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The Cellars of Royal Farms
by
Kathy Sullivan

The Cellars at Royal FarmsSummary: The Cellars of Royal Farms, located in Ellsworth, Michigan offers everything from wine to fresh market produce. In addition to single wine tastings, the tasting room offers flights available in easy to carry wire baskets.

The Cellars of Royal FarmsSara (pictured left) and Patrick McGuire met while in high school. Sara was chosen National Cherry Queen. She worked in the cherry industry and Patrick worked summers on cherry farms. Before their wedding they made the decision to remain in the northern Michigan region where they had grown up. Both were interested in agriculture and they decided they wanted to own and work a farm. Originally their plans were to grow cherries and sell to commercial businesses. They knew that cherry farming was challenging; Sara said, “We had to diversify.” In 1996 the couple started the farm.

In 2019 the farm has 1,000 acres. When the farm needed a name, Patrick suggested they call the farm Royal Farms in reference to Sara’s role as National Cherry Queen.
In 2005 Sara and Patrick started to “bat ideas around. What can we do with our fruit?” The answer appeared to be producing cider and wine.

Tasting Room

The Cellars of Royal FarmsSara met us as we began a walk around the Royal Farms Farm Market looking for the entrance to the winery. The wine tasting room and the produce market are located in a renovated red barn. Sara guided through a patio just outside the market and then up a slope. Vineyards are located at the top of the hill, just feet from the winery tasting room entrance.

Inside, the tasting room is bright and cheerful. The tasting counter stretches along the back of the room. Stools are available for visitors as well as small table settings. A fireplace offers a cozy spot to relax with a glass of cider or wine. Over the fireplace, a thought provoking note reads, “Life is not measured by the breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.”

Another interesting sign reads, “Farm to Table, Table to Soul.” A variety of foods are available in the tasting room. The assortment includes: Seasonal Farm Charcuterie, Cracker & Spread Snack, Homemade Soup, Homemade Pastie, White Cheddar Mac n Cheese and Gourmet Grilled Cheese.

Vineyard and Orchards

The Cellars of Royal FarmsThe vineyard is comprised of two acres with 500 grapevines. The vineyard includes an assortment of grape varieties including Pinot Noir, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Marquette, Marechal Foch, Cayuga White, Frontenac Blanc and Frontenac Gris. Royal Farms also sources grapes from Old Mission and Leelanau Peninsulas.

Today the farm has 600 acres of cherry and apple trees. They use 100% of the estate grown apples and cherries in their wines and ciders. In 2017 an old orchard went up for sale. Sara and Patrick purchased the orchard which had apple trees that were between 75 and 100 years old. They fermented each apple variety separately. They hosted a focus group and tasted the different varieties. They used the data from the focus group to create the blends.

Sara would like people to know that they take pride in the products they produce. They want to show wine enthusiasts high quality and uniquely different ciders and wines.

We tasted several wines and ciders.

Ciders

The Cellars of Royal FarmsRoyal Reserve Cider was produced with a blend of unique apple varieties. The cider had 6.5% alcohol. The cider was a light yellow color and had 0 g/L of residual sugar. The aroma and taste were of apple - clean and fresh. The cider was slightly effervescent. It had a crisp finish. This is a palate cleansing cider.

Hand Picked Cider was a traditional cider produced with cider apples. The alcohol was 6.5% and the residual sugar was 15 g/L. The cider was a light yellow color. The aroma and taste were of fresh juicy apples. The finish had apple notes. This is a cider to enjoy in a rocking chair on the porch.

Green Apple Cider had 6.5% alcohol with 45 g/L of residual sugar. The cider was a light gold color and a bit more effervescent than the first two ciders tasted. This cider offered intense notes of apple. It was reminiscent of a fresh apple from the tree.

Wines

Hard Red Wine was produced with 50% apples and 50% cherries. The wine had 6.5% alcohol with 30 g/L of residual sugar. The wine was a translucent red color, with notes of apple and cherry on the aroma and taste. The fruity finish was refreshing.

Summer Crush wine had 9.5% alcohol with 80 g/L residual sugar. The wine was produced with black sweet cherries and apple cider. The wine was a translucent ruby color, with an aroma and taste of cherry and apple. The wine had a crisp finish. The wine had a long cherry aftertaste.

Sweet Summer had 10% alcohol and a residual sugar of 60 g/L. The wine was produced with black sweet cherries. The wine was a translucent ruby color with a sienna hue. The aroma and taste were of black cherries. The finish was fruity.

Sunkissed with 11% alcohol had 50 g/L residual sugar. The wine was produced with a Riesling base with a touch of cherry. The wine was a light salmon color. The aroma and taste included flowers, cherries, honeysuckle and peaches. Some earthy notes were on the aftertaste.

The Cellars of Royal FarmsAfter our wine and cider tasting, Sara graciously offered us a lunch of a pasti and a bowl of buttercup squash soup. Both were very satisfying, reminding us of comfort food. The buttercup soup was made with the squash grown on the farm. The pasti was a pastry wrapped around a meat and potatoes medley.

The Cellars of Royal FarmsAfter leaving the winery tasting room, we explored the farm market. The market is filled with produce from the farm, bakery and an eclectic mix of gift item possibilities.

When planning to visit the Petoskey wine region in the Tip of the Mitt AVA, be sure to stop by The Cellars of Royal Farms and the Market to taste wines, ciders and perhaps to order a bite to eat.

The Cellars of Royal Farms
10445 North US 31
Ellsworth, Michigan 49729

GPS: N45º 11.1143’ W85º 20.7303’

 

 

Article written October 2019.

 



 

                                  

 
 
   

 


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