Spirit of the Vineyard Michigan White Grappa

Maker: Black Star Farms, Traverse City, Michigan, USAIMG_20130731_114726

ABV: 40%

Note: Made using white wine leftovers (skins, pulp, seeds, stems).

Appearance: Clear with big thick legs.

Nose: Fruity and pungent, but not unpleasant. Like a fruity perfume. Ripe pear, table grapes, a hint of fresh cut cedar and lemon grass.

On the palate: Mild but full bodied. Sweet and mildly grapey.

Finish: delicately fruity and woody with more of that cut cedar aroma rolling around the mouth.

Parting words: For those who may not know, grappa is a brandy distilled from a fermentation of the left over byproducts of the wine making process collectively called pomace or marc. Grappa is the Italian word for such a beverage. Other versions of the same thing include marc (French), orujo (Spanish) and tescovină  (Romanian). The name grappa is restricted by the European Union to beverages of this type made in Italy, but has no such protection here in the U.S., hence this American grappa.

I haven’t had much grappa (or marc or the like) so the mental sample to which I am comparing this spirit is small. That said, this is very, very good. It’s not nearly as rough and raw tasting as the other grappas I have tasted and has a very pleasant nose that really shines in a Glencairn or Riedel Single Malt glass (I don’t own a grappa glass). It’s delicious chilled or at room temperature before or after a meal or on a hot afternoon.

Black Star Farms makes a wide variety of eaux-de-vie and brandies including a “red grappa” which is not actually red but made from red wine leftovers. It is also quite good, but the white has a very appealing perfumed nose, no doubt a reflection of the Riesling, Pinot Gris and other aromatic white wine grape varieties that lent their unused bits to the this spirit.

Spirit of the Vineyard Michigan White Grappa is highly recommended.

For further reading: https://sipologyblog.com/2011/07/08/a-visit-to-black-star-farms/

Arcturos Riesling, 2011

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

Place of Origin: Montaña Rusa, Montague Estate & Capella vineyards, Old Mission AVA, Michigan, USA

Style: Medium Dry

ABV: 11%

Appearance: Pale straw with not much in the way of legs.

Nose: Lemon thyme, orange zest, ripe peach, mango nectar.

On the palate: Full bodied for a Riesling. Slightly racy but with just enough minerality. Fresh apricots, peach cobbler, hint of limestone.

Finish: Mildly sweet and citric. A little background minerality and then a soft fade.

Parting words: Long time readers of this blog have come to expect gushing reviews of Four Roses special releases and wines from Black Star Farms. This review will not depart from pre-established patterns in any way. This is a delightful wine. The 2011 vintage in northwestern Michigan continues to impress. This wine is like that rare friend who is intellectual but not pedantic and a lot of fun at parties but never embarrassing to be around.

My only regret is that I drank it too soon. I probably should have waited for until next summer but it’s damn good night now. 2011 Arcturos Riesling is highly recommended.

Arcturos Pinot Gris

Maker: Black Star Farms, Traverse City, Michigan, USAArc Pinot Gris 2011

Grape: Pinot Gris/Pinto Grigio

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

Vintage: 2011

ABV: 12%

Appearance: Golden straw.

Nose: Peach, pear, Golden Delicious apples, paper white narcissus.

On the palate: Crisp and medium dry. More Golden Delicious, stone, apricot, smoke.

Finish: Fairly dry. White grapefruit, smoke, a lingering background sweetness.

Parting words: I’m a big fan of Alsatian Pinot Gris, and I’ve had some good Michigan ones too, so I was eager to get into this bottle. It did not disappoint. It has a great balance of varietal character with some citrus notes, but they are well in check by smoke and minerality. This is firmly in the Alsatian, not Italian, style of making wine with this grape. It’s very food friendly (buttery fish or light vegetarian fare work best) and is affordable for a wine of this quality. The 2011 Arcturos Pinot Gris is recommended.

Arcturos 2010 Sur Lie Chardonnay

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

Place of origin: Capella Vineyards, Old Mission AVA, Traverse City, Michigan

Style: Unoaked Chardonnay

ABV: 12%

Appearance: Pale gold

Nose:  apricot, pear, tangerine.

On the palate: Medium bodied and medium sweet. Slightly tart but easy going with lots of varietal character. More apricot, blood orange, pink grapefruit.

Finish: Slightly bitter and citric, moves from pink to white grapefruit.

Parting words: This is an unoaked Chardonnay, but it still is very much a Chardonnay. Lots of that fruity but medium dry Chard character. I’ll admit, I’m not as fond of the product of this grape as I once was. This is a nice enough wine, and it’s a nice change of pace from oaky California Chards, even if it doesn’t really impress. The wife thinks it tastes like a Vihno Verde, and I can see what she means. I doubt Chardonnay will ever reach the heights that Riesling does in Michigan, but if winemakers continue to be creative, Chard may have a place. At any rate, Arcturos Sur Lie Chardonnay is mildly recommended

Arcturos Pinot Blanc

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

Place of origin: Montaña Rusa, Capella and Montague vinyards, Old Mission AVA, Michigan, USA

Vintage: 2011

ABV: 12%

Appearance: pale gold.

Nose: Tangerine, apricot, Meyer lemon.

On the palate: Medium bodied and velvety. A bit of smoke, but not overpowering. Canned pear, ripe peach, golden delicious apple. Never overly tart or citric, though. Perfectly balanced.

Finish: Pink Grapefruit, bartlett pear, but, again, easy going and elegant.

