Editor’s note: This is part one of a five-part series on Michigan winter activities. Read the introduction to the series here.
Looking to get away for a long, relaxing weekend — or longer? Consider a wine tour through the Traverse City and Leelanau Peninsula area. The region sits along the 45th parallel, the same parallel that some of the best wineries in the world also border. The area also enjoys a wine-friendly climate thanks to its proximity to Lake Michigan. This means the wineries are able to cultivate some of the best grapes for wines in the world.
You can visit Traverse City Tourism (traversecity.com) and The Sleeping Bear Dunes Visitors Bureau (sleepingbeardunes.com) for a listing of the area wineries, but take our suggestion and be sure to include a stop at the Inn at Black Star Farms, located in Suttons Bay.
Proprietor Sherri Campbell Fenton said COVID-19 hasn’t dampened the fun. “Both our tasting rooms, on Old Mission and Leelanau peninsulas, are offering wines by the glass or flights of three wines. We have ample outdoor space — patios with heaters and tents with heaters. We are allowing a limited number of guests inside for wine flights and to purchase bottles to-go.”
The inn also has made several changes to help guests stay safe, including to its nightly hospitality hour, which now offers plated appetizers with wine service — all provided on a tray — for guests to take outside, to their room or to enjoy in any indoor public space in the inn.
If you book a couple of days stay, you also can enjoy a host of outdoor activities available on the 160-acre property. The inn has over three miles of trails through the forest, orchard and vineyard.
“We have snowshoes hanging outside the back door of the inn for our inn guests to use, complimentary. A firepit behind the inn is a popular place to enjoy a glass of wine in the evening, and, of course, a walk past all of the horses is a must,” Fenton said.
She added, “Following an invigorating snowshoe hike, our culinary team offers hot-pressed sandwiches, hot soup and snacks on the heated terrace.”
If staying the night, be sure to book a room with a fireplace. All of the rooms are named after stars in the northern sky. The rooms offer a contemporary style to relax in after a busy day enjoying the winter wonderland around the inn and, of course, sampling wine.
Speaking of the wine, Fenton recommended a handful of options to try this winter.
A must is the award-winning 2017 Arcturos Dry Riesling. The wine took home the Best in Show, Best Dry Riesling and Best American Riesling awards at the 19th Annual Canberra International Riesling Challenge – Best Wine of the Challenge. It scored a 98.
“All six Rieslings Black Star Farms submitted took home medals, showing consistent quality across vintages and styles,” Fenton said.
The winery also has a few new releases to enjoy.
“We have just released the A Capella Pinot Noir — only the third time a vintage was special enough to carry the A Capella name,” Fenton said. “This limited release is only made during the best vintages from our best sites. The grapes for this 2017 were sourced exclusively from the top 12 rows on our prized Leelanau Summit Vineyard.”
Another great wine is Grace, “a beautiful red blend.” The wine is dedicated to the vineyard’s “founding matriarch,” Sallie Campbell, and represents “the qualities of character that she exemplified. A complex blend of Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Gamay, the depth and elegance from this exquisite vineyard are presented with Grace, in the way that Sallie presented herself.”
Fenton said winter is a delightful time to stay at Black Star Farms.
“Winter is magical at the inn. When covered in snow, the equestrian facility and inn are gorgeous,” she said. “The pace has slowed; it is quiet and restful. Between the breakfasts, wine tasting, fireplaces, snowshoes, food delivery and naps, it is not uncommon for guests to never leave the property during a two-night stay. We offer a true escape from it all. The tasting room is less crowded. There is more of an opportunity to spend time in conversation with inn guest services team members and tasting room attendants — we love that, as it gives us an opportunity to get to know people better.”