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Black Star Farms
Kathy and Terry Sullivan

Summary: Black Star is a one-stop agricultural destination. This is a delightful destination site for young and old. Visit the winery, distillery, tasting room, vineyards, orchards, horses and creamery. If you have the opportunity, spend the night in the lovely – one of a kind – Inn. Enjoy a gourmet breakfast included with your stay.

Black Star Farms Inn and wineryBlack Star is a large enterprise with a focus on benefiting small farms. Donald Coe and partners purchased the property in 1998, with the current inn.  Donald is passionate about the agricultural process and its potential to reconnect with people. As we spoke to Donald we quickly concluded that he thinks outside the box. He always had a concept of a destination location to tie together agri-tourism and value-added agriculture. Black Star Farms is all about growing, processing, marketing and retailing. Nothing leaves the property in a raw state. The owners want to get people to reconnect with agriculture. Even with so much to offer the visitors, there is always the question, “What more can we do?”

Today Black Star Farms has much to offer all visitors. It produces 25,000 cases of wine.  The vineyards encompass 110 acres including the estate and those from their nearby growing partners. The orchard has 46 acres of cherry trees producing 700,000 pounds of cherries. According to Donald, “It’s a destination location.” The farm also has become a point for taking in animals in need of care. This came about when a group of abused horses was brought to the farm to recuperate. The practice of caring for rescued animals continues today.

Black Star Farms InnBlack Star Farms InnThe name Black Star Farms is derived from a compass rose in the foyer's marble floor of the Inn. When thinking of names to call the winery and estate, one commented that it could be called black star because of the large black star set in the white marble at the center of the foyer. However, it was pointed out that the design was a compass rose not a star.  It was decided that Compass Rose Farms just didn’t have the same sound as Black Star Farms so the owners went with the star in the name.

The drive to the tasting room takes you along a winding road past vineyards. The beautiful Inn is on your right and farm buildings including the stables and two caves built into the hillside are on your left as you continue along the road. Finally, the winery and tasting room are on your right. Black Star Farms educates visitors in a variety of ways. Take time to pause and read the displays outside the entrance to the tasting room. You will have the opportunity to learn about the maritime climate, the Leelanau Peninsula Viticulture Area, the vineyards, grape varieties on the farm and the harvest.

Black Star Farms tasting roomBlack Star Farms tasting roomBlack Star’s large, bright tasting room was built in 2000 and features many wines. The curved tasting bar is in the center of the room underneath a transparent glass window with the black star logo outlined. Displays of wine, wine accessories and clothes are set throughout the tasting room. On one side of the tasting room large windows overlook the winery. You can observe stainless steel tanks and wood barrels. Lee Lutes, the winemaker, and his team have many different tasks that keep them busy yearlong. On another wall of the tasting room, windows afford a view of the creamery. You can watch the cheesemakers at work using local milk to produce award-winning cheeses.

Black Star Farms wineWe tasted several wines made from grapes. Pinot Gris 2006 had a citrus fruit taste. It was dry with a bit of perceived sweetness. Dry Riesling 2006 had mineral on the nose. It had a fruity taste and a dry fruit aftertaste. Pinot Noir 2005 had a red color, fruit on the nose and fruit taste. It had earthiness on aftertaste. Merlot 2006 had a dark red/purple opaque color with a black fruit nose and taste. There was an earthiness on the aftertaste with a balance of tannins and acid. Leorie Vineyard 2005 Merlot Cabernet Franc was a very dark red purple and opaque. It had pepper on the nose with a smooth mouth feel and dark fruit on the finish.

Several fruit wines were available. We tasted several fruit wines including Black Star Farms Hard Apple Cider, a sparkling fruit wine.  Two years ago it was voted the best hard cider tested by the Wall Street Journal. The wine had a sweet apple aroma and a long aftertaste of apple. Another fruit wine was the pear wine made from 100 percent Bartlett Pears. This pear wine had a sweet pear aroma with a semi-sweet taste. Sirius Maple Dessert Wine had an apple nose with maple and apple taste. The maple aftertaste lingers.

Pear in a bottleBlack Star Farms spiritsOne of the unique offerings was a brandy with a pear inside the bottle. A partner farm has a pear orchard. In the orchard, as a pear begins to grown, a wine bottle is place over it. The pear continues to grow to full size and then Black Star Farms fills it with brandy and corks it. It makes a beautiful display of a brandy with a grown pear inside it. This brandy would make a unique gift for anyone if you can resist opening it yourself.

Black Star Farms also makes spirits. We tasted the pear Eau De Vie and Apple Brandy. The Pear Eau De Vie was clear in color. It had a pear aroma and you can taste the high alcohol content. There was a pear aftertaste. The Spirit of Apple Brandy was gold in color with apple aromas and a spicy aftertaste.

To Donald, it is important to tie together agriculture, tourism and value added agriculture. The Michigan governor appointed Donald to be one of the five Michigan Department of Agriculture Commissioners. Farming is more than growing – it is growing, processing, retailing, marketing, and along the way, creating a personal connection to people.

In addition to the current Black Star Farms on Leelanau Peninsula there is Tastes in Traverse City that offers a celebration of chocolate, cheese and wine. Black Star Farms also operates a winery and a tasting room on Old Mission Peninsula.

related article: Black Star Farms Inn

Black Star Farms
10844 E. Revold Rd.
Suttons Bay, MI 49682

GPS N 44° 55.940'  W085° 38.189'





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