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Josh
07-08-2011, 13:07
I'm feeling like :shithappens: today but I'm going to get this written up, dammit.

On Saturday, Jun 19, 2011 Amy and I and our spouses and my baby visited Black Star Farms Old Mission tasting room in Traverse City, Michigan. Black Star Farms is one of the best (if not the best) wineries in Michigan. They are well known for their exceptional late-harvest Rieslings, sur lie Chards and many other excellent wines and even cider. Their website is http://www.blackstarfarms.com/

What we were most interested in then was their spirits program. They produce a number of them.

Red Grape Grappa
White Grape Grappa (I had this and it was excellent)

Spirit of...(eaux de vie)
Cherry
Plum (also very good)
Pear (also a version with the pear inside the bottle)
Raspberry

Apple Brandies
Spirit of Apple (NAS but about 12 mos. old)
10 y/o Apple Brandy (spectacular)

For the sake of full discosure, I had been communicating with their Twitterer Coryn and she waived the tasting fees for my party and me, a $25 value.

She also showed Amy and I around behind the scenes. Here are some photos she took:

Their press

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Their Still

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According to Coryn:

The still is run 3-4 times a week



- The clear fruit eau de vie brandies come off the still at approx. 75-80% (150-160 proof). They rest in the glass carboys and are then blended in the stainless steel tanks where they sit for approx. a month. They cut the brandy to be 40% (80 proof) and then bottle it.
- The apple brandy comes off the still at 75% (150 proof) and goes into the barrel at 65% (130 proof) where it ages for approx 12 months. When it is bottled it is cut down to 40% (80 proof).

The carboys

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Their Barrels with aging Apple Brandy

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Again, from Coryn:

The barrels are a combination of French and American Oak. They were new when we purchased them and they are used for one rotation of aging for the apple brandy and then they get used to age the Sirius Maple Dessert wine. They are relatively low toasted oak barrels – this style was chosen b/c the idea is to accentuate the fruit of the apple.

Finally, their bottler:

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The apple brandy is a very different beast from Laird's which has so many fans here. It is a much more delicate and less bourbonesque spirit than that or even Tom's Foolery. When I first opened the NAS brandy I got a weird celery aroma in the nose, but that has calmed down now.

The 10 y/o is just great, great stuff. So complex and elegant, I'm having trouble wrapping my head around it. You all know what a cheap bastard I am, but I have not regreted paying $75 for it yet.

Anyway, it's definately worth the trip if you ever make it "Up North".

Bourbon Boiler
07-08-2011, 15:57
I was there three days ago. I am just not a wine fan, and can't make myself appreciate it. I have yet to find a wine that I like more than an average beer.

However, the statement on the 10 yo brandy is on the mark. It should be noted that it is not available for sampling according to the menu, but I asked about it and they said they had an open bottle so they let me try it. Your milage may vary.

Thanks, Josh, for the recomendation. I probably wouldn't have asked for it without your comments.

Bourbon Boiler
07-12-2011, 16:11
FWIW, a friend of mine went today, and was not allowed to sample the ten year old. It must require an extremely charming presentation of yourself.

Jono
07-13-2011, 13:51
Josh, have you ever stayed there as a guest? It looks like a terrific get away place. I have not had their distilled products but have enjoyed various wines from the area vintners from Chateau Grand Traverse, Chateau Chantal (gorgeous setting), Chateau Grand Traverse etc.

Have the bays water levels recovered from being very low several years ago?
Some of the beaches had become mud flats.

Bourbon Boiler
07-13-2011, 17:25
Have the bays water levels recovered from being very low several years ago?
Some of the beaches had become mud flats.


I stayed on the East Bay, and the water level didn't seem out of the ordinary. I also took a boat to the main bay and stayed close to the shoreline for much of the voyage, and it didn't look abnormal, but I wasn't paying ultra close attention either.

Josh
07-20-2011, 12:24
Coryn posted some corrections and further info in a comment on my blog:


The regular Apple Brandy is aged 3-5 years, most of the time 5 years. I believe I mispoke when you were here Josh. A 12 month program would not impart the flavors and aging our distiller is aiming for. I apologize for the misinformation.

Our 10 year is a small batch, only 300 produced and it is truly an artisan product. There are many factors that come into play regarding the price. A few include the final yield v what we started with b/c as you know evaporation does occur in the aging process, the labor involved in production, the use of French oak, and the unique package this brandy is bottled in.
Josh, thanks for the post and for sharing your pictures. Please note that picture of the bottler is the bottler we use for our Hard Ciders, we have another larger bottling line we use for our main line of products.

Regards,
Coryn (Director of Marketing, Black Star Farms)

DanG
07-21-2011, 23:00
This looks like some great stuff -- especially the plum brandy, made from damson plums which are a really great choice for a plum brandy since the brandy that comes out is so aromatic. It would be great if they tried to use wild plums, what's called Zibärtle in Germany. That's probably my favorite fruit brandy (aside from true raspberry brandy).

It's too bad they don't ship their brandies... despite the very high price, I might have ordered one to be shipped to my brother in Chicago to try there with him. I wish I could try some! Maybe I'll get up there to northern Michigan one day. :)

Josh
07-22-2011, 03:38
It's too bad they don't ship their brandies... despite the very high price, I might have ordered one to be shipped to my brother in Chicago to try there with him. I wish I could try some! Maybe I'll get up there to northern Michigan one day. :)

You're in luck! Binny's carries some of their spirits including both the apple brandies.

DanG
07-22-2011, 07:04
That's great to know -- thanks Josh! I guess I'll be trying their stuff in August. :D