandy. The process begins in the spring when the bottles are tied over budding branches with hopes that a Bartlett pear will grow to maturity inside the bottle.

This year we were able to visit Delight of Life Farm and record video of the crew tying the bottles to the trees. In the video below Heather Jordan, owner of Delight of Life Farm, is gently attaching a bottle to the budding branch. Heather explained that they do not tie bottles to every bud; it has to be “just right.” When asked what she meant by this she said the budding branch has to be facing upwards or the pear will not grow well in the bottle and the bottle is also more likely to fall off the tree.

The pear is harvested inside the bottle, cleaned and washed, and the bottle is then filled with pear brandy from the same orchard and hand labeled in a special limited presentation. The pear will calcify over time as long as it is covered with the brandy. It is important to replace the brandy with our Spirit of Pear brandy when it gets close to uncovering the pear.

Pear and Its Spirit truly captures the essence of Northern Michigan fruit. The balance of fruit and alcohol reflects both the artisan skill of the distiller and the quality of the fruit. The resulting clear Pear and its Spirit delivers an explosion of succulent pear aroma and taste, rich flavor with a dry and elegant after taste.

To learn more ask about this product in our tasting room during your next visit visit to our tasting rooms up north.

By |June 17th, 2011|Event Planning, Media, Tasting, Video, Winery|1 Comment

Celebrate Your Birthday or Anniversary at the Inn at Black Star Farms

Are you looking for that special place to celebrate your next birthday or anniversary? Let the innkeepers and staff at the Inn at Black Star Farms take care of you.  Enjoy luxurious accomodations, award winning wines, and fabulous meals while celebrating your special day.  Join our Birthday and Anniversary Club and receive discounts each year you celebrate with us, including a 10% discount on the first year’s stay. Learn more about this club and fill out your application to join in the pdf. below.

B-DAYANNIV CLUB pdf

“We stayed there for the first time in January and were beyond impressed.”

Shannon and Cortney Casey from Michigan By The Bottle. Learn more about their experience at the inn in this video below.

By |March 19th, 2011|Inn, Media, Video|2 Comments

An Engaging Offer at TASTES of Black Star Farms

Recent proposal trends about when and where to pop the question show that women really do not want the event to take place in an elaborate setting followed by a lavish dinner.  Instead they are likely to be pleased with something romantic and traditional that doesn’t break the bank.

TASTES of Black Star Farms offers all of the above and is just the right spot in Traverse City. Located in the uniquely historic Village at Grand Traverse Commons TASTES has the right ambience to make the moment memorable. Guests can start the evening off with wine sampling at the bar followed by a wonderful Matterhorn Grill dinner planned for two. TASTES offers private seating areas with warm lighting to capture the mood perfectly. After the big question a celebration is in order and can include Black Star Farms’ Be Dazzled sparkling wine paired with dessert.  

Affordable, unique, and with just the right amount of room to get down on one knee, TASTES is a great location to propose. For pricing information or to make a reservation please call Kevin Culloty at 231.944.1349.

The Matterhorn Grill Dinner is a simple and traditional European-style meal of Leelanau Cheese Company’s award-winning raclette cheese melted and poured over a selection of table-top grilled meat, sausages, potatoes, seasonal vegetables, apples, and hearth-baked bread.

TASTES is open Tuesday & Wednesday from noon to 7 p.m., Thursday, Friday and Saturday from noon to 9 p.m., and on Sunday, noon-4 p.m. The tasting bar offers samples and retail sales of the full range of Black Star Farms’ wines.  Small plates, both savory and sweet, pair well with wine samples by the glass. After 5pm, Matterhorn Grill dinners are served featuring Leelanau Cheese Company cheese and wine samples. Seating for groups of 2-18 is limited, and reservations are necessary.

By |December 22nd, 2010|Featured, Media, Tasting, Winery|0 Comments

Be Dazzled: Presented by Winemaker Lee Lutes

It’s the holidays and that calls for a festivity or two, making this “the time of year where sparkling wine should be everywhere, on every table, and at every setting” says Lee Lutes head winemaker here at Black Star Farms.  A bottle of bubbly is always a good choice when hosting or attending a party.

We recommend choosing an off-dry style that will please many palates as well as a dynamic range of dishes. Our 2009 Be Dazzled is made in this style and lends itself to being a great party wine at very affordable price. Learn more about this wine from Lee in the short video below.  Save 20% on the Be Dazzled with our featured monthly coupon or pick up one of the special holiday splits available for only $8.50 in all of our tasting rooms (please note the monthly coupon doesn’t apply to these).

By |December 16th, 2010|Featured, Media, Tasting, Video, Winery|8 Comments

TASTES Redeux

It’s almost all new at TASTES redeux.  If you haven’t been to TASTES in the past week, you haven’t been to TASTES.

We’ve redecorated, adding more tables and stools.  We have an enhanced all-day menu with new “tastes,”  making TASTES the perfect spot to grab a quick bite.  We can now serve larger wine samples by the glass, and our scrumptious house-made desserts are all accompanied by one of our Sirius Dessert Wines.

The tasting bar is still open with retail wine sales encouraged.  Our famous Matterhorn Grill dinners are still being served up in the evening.  We call it “the new fondue.”  A delicious respite from the hustle and bustle of the holidays, it’s a romantic dinner for two or a fun way to celebrate with friends. As our seating is limited, please call 231.944.1349 to make your dinner reservations.

We hope to see you soon at TASTES redeux in the Mercato at the Village at Grand Traverse Commons.

Redeux = to remix.

By |December 13th, 2010|Featured, Media, Tasting|0 Comments