While on vacation with the family at beautiful Torch Lake, Michigan, my dad, brother and I decided to spend an afternoon wine tasting in Suttons Bay. We stopped by Black Star Farms Winery, one of their three locations.
As many Northern American wineries over market, Black Star Farms is located on the 45th parallel, just as Bordeaux. Of course, in reality this is irrelevant, because last time I checked, there’s a “small” pond between Bordeaux and Michigan. This 45th parallel reference is nothing more than marketing. What is not marketing is my assessment that this appellation and, in particular, this wine stand alone and side-by-side any top-quality Bordeaux, Alsace, Burgundy, Washington or Oregon wine. Props to the Michigan Visitors’ Center for recommending this winery after I expressed my interest in tasting the best wine in Michigan. I dare say that I think they just may have been right!
So two firsts here, and then I’ll just dive into the juice!
…One, this was my first ever tasting of Michigan wines. Originating from the State Down South, I am not embarrassed to say that Michigan BLEW AWAY Ohio on quality and expression. In fact, I have yet to taste an Ohio wine that I’d recommend.
…Two, I had never tasted, nor had I even heard of a double appellation wine. I didn’t even know this combination was legally permissible within the AVA system. Well apparently it is! And it works!
MY TOP PICKS:
Leelanau Peninsula Sparkling, Leelanau Peninsula ’08 – $17.50
Notes: fresh bread aromas, great local expression of the “méthode champanoise”
Isidor’s Choice Pinot Noir, Leelanau Peninsula ’11 – $22.50
Notes: Burgundian, mineral, dark chocolate
Arcturos Merlot, Michigan ’10 – $25.00
Notes: beautiful floral notes
Vintners Select, Michigan ’10 – $25.00
Notes: 60/38/2 Cab Franc/Merlot/Syrah, big fruits, jam
Spirit of Apple Brandy - $24.50
Notes: sweet caramel nose, expressive whisky-like flavors, nostalgia of Calvados
3 WHITES WORTH TRYING:
Arcturos Pinot Noir Rosé, Old Mission Peninsula ’12 (fruity) – $13.50
Arcturos Pinot Gris, Old Mission Peninsula ’11 (dry Alsatian style) – $15.00
Arcturos Dry Riesling, Old Mission Peninsula ’11 – $15.00
1 WHITE TO PASS ON:
Arcturos Sur Lie Chardonnay, Old Mission Peninsula ’11 – $15.50
Notes: too cosmetic on the nose
2 PREMIUM REDS REALLY WORTH TRYING:
Arcturos Pinot Noir, Grand Traverse Co./Leelanau Peninsula ’11 – $22.50
Notes: super light, color and palate
Arcturos Cabernet Franc, Old Mission/Leelanau Peninsula ’11 – $25.00
Notes: big acidity, great floral notes
1 RED TO PASS ON:
Leorie Vineyard Merlot Cab Franc, Old Mission Peninsula ’10 – $42.00
Notes: 60/40 blend, too green and way over priced for the quality
1 SPIRIT “MAYBE” WORTH TRYING:
Spirit of the Vineyard White Grappa (strong!) – $25.00
In closing, how’z ‘bout some humor? While preparing this post I noticed that the tasting room’s wine list and tasting guide included a Wine Libs game, à la Mad Libs. I thought this was a fun and creative little touch and so I thought I’d do a quick Facebook experiment and share the results, unedited! I filled in the blanks, indiscriminately, in order of my Wall’s responses. Here’s what my friends had to say…
“Your Guide to becoming the world’s greatest wine critic”
This Syrah from Black Star Farms reflects Lee Lutes’ lifelong pursuit of the downward dog. The full-bodied, balanced wine captures a true sense of integrity and metacognition; the vineyard’s well-draining chewing gum stood up to the happy spring of 2011 and the hilltops slope captured the broken leg that followed, resulting in an ideal magnificent balance. Thanks to a week of extended nut shots, this wine’s soft tannins and groovy, full texture is a perfect unicycle for the lush flavors of lychee tulips, and a Chaise lounge of herbs and cloves. Such a quality wine will improve for over a decade, but this bottle’s bright myrrh and intense quadruple-cheese pizza make it absolutely delicious right now.