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Tasting Leelanau: Black Star Farms

Continued from the article Tasting Leelanau

Lee Lutes, photo courtesy of

Lee Lutes, photo courtesy of

Our final tasting was, most appropriately at Black Star Farms. We didn’t have an appointment, per se, but David Rusnell spoke with Winemaker/Distiller/Manager Lee Lutes during the LPVA Visioning Session on Wednesday, and Lee agreed to lead us through the tasting. We scheduled to meet after we returned from our appointment at Left Foot Charley, and when we arrived, we found Lee already tasting some barrel samples with another Charlie, one Dr. Edson, from Bel Lago.

Lee Lutes behind the bar, a smiling Charlie Edson in front - click to enlarge

Lee Lutes behind the bar, a smiling Charlie Edson in front - click to enlarge

We all reconvened in the side bar tasting area off the main room, and before you could say Isadore’s Choice, we were hot into another lineup of cool climate northern Michigan wines. (It is perhaps doubly ironic that, after breaking away from our “Tasting Leelanau” theme to visit LFC, we returned to a Leelanau winery that produces several wines made either partly or entirely from Old Mission Peninsula fruit.)

(I would be remiss in not saying more about the main tasting room at Black Star Farms. It’s a most attractive and expansive space, with a post-and-beam design and construction and an elliptical tasting bar as its centerpiece. Besides wine, there’s a variety of schwag for sale, from ver jus to wine accessories to logo gear to jewelry, and more. You can also purchase raclette and fromage blanc from the Leelanau Cheese Co. and even watch it being made in the adjacent facility through large windows on one end of the room. The winery itself is visible through more large windows behind the tasting bar. If there is a more elaborate and well-stocked tasting room in the state of Michigan, we have yet to see it.)

2008 Black Star Farms Isadore’s Choice Michigan Pinot Grigio, $13.50: Pale color, with a pretty lime and apple nose; apple, lime and grapefruit flavors, slightly creamy in the mouth, with good intensity and cut. Whole cluster pressed, with short lees contact and inoculated with a more aromatic yeast than usual. Mostly Leelanau fruit with the addition of a little from Old Mission. Find this wine

2007 Black Star Farms Arcturos Old Mission Peninsula Pinot Grigio, $13.50: Medium color, with a green apple grapefruit personality, medium bodied and with more zip in the mouth than the Isadore’s Choice, nice intensity of fruit and good length on the finish; there’s also just a little bit of PG funk that I like here and some mineral underneath it all. Lee told us that this one spent more time on the lees than the Isadore’s Choice. Find this wine

2006 Black Star Farms Arcturos Old Mission Peninsula Chardonnay: Clean medium color, with toasty oak that complements rather than detracts from the pretty pear and lime Chardonnay fruit; good weight, cut and depth. Find this wine

2007 Black Star Farms Arcturos Old Mission Peninsula Chardonnay, Vintage Sale Price $14.00: Clean medium color, with creamy, toasty oak over rich pear and mineral; full bodied, with good acids and length. Fully fermented and aged in 15-20% new French and American oak barrels, exactly the same regimen as with the following wine. Find this wine

2007 Black Star Farms Isadore’s Choice Leelanau Chardonnay, $17.50: Clean medium color, not quite as toasty as the Arcturos, and a little greener; nice core of fruit, but needs a year or two to smooth out the rough edges. Find this wine

2008 Black Star Farms Arcturos Old Mission Peninsula Dry Riesling, $16.50: Pale in color, with a piney lime nose and pine, lime and green apple flavors, and a little spritzy on entry; bright, rich, fairly ripe, crisp and refreshing. Claudia called this “gorgeous,” and I agreed. Find this wine

2008 Black Star Farms Arcturos Old Mission Peninsula Late Harvest Riesling, $16.50: Pale color, with sweet lime and green and red flavors and aromas; effusively aromatic, medium bodied, bright, rich and ripe, with good acids and length. Very nice. Find this wine

2008 Black Star Farms Old Mission Peninsula Be Dazzled Dry Bubbly White Wine, 50% Pinot Noir, 30% Chardonnay, 15% Pinot Gris, 5% Pinot Blanc, $12.50: Spritzy, dry and quite refreshing, with good depth and intensity; a nice everyday sparkler. Produced by bulk process. Find this wine

