The 1,000-Mile Great Lakes Adventures

Monday, May 25, 2009

Black Star Farms: An Agricultural Destination

Usually, my brother drops me at the lake, then picks me up at the end of the segment and drives me home. At the end of Segment 5, though, the distance from home had elongated to the point that it made sense for us to stay the night, then head home the next day. I wanted to treat Phil (and myself) to a nice place after this

longest segment so far, so I made a reservation at Black Star Farms.

This unique property has an inn, an equestrian

center, a tasting room, a creamery, gardens, orchards, vineyards, and some farm animals. It bills itself as ‘An

Agricultural Destination’ where guests can watch cheese being made, taste the products of the vine, and eat an amazing breakfast direct from farm to table. This may make it seem like a busy place, it was actually the most relaxing place I’ve ever stayed.

I had a long, inland hike in over 80 degree weather to reach Suttons Bay, and when I finally got off route 22 and turned into the driveway of Black Star Farms -- bordered by a terraced vineyard and shaded by large trees -- I felt my pack lighten on my sore shoulders. I walked the curving drive up to the stables and the red inn. Several horses noted my arrival by raising their heads before resuming grazing. Maybe they hadn’t seen people arrive on foot.

Inside the inn, the marbled foyer was much cooler than outside, and Kellie, the manager, greeted me and showed me to my room so I could drop off my backpack. Then she showed me the rest of the small inn (including the stash of cookies in the breakfast room and the Jacuzzi/sauna room upstairs). I grabbed a cookie and returned to my room to sink into my own Jacuzzi tub. When I emerged and slipped on the sumptuous robe in my room, I felt reborn and ready to explore the rest of the property.

Phil arrived and we visited some of the horses before strolling to the tasting room. Guests of the inn are able to sample wines for free and also get a sample of the mild raclette cheese produced in the creamery housed behind glass in the tasting building. Phil and I worked our way through the whites and reds and then sipped at the dessert wines and even tried some of the spirits distilled there. The wines, overall, were quite good. Phil loved the Riesling. The Sirius Maple Dessert Wine was a unique flavor we had not experienced before. When our server mentioned that she used it to finish her grilled salmon and even poured it over vanilla ice cream, we thought it brilliant and purchased several bottles.

We had dinner in nearby Traverse City (the inn will soon begin serving dinner on the weekends, but didn’t when we were there), then returned to our room and a wonderfully restful night. In the morning, we had a delicious gourmet breakfast featuring a fresh vegetable torta with herbed crème fresh circling the wedge of egg and veggie delight (all of the ingredients came from the property). It was topped with two slices of cherry wood smoked bacon that were so perfect they continue to haunt me.

Don Coe, managing partner of Black Star, joined us at our breakfast table and spoke about what he and his partners were trying to accomplish with this idyllic place, the marriage of agriculture and tourism, the offering of ‘An Agricultural Destination.’ And the concept of ‘adding value’ to products from the farm. For example, instead of trying to compete with other maple syrup producers in the region, they add their syrup to the unique dessert wine we had tasted the night before.

After a few minutes with Don, you realize that he is a bit of a visionary. He’s retired from the corporate world and could have just relaxed, but, instead, has helped build Black Star Farms into a place that now employs 30 people, preserves the land for agriculture (it almost got sold off for a subdivision before becoming Black Star), and supports ancillary businesses (the creamery and farm market).

It is a place where you can relax and feel connected to the land once again, relax and stroll the many acres of hiking trails on the property, relax and watch the fruits of the land and farm be gleaned and transformed for your consumption, or merely relax and relax.


  1. The Inn sounds awesome! Thinking of you always, Mi

  2. we go wine tasting there every fall. thanks for posting the spring time photos of the place! we love it. the cheese is among my favorites!