Arcturos Cabernet Franc, 2012

Maker: Black Star Farms, Sutton’s Bay/Traverse City, Michigan, USA20171107_164857.jpg

Grape: Cabernet Franc (at least 75%)

Place of origin: Michigan (56% Leelanau Co, 44% Grand Traverse Co), USA

ABV: 13%

Price: $28.50 (website, 2013 vintage)

Appearance: Dark burgundy. Opaque.

Nose: Roasted red pepper, sautéed mushrooms, raisins, crushed blueberry.

Palate: Medium-bodied and dry. Chicken jambalaya, oak.

Finish: Tangy and oaky.

Parting words: Chicken jambalaya is a weird tasting note, I know, but I think it’s apt for the combination of vegetal (bell pepper, celery), sweet (tomato, onion), tart (tomato), toasty (toasted rice) spicy (bell pepper, black pepper) and earthy (tomato, celery, chicken) flavors I got in this wine.

I reviewed the 2004 Arcturos Three Black Lot Old Mission Peninsula Cab Franc back in 2011 in the early, halcyon days of this blog. It was more subtle and refined than this wine, but it was also two years older. At the time I thought it was too old, but my palate has shifted toward lighter, fruitier reds so it sounds really good to me right now. The 2012 Cab Franc is good right now but I think it will continue to improve into the first couple years of the next decade. $28.50 is a fair price, especially if one holds on to it for a few more years. There are probably a few 2012s still kicking around, but 2016 and 2017 should be as delicious as this vintage and as age-worthy. Goes well with beef, pork, turkey and spicy Latin chicken dishes. 2012 Arcturos Cabernet Franc is recommended.

 

 

 

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2012 Late Harvest Riesling Head to Head: St. Julian vs Black Star Farms

St. Julian Lake Michigan Shore Reserve Late Harvest Riesling= SJ20170915_083849

Arcturos Old Mission Peninsula Late Harvest Riesling= Arc

Makers

SJ: St. Julian Winery, Paw Paw, Michigan, USA

Arc: Black Star Farms Old Mission, Traverse City, Michigan, USA

Places of origin

SJ: Burgoyne Ridge vineyard, Berrien County, Lake Michigan Shore AVA, Michigan, USA

Arc: Old Mission Peninsula, Traverse City, Michigan, USA.

VinSugar at Harvest (in brix)

20170920_163846
More information on the back of the SJ label

SJ: 21.1°

Arc: 22°

ABV

SJ: 12%

Arc: 9.5%

Price (current vintages)

SJ: $13 (website, though I have seen it for under $10)

Arc: $17.50 (website)

 

Appearance

SJ: Medium gold

Arc: Light gold, almost green.

Nose

SJ: Pear, orange juice

Arc: Kerosene (I was the only one who got this note), lemon thyme, peach.

Palate

SJ: Medium bodied but rich. Big pear. Like getting one stuffed up my nose, in a good way.

Arc: Fuller bodied but drier. Crisp apple, lime, candied lemon.

Finish

SJ: Sweet, almost sherry-like.

Arc: Cleaner. Bitter sage.

Tasting panel

Liz: Preferred SJ. Found it more complex and fruitier.

Amy: Preferred SJ. Arc is for summer sipping by the lake. SJ is also for sipping by the lake, but fall is coming soon!

Pete: Preferred Arc. Found SJ too harsh.

Parting words: Michigan is known for Riesling. It’s the most planted wine grape in the state. It’s grown both in the “Up North” wine regions and in West Michigan. Riesling wine is made in a broad array of styles from bone-dry Austrian Smaragd to syrupy Mosel Trockenbeerenauslese. Michigan Rieslings don’t (yet) span that entire spectrum, but they have the middle of it well-covered. On the sweet end are Late Harvest Rieslings like these. The ripeness of the grapes used to make these wines is in the neighborhood of the grapes that would go into a German Spätlese.

I have been wanting to do something like this for a while. LMS vs OMP, West Coast vs Up North. It seemed like the best way to do that was to do it with two wines from two big producers in each area. Black Star Farms is the Up North titan with a winery in both Leelanau and Old Mission and there’s nobody in LMS (or the state) bigger and older than St. Julian. Also both of these wines are commonly found at bigger grocery stores in my area, often at discounted prices.