2004 Black Star Farms Leelanau Sparkling Wine, 60% Pinot Noir, 40% Chardonnay, $22.50: Rich smoky, yeasty apple character with big mousse, zippy acids and nice depth and concentration. Produced in the methode champenoise. Find this wine

2009 Bubbly Nouveau


2009 Black Star Farms Bubbly Nouveau Carbonated White Wine, $12.50: Pale in color, with effusive, perfumed aromatics; fresh and zippy in the mouth, with abundant mousse and sweet, but not cloying. A fun, everyday wine without pretense, inspired by Moscato d’Asti that Lee expected to be sold out by Thanksgiving. 5 1/2-6% alc., made from partially fermented Cayuga grapes. Find this wine

2007 Black Star Farms Isadore’s Choice Leelanau Pinot Noir, $25.00: Ruby color, with smoky black cherry and some subtle toast on the nose, following through on the palate with earthy undertones; medium body, with good depth and zippy acids. A solid middleweight contender that will benefit from a few years in the cellar. Produced from 8th leaf fruit. Find this wine

Lee poured the next selection for us from two bottles, one with a cork enclosure and the other with a screwcap.

2007 Black Star Farms Arcturos Pinot Noir, 50% Leelanau Peninsula, 50% Old Mission Peninsula, $25.00: Cork: Nice black cherry character, with sticksy, smoky, earthy undertones and some tea leaf nuances as well; not quite as deep or well structured as the Isadore’s Choice, tighter and edgier. Find this wine

Screw cap: More expressive on the nose when first opened and poured; Lee told us that these even out after an hour and show identically. Charlie Edson said that he’d buy the screw cap to open tonight and the cork to cellar.

Black Star Farms Pinot Noir

click to enlarge

2003 Black Star Farms Arcturos Leelanau Pinot Noir Black Star Estate Vineyard: Very little of this clean dark garnet colored Pinot was made; it’s a bit funky, with earthy, vegetal forest floor dominating to plum and black cherry fruit, but the funk blows off some. It would have been interesting to spend a little time with this, but we were already into the next selection. From 4th leaf fruit. Find this wine

2007 Black Star Farms A Capella Old Mission Peninsula Pinot Noir, $27.50: Clean ruby garnet color, with toasty oak, plum and black cherry that echoes and expands in the mouth with a rich core of earthy fruit shaded with some nice spice. Lee thinks that this is as close to perfect a wine as he’s made so far, and it certainly is a fine one. Produced from at least nine different clones from the Capella and Montana Ruso Vineyards. Find this wine

2007 Black Star Farms Arcturos Old Mission Peninsula Cabernet Franc, $27.50: Good dark color, with sweet toasty oak in good proportion to the blackberry and blueberry aromas, which gain nice earthy undertones and some unburned tobacco and cedar box in the mouth; smooth, rich and well structured, this is very pretty and yet has good heft to it. Find this wine

2007 Black Star Farms Isadore’s Choice Leelanau Terrace Red, 90% Cabernet Franc, 5%, 5% Cabernet Sauvignon, $22.50: Good dark color, and tight on the nose, with less obvious oak and less complexity than the previous selection; smooth, rich black currant and blackberry flavor profile, with good structure and depth. Claudia exclaimed, “Rich, smooth and so fruity!” Find this wine

click to enlarge

click to enlarge

2007 Black Star Farms Old Mission Peninsula Merlot Cabernet Franc Leorie Vineyard, 72% Merlot, 28% Cabernet Franc, $45.00: Pretty toasty oak and coffee in very nice proportion to the rich blackberry flavors and aromas; Lee and Charlie agreed that it’s “not the biggest, not the flashiest, but…” I’d finish that but off by adding that it’s very smooth, with velvet-like undertones, and indeed, a very nice wine. Aged in new and second use French, Eastern European and American oak barrels, this is by their own definition Black Star Farms’ creme de la creme. Find this wine

To be honest, I wasn’t expecting these wines to be as good as they are, and to be fair, I should never have based such expectations on the experiences of nine years ago, when we found their lineup to be “pleasant enough, if rather innocuous.” Like so much of the Leelanau-Old Mission Peninsula wine industry, Black Star Farms has matured and really come into its own, and I would be happy to serve any of these wines to guests of Adams-Heritier and Associates. Afterwards, we all retired to the tasting bar in the Inn, where we enjoyed more wine along with pizza and good conversation, making for a most fitting finale to our Tasting Leelanau adventure.

Continued from the article Tasting Leelanau

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