Place of origin: Michigan, USA
ABV: Unknown (2011 was 12%)
Price: Unknown (2012 is $28.50 on the website)
Appearance: Dark plum.
Nose: Toasted oak, grapes, black currant, blackberry, whiff of hardwood smoke.
Palate: Medium bodied, mild and slightly chewy. Wild blackberry, toasted oak, strawberry, green peppercorn.
Finish: Oak, mixed berry pie.
Parting words: Merlot is not a popular grape for varietal bottlings in Michigan. Its parent, Cabernet Franc, is more dependable in Michigan’s climate and is more widely planted as a result. Merlot makes up less than 4% of Michigan’s total wine grape acreage and most of that in the more continental climate of the south and southwest of the state.
It’s important to note that this is a Michigan Merlot, not an Old Mission (or any other specific AVA) Merlot. That means that the grapes that were used to make this wine probably came from a variety of vineyards from across the state. This is a good strategy even for a winery located in northern Michigan like Black Star Farms. Merlot doesn’t take to northern Michigan as well as Pinot Noir and white wine varieties do, so why chain one’s self to a single appellation? Some of the distinctiveness of the wine may be lost, but that’s better than being distinct in a bad way.
At any rate, this is a tasty example of what this grape can do in this state. It goes beautifully with pork, lamb and beef dishes (I drank it with all three) and works nicely after dinner too. The price (at lest for the latest vintage) is too high, but it’s not too far out of line with other quality Michigan red Bordeaux varietals. Try to find it in the $20-$25 range. The 2010 vintage is ready to drink now, but it could probably go another year or two and be just as good or even a little better. 2010 Arcturos Merlot is recommended.