We all thought both wines were very good, but I was a little surprised at how much almost everyone (including myself) preferred St. Julian. While I didn’t find it as complex as Arcturos, it was richer and more enjoyable. Although St. Julian had less sugar (at harvest and residual) than Arcturos it tasted much sweeter and fruitier. Although the folks at the winery described it as “a bright, clean wine designed to be consumed shortly after release” here, it has held up very well, and probably even become richer. Arcturos held up well too. Both are good values, but St. Julian has the edge there too especially considering it’s a single vineyard wine (albeit a very large vineyard). 2012 St. Julian Lake Michigan Shore Reserve Late Harvest Riesling and 2012 Arcturos Old Mission Peninsula Late Harvest Riesling are recommended.

 

Arcturos Dry Riesling, 2012

Maker: Black Star Farms, Traverse City, Michigan, USA2016-03-02-11.08.03.jpg.jpeg

Place of origin: Leorie, Montague Estate, Capella vineyards, Old Mission Peninsula AVA, Traverse City, Michigan, USA

ABV: 12%

Price: $19 (website, 2013 vintage)

Appearance: medium gold

Nose: Canned peach syrup, freshly opened can of mandarin oranges, almonds, dried herbs de Provence.

Palate: Very mild. Faint tang then abruptly shifts to a bitter herbal taste, like ripped sage leaves.

Finish: Similar to the palate, but even fainter. Fades quickly.

Parting words: This is a cautionary tale, my friends. According to Cellartracker, I bought this wine last June at the winery. I don’t remember going to Black Star Farms last June, but I was in northern Michigan last summer so it’s entirely possible that I did. I wish I had opened it that summer instead of waiting until today. The 2012 vintage was not a consistently good one for Michigan Riesling and dry Rieslings often don’t age as well as late harvest ones. Those two combined with possible poor storage on my part may have doomed this poor wine. It’s not undrinkable, mind you, just fallen apart. I’m sure it was better a year ago, but as it is right now, Arcturos Dry Riesling, 2012 is not recommended.

Arcturos Pinot Noir, 2012

Maker: Black Star Farms, Traverse City/Sutton’s Bay, Michigan, USA

Place of origin: Michigan (68% Leelanau Co., 32% Grand Traverse Co.)

ABV: 13%

Price: $25 (website)

Appearance: Light burgundy with long clingy legs.

Nose: Toasted oak, strawberry juice, grape jelly, blackberry jam, blueberries.

Palate: Raspberry juice, oak, portabella mushrooms, red currants.

Finish: Wild blackberries, black currants, leather, cranberry juice cocktail.

Parting words: I gave a big positive review to the 2011 vintage of this last year and I think this one is even better. The 2011 was a bright spot in an uneven year for Michigan reds. It’s better integrated than in 2011. The tannic, earthy and fruity flavors are in perfect balance. It was more fruity and earthy when I first opened it, but it has become oakier as it sat. Either way, it’s a delicious wine that does well with food or without and is worth the price. 2012 Arcturos Pinot Noir is recommended.

Arcturos Merlot

Maker: Black Star Farms, Sutton’s Bay, Michigan, USAwpid-20150413_074024.jpg

Place of origin: Michigan, USA

Vintage: 2010

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.

Arcturos Gewurztraminer

Maker: Black Star Farms, Traverse City, Michigan, USA

Place of origin: Old Mission Peninsula AVA, Michigan, USA

Vintage: 2012

ABV: 13%

Price: $22.50 (website)

Appearance: Pale gold.

Nose: Lychee, melon, mango.

Palate: Medium bodied. Cantaloupe, white pepper, white peach, touch of pineapple mint.

Finish: Slightly bitter tempered with tropical fruit.

Parting words: For me, the sweet spot for American Gewurz is 2-3 years, right where this one is. To me, this bottle drinks like a crisper, lighter version of an Alsatian Gewurz. That’s not better or worse, it’s just a matter of style. What they share is a commitment to bringing the spicy aspects of the grape to the fore. This wine is not afraid to embrace its Gewurz-ness. I like that approach and I love this wine. This is another big winner from Black Star Farms and another testament to the character and overall excellence of the 2012 vintage. Pairs well with the usual suspects. Arcturos 2012 Gewurztraminer is highly recommended.

A Capella

Maker: Black Star Farms, Sutton’s Bay, Michigan, USA

Grape: Pinot Noir

Place of origin: Capella and Montaña Rusa vineyards, Old Mission Peninsula AVA, Michigan, USA

Vintage: 2011

ABV: 13%

Purchased for $25

Appearance: Deep burgundy with slow, medium width legs.

