Countless times, we've pulled down the drive at Black Star Farms en route to the tasting room and gazed longingly at the Inn preceding it by a few hundred yards, wondering what it looked like inside and what it would be like to spend a weekend there.
Thanks to a generous offer from the folks at Black Star Farms, we got our chance Jan. 14-16, as we headed up north to take in the Suttons Bay location in its full splendor, drop by some of our other favorite wineries and experience Traverse City from a new perspective: as a winter wonderland instead of a summer one.
Coryn Briggs, who handles marketing for Black Star Farms' myriad of entities, gave us the grand tour of the farm grounds, from the cavernous tasting room we've enjoyed many times before to the winery itself to the "cave," the space carved into a hilltop where wines are barrel aged.
Being in the tasting room on the off-season was almost like visiting a cathedral. Everything was hushed, in stark contrast to the loud din that fills the room during the warmer months, when bar space is at a premium and visitors mill the room, grabbing merchandise and wine and watching John and Ann Hoyt of Leelanau Cheese Co. make raclette. It gave us more time to breathe and soak in the ambiance: the soaring ceilings, the sunlit star skylight, the vivid paintings of rural vistas. Not to mention the wine.
But of course, as it was our first time inside, the Inn itself was the most fascinating segment of the tour. The foyer is telling of the elegance throughout, with a giant black star — the facility's namesake — set into the white marble floor, a curving staircase, a bubbling fountain, an elegant chandelier and a long, open hallway providing views from above.
On the first floor, there's a parlor with a bar and a fireplace, surrounded by a nifty padded bench that allows visitors to huddle close to the flames. Each night, the room plays host to an evening reception where guests can nosh on appetizers (our first night, it was house-made terrine, smoked gouda, crostini and an array of dips) and enjoy free glasses of the night's featured wine. There's also a tap accessible to inn guests round-the-clock containing the non-traditional wine blend of the day (during our stay, it was a vidal blank rosé, bursting with grapefruitiness). Adjacent to the parlor is a study-like room with leather sofas and stocked bookshelves, a great place to read or play a game.
Down the hall is the kitchen, the source of delectable aromas every morning as Chef John "Street" Dayton whips up breakfast for the guests. The Sunday morning we were there, he was preparing a concoction that both looked and smelled amazing: a potato, leek and roasted pepper hash wrapped in prosciutto, forming a column, with a Late Harvest Riesling basted egg perched atop it. (I have to admit, as we'd already overindulged at dinner both nights, we skipped breakfast, so I can't attest whether it tasted as amazing as promised, but I have no doubts.) There also were fresh pastries and breads aplenty, along with juice, coffee and fruit. The room has a cozy ambiance, with a fireplace, wooden tables of varying sizes, ceramic tiled floors, piles of cookbooks and copies of the morning newspaper set out.
The kitchen and nearby Arcturos Room are currently under construction to accommodate catering and more meal preparation. Also off the foyer is a gift shop, where visitors can pick up Black Star Farms shirts and other paraphernalia. Outside, there are patio areas probably better enjoyed in warm weather versus buried beneath four inches of snow, though there are snowshoes available for visitors' use on trails that wind their way around the farm grounds. For those who prefer indoor warmth to outdoor exploration, there's also a relaxation room upstairs, with a dry sauna, jacuzzi tub and shower that guests can sign up for access to on a first-come, first-served basis.
As we took video for MBTB, we got a look at several different guest rooms, all named after stars (Betelgeuse, Atlas, Castor, etc.) and all distinctive in their own ways. One, the former innkeepers' quarters, had a kitchenette; another, which innkeeper Kellie Parks said is often used by businesspeople, had its own fridge and microwave. Several had fireplaces. In fact, fireplaces are hardly in short supply in the Inn; they seem to be in almost every room.
Our room, Diadem, was incredible. Kellie said it's often used as the honeymoon suite. It has a vaulted ceiling, windows overlooking the farm from several different angles, thick carpet, two deep windowseats outfitted with cushions and pillows, and tons of built-in drawers and cabinets for stashing clothes. The focal point is (surprise) the magnificent fireplace, surrounded by marble and accented by tasteful black and white floral photography. Plush armchairs provide the perfect place to curl up with a book (and a glass of wine) in the glow of the flames.
On the other side of the room, there's an enormous four-poster bed with sheets that feel like they're made of soft microfiber material (you can even buy them at the front desk, if you can't bear to part with them at the end of your stay). The room also includes a flat-panel TV, a desk and a side table with chairs.
The bathroom is a marvel unto itself. There are entrances on two ends, carpet throughout, a separate room for the toilet, two pedestal sinks with their own shelves and mirrors, a makeup/vanity area, a large glass-encased shower, a bench and closet space. Inside the closet are two soft, warm Black Star Farms robes that I never wanted to return (also for sale in the gift shop).
Armed with a slip of paper bearing their names and vacation dates, Inn guests receive free wine samples and extra TLC in the tasting room. Coffee and hot water for tea is set out on a table at the end of the upstairs hallway each morning, and visitors receive a free bottle of Red House White, Black Star Farms' house white blend, that's kept — with its intended recipients' names written on it — in a fridge nearby (which is also available for stashing leftovers and other cold items).
It didn't take long for me to get accustomed — a bit too much so — to having a bathroom the size of a master suite and a blazing fireplace directly across from my bed. Not to mention the 24-hour access to wine, coffee ready and waiting when I woke up, and an unparalleled, pristine view of the rolling, snow-shrouded farmland. Parting was such sweet sorrow, but we'll definitely be back!
Thanks to Black Star Farms for putting us up at a reduced rate for the weekend so we could film our video feature and chronicle our adventures. We never tout anything we don't like, regardless of whether we received it free, discounted or at full price. For more information about our sponsorship/sample policy, please click here.