Parting words:  According to the label Pinot Blanc from these vineyards usually gets blended into BSF’s sparkling wines, but the 2011 vintage was so outstanding they decided to bottle it as a varietal. It is a fantastic wine. Elegant and balanced, but never boring. Plenty of terroir tartness, but never overwhelming or pucker-inducing. Dry but highly aromatic and fruity. I just can’t say enough about this wine. It’s a very limited bottling that I received as a member of their wine club. The information that actually came with the package had a different wine listed, but I thank Bacchus that I got this one instead.  Arcturos Pinot Blanc 2011 is worth seeking out and highly recommended.

Arcturos Pinot Noir

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

Grape: Pinot Noir

Place of Origin: 53% Grand Traverse County, 47% Leelanau County, Michigan, USA

Vintage: 2010

ABV: 12%

Appearance: Reddish burgundy.

Nose: Cherry preserves, oak, clove, glazed ham. Gets drier as it breathes.

On the palate: Medium bodied. Subtle but fairly complex. Slightly tangy, with more cherry and oak. Black pepper, leather, hint of cedar.

Finish: Oak with stronger cedar notes. Fades to a slightly tannic fruity tang.

Parting words: This is a very well-executed Pinot. It’s well-balanced but interesting. The oak and spice balances out the fruitiness of the grape. It also avoids the cedar notes that can overwhelm some Michigan reds. The blend of Grand Traverse and Leelanau grapes strikes an excellent balance. According to the BSF website this wine would benefit from up to ten years in the cellar, but I couldn’t wait. Goes well with food, but the spice and oak may be lost in the shuffle. It is perfect for a contemplative autumn afternoon. Recommended.

Arcturos Pinot Noir Rosé

Maker: Black Star Farms, Old Mission, Traverse City, Michigan

Grape: Pinot Noir

Region: Montaña Rusa  & Capella, Old Mission AVA, Traverse City, Michigan, USA

Vintage: 2011

ABV: 12%

Appearance:  Pale, grayish pink.

Nose: Dry. Cedar, peach, thyme, heather.

On the palate: Dry and refreshing. Cedar chips, sweet woodruff, pluot plum, rosemary.

Finish: Clean and, surprise, dry. Slightly sweet and tangy, then fading quickly.

Parting words: Rosé still has a bad reputation among some casual wine drinkers. Sticky sweet white Zinfindel comes to mind. That attitude is starting to change, though, and “serious” rosé like this are leading the way.

What makes this wine serious? First of all, its dryness. This is not a pop wine, this is a mealtime wine. Grilled pork or turkey, not potato chips. Second, connected with its dryness, is its ABV. 12% is an alcohol level that demands attention. Third, and most important, is its character. It is full of varietal and terroir distinctiveness. The cedar/rosemary notes are, in my mind, the hallmarks of fine Northern Michigan red wine (and well-made pinks!). This wine is not the product of a single-vineyard but of two, Capella and Montaña Rusa, both on Old Mission Peninsula. The label touts this as a summertime red wine alternative. It is that, but it deserves to be considered on its own merits as a legitimate style of Pinot Noir.

Anyway, I could go on and on, but I won’t. Black Star Farms Arcturos Pinot Noir Rosé is highly recommended.

Artisan Red

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

Grapes: ???

Region: Michigan, USA

Style: Semi-Sweet Table Wine

ABV: 11%

Appearance: Dark Burgundy.

Nose: Fruity. Prune juice, grape juice, sweet cherries, strawberries.

On the palate: Sweet and fruity. Red raspberries, raisins, black cherries, tiny kiss of oak.

Finish: Mild, slightly tannic, a bit sweet but fading quickly.

Parting words: Artisan Red is a pleasant, fruity, food-friendly table wine. It’s a tastier alternative to some of the toothache-inducing super-sweet, mediocre supermarket table wines many small wineries put out. It is sweet, but it is more complex than the competition and is a decent price. Short and sweet, just like my wife and this review. Artisan Red is recommended.

Arcturos Late Harvest Riesling

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

Grape: Riesling

Ripeness: Late Harvest

Region: Old Mission Peninsula AVA

Vineyards: Capella & Montague Estate

Vintage: 2008

ABV: 8.5%

Appearance: Light straw

Nose: Peaches, apricots, Macintosh apples, tangerine

On the palate: Full-bodied. Lots of light, sweet fruit, with overripe peach, more Macintosh, tangerine and ruby-red grapefruit. A hint of coriander seed and green cardamom.

Finish: Long, strong finish of tart apples, more granny smith now than Macintosh.

Parting words: This is a classic Michigan Riesling from a winery that does it better than just about anybody else. The voluptuous body and sweetness calls to mind a traditional German spätlese but the Old Mission terroir puts its own delightful, unmistakable stamp on things. Complex, sensual, fruity and sweet but never cloying or flabby. Arcturos Late Harvest Riesling is all a Northern Michigan Riesling should be. This would probably still be as tasty as it is now in a year, but I had waited long enough on this one. Highly Recommended.

Black Star Farms Cherry Wine

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

ABV: 10%

Appearance: dark burgundy with broad, slow legs.

Nose: tart cherry, wild blackberry, walnut.

On the palate: Full-bodied, with a sumptuous mouthfeel. Mildly sweet and mildly tart. Bold, robust cherry flavors with a little clove and allspice.

Finish: slightly sweet, tart and tingly.

Parting words: Cherry wine and other fruit wines are looked down upon by many connoisseurs as pop wine or a representative of the bad old days of American wine. There are plenty of bad, sickly and cloying fruit wines on the market, granted. In the right hands, though, fruit wines and especially cherry wine (a northern Michigan staple) can be fine dessert wine. A cherry wine will probably never reach the heights of complexity of a decades old vintage Port, but a good one like this can give a ruby a run for its money. Black Star Farms takes what could be little more than a sop to the fudgies and transforms it into something worth drinking. Recommended.