Nose: Walnut, cherry, touch of cedar.

Palate: Earthy. More so than any other Michigan Pinot I’ve had. Black cherries, wet loam, plum, white pepper, toasted oak.

Finish: A little tart, then more mild cherry followed by wood. Lingers for a long time, but faintly.

Parting words: Yes, it’s another Michigan Pinot. This one, unlike the previous two, is very much in the earthy camp. The oak is well integrated into the earth, but the fruity notes not as much. Nothing bad here though. It goes great with pasta and pork and excellent just on its own. Very much worth the price and would make a nice entry in a horizontal tasting of Michigan Pinots. 2011 A Capella Pinot Noir is recommended.

Isidor’s Choice Pinot Noir

Maker: Black Star Farms, Sutton’s Bay, Michigan, USAIsidors Pinot 2011

Place of origin: Isidor’s Choice vineyard, Leelanau Peninsula AVA, Michigan, USA

Vintage: 2011

Price: $22.50 (website)

Appearance: Ruby with medium width, evenly spaced legs. Throws a few crystals into the glass.

Nose: Blackberry pie, cedar, red raspberry, hint of wet earth.

Palate: Fruity but balanced. Mixed berry jam, toasted oak, coriander seed, hint of white pepper and sautéed mushrooms.

Finish: Slightly fruity but moves to a mildly bitter taste. Raspberry, oak, pepper, cedar.

Parting words: As you’ve already guessed, this is another single vineyard Pinot Noir from Black Star farms, done for the owners of Isadora’s Choice vineyard in Leelenau. This is the second bottle of this wine I’ve drank in the last six months, so it’s safe to say I like it.

The profile is classic, well balanced Pinot. It’s got plenty of fruit and oak and earthy notes and everything else you want in a Pinot pleasantly in its place. The best Michigan Pinots can easily stand toe to toe with most red Burgundies in the same price range, and even surpass some. This vintage of Isidor’s Choice can certainly do that. The bottle suggests that it could improve in the bottle for through 2021, although it’s drinking great now, so I would crack it open now or in the next two years.

All that and it’s food friendly too. We had it with BBQ ribs and it performed very well. Isidor’s Choice 2011 Pinot Noir is recommended.

Arcturos Pinot Noir, 2011

Maker: Black Star Farms, Traverse City/Sutton’s Bay, Michigan, USAArc Pinot 2011

Place of origin: Michigan (60% Leelanau Co., 40% Grand Traverse Co.), USA

ABV: 12% ABV

Price: $22.50 (website)

Appearance: Ruby red,

Nose: Lightly toasted oak, white pepper, strawberry jam.

Palate: Medium bodied and medium dry. Black raspberries, very ripe blueberries, pinch of pink peppercorns.

Finish: Light oak with a bit of fruit. Fades slowly.

Parting words: I was originally planning to let this one sit for longer but after tasting a 2010 Pinot Noir from a neighboring winery that had fallen apart last week I panicked and decided that now was the time to open my 2011 Michigan Pinots. I’m glad I did. This one was very tasty. It was fruity but the oak rounds it off nicely. There could have been more depth and integration of flavor but there’s nothing to complain about. Does fine with food or on its own. 2011 Arcturos Pinot Noir is recommended.

Blushed

Maker: Black Star Farms, Traverse City/Sutton’s Bay, Michigan, USA
BSF Blush

Grape: Pinot Noir

Region: Leelenau AVA, Michigan, USA

Style: Dry sparkling rosè.

ABV: 12%

Price: $13.50 from the winery online

Appearance: Ruby red with lots of bubbles.

Nose: Pomegranate, cranberry, red raspberry.

On the palate: Effervescent and dry. Not nearly as tart as the nose suggests. More pomegranate, but fades into a grapey flavor with a hint of foxiness.

Finish: Still dry but fairly tart. The cranberries pop up again only to fade into sparkling mineral water.

Parting words: I was skeptical when I saw the word “dry” on the label of Blushed, but it dry it is. It’s color is more like a bleed than a blush, but the dark color is attractive.

Blushed would make a nice change of pace for a sober first round on New Year’s Eve or casual summertime sipping. It is very good in a champagne cocktail (sugar, bitters and sparkling wine). Adequate in a mimosa. The price is right and so is the wine. Blushed is recommended.