SUTTONS BAY — The Winery at Black Star Farms doubled up at the 2019 American Fine Wine Competition.
Two of the five Best of Show winners from the competition were Black Star wines. The winery took top honors with its 2016 Semi-Dry Riesling from its vineyard in Leelanau County in the white wine competition. It also took the top spot in the sweet category with its 2016 Winter Harvest Riesling from Old Mission Peninsula grapes.
"That's further confirmation of the breadth of wines we are producing up here," said Lee Lutes, head winemaker and winery manager at Black Star. "We're growing great fruit on both peninsulas."
The invitation-only competition began in 2007. Wines were judged at the Chaplin School of Hospitality & Tourism Management on the campus of Florida International University in Miami.
According to a release, more than 700 wines from 250 different wineries were entered in the competition.
Lutes said having a Riesling win the battle of the whites is an accolade in itself.
"I think what was pretty interesting is a Semi-Dry Riesling beat out a number of white wines including a number of chardonnays from the west coast," he said. "Chardonnay is seen as the king of white wines. Riesling is nowhere near as significant in terms of volume, but it also can't be grown in a lot of places.
"Obviously the judges appreciate the Riesling for what it is, that it drinks a little more delicately and is a little more light on the palette instead of being a little more rich and heavy."
Lutes said the development of the Riesling at Black Star is a result of a combination of factors, including good vintage, good vine age and an increased intimacy with the vineyards thanks to experienced staff. Lutes joked that a vineyard can mature like a person.
"They show what they're going to be when they step out of those 12- to 15-year-old marks," he said.
Lutes said it's not an accident that the 2016 Rieslings did well in an early 2019 competition. In addition to its best-of-show win, the Semi-Dry Riesling was named the Best of Class winner for Rieslings.
"They've had a little more time in the bottle and they've settled down," he said.
Black Star Farms wasn't the only area winery to earn an invitation and do well in the American Fine Wine Competition.
"Obviously the judge that invited us knows our region well and knows that there are some great wines being made up here," Lutes said. "This is a great time for Michigan wines."
Lutes took the statement about Michigan wines even further.
"It's a great time to be a winemaker in northwestern Michigan, for sure," he said.
Other area wineries to place in the American Fine Wine Competition, by category, include:
— Pinot noir: Brys Estate Vineyard and Winery, silver; Hawthorne Vineyards, silver.
— Red Bordeaux Style Blend: Hawthorne Vineyards, silver; Winery at Black Star Farms Leorie Vineyard, silver.
— Cabernet Franc: Mari Vineyards Jamieson Vineyard, double gold; Brys Estate Vineyard and Winery, gold; Mari Vineyards Praefectus, silver.
— Merlot: Brys Estate Vineyard and Winery, silver.
— Chardonnay: Brengman Brothers Crain Hill Vineyard, gold; Hawthorne Vineyards, gold; Brys Estate Vineyard and Winery, silver.
— Sauvignon Blanc: Brys Estate Vineyard and Winery, double gold.
— Riesling: Brys Estate Vineyard and Winery, silver; Mari Vineyards Jamieson Vineyard, silver.
— Other White Blend: Brengman Brothers Roth Vineyard, double gold; Mari Vineyards Troglodyte Bianco, silver.
— Other White Single Varietal: Mari Vineyards Pinot Blanco, double gold; Winery at Black Star Farms Gewurztraminer, gold; Brys Estate Vineyard and Winery Pinot Blanc, silver; Hawthorne Vineyards Auxerrois, Rigan Estate Vineyard, silver.
Area wineries also performed well at the 2019 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition in mid-January. More than 6,800 wines were entered in the competition, which began in 1983.
Bowers Harbor Vineyards won Best of Class for Bone Dry Residual Sugar (RS) less than .99 for its Riesling from the Block II Vineyard. Bowers Harbor added a gold for Riesling Medium RS 1.00-1.99 — and three silvers.
Bonobo Winery claimed nine total medals, including a double gold for Dry Rose/Blush RS greater than .25-.99 and golds for Riesling Bone Dry RS less than .99 and Pinot Blanc. Bonobo added four silvers and two bronzes.
Chateau Grand Traverse won double gold for Riesling Bone Dry RS less than .99, two silvers and one bronze. Chateau Grand Traverse Eclectic took two silvers.
Forty-Five North Vineyard won gold for White Blends up to $19.99 and added five silvers and a bronze.
Boathouse Vineyards won gold for White Blends up to $19.99 in addition to three silvers and two bronzes.
Leelanau Wine Cellars captured a gold for Riesling Bone Dry RS less than .99, three silvers and a bronze.
Nathaniel Rose hauled in nine medals, two silver and seven bronze. Blustone Vineyards took home a silver and three bronzes.