#TBT Ice Wine Season

December 11, 2014

Ice Wine Season

Ice Wine Season, photo by Andrew McFarlane

This morning as I was working on a Facebook post announcing the release of Black Star Farms’ 2013 A Capella Ice Wine, I stumbled upon a cool synchronicity that brought together several of my personal and professional pursuits into such a neat package that I had to share it!

It turns out that exactly one year ago today, I spent a very cold day on the Old Mission Peninsula shooting a photo feature for eatdrinkTC of the ice wine harvest & pressing at Black Star Farms. Ice wine, eiswein in the original German, is a rare dessert wine that requires care and skill to produce and…

While December 11, 2013 was by no means the coldest December 11th on record (that would be 1977 at -11), it was a bone-chilling day with temps hovering around 11 degrees with a wind chill that never got above zero after 9:30 AM.

In short, as Black Star Farms winemaker Vladimir Banov explained, the perfect day for the ice wine harvest.

Ice wine is not made every year, and not by every winery. U.S. law for ice wines specifies that the grapes must be naturally frozen to be sold as ice wine.

To begin, a winery will leave a portion of the harvest to hang. Even under the bird netting, it’s a gamble against mercurial weather and clever creatures. Many years, it will leave the winery with nothing.

In some years however, such as this one, patience is rewarded.

Click through for a photographic look at the ice wine process along with some videos. If you’re interested, here’s information about A Capella Ice Wine.

You can view my photo background big and see more in my Ice Wine at Black Star Farms slideshow.

More wine and more winter wallpaper on Michigan in Pictures!

Old Mission Peninsula

Old Mission Peninsula, photo by Trent Strohm

“You have fantastic Michigan wines, but Riesling is hitting the target every year.”
~ wine writer Stuart Pigott

With the TC Film Fest yesterday and today’s post, it appears that it’s “me time” on Michigan in Pictures. City of Riesling is a brand new wine event I am working on. It takes place July 26-28 in Traverse City and is focusing the attention of the international wine community on Michigan Rieslings.

The guest of honor for a weekend of celebration of “Planet Riesling” is none other than Stuart Pigott, likely the world’s leading authority on Riesling wine and one of the most entertaining people in the wine biz. He’s a British born wine writer who has lived in the heart of Riesling culture in Germany and dedicated years to changing people’s opinion about Riesling. When I interviewed Stuart he told me, “Riesling’s range goes from bone dry to honey sweet, from feather light to tongue heavy and every single gradation and combination of those things. No other grape variety can do that.”

One of the great things about Riesling is that it does very well in Michigan, which is considered one of the rising new Riesling regions. We have more Riesling in the ground than any other varietal, and plantings are on the rise. In today’s TC Record-Eagle, my friend Bryan Ulbrich of Left Foot Charley called out one factor that I believe is making Michigan Rieslings stand out, what wine aficionados call terroir, the climate & character of the place a wine is grown. “It’s really a transparent grape. It reflects where it was grown more than any other grape variety. You can’t hide the vineyard in this one.”

It’s really the same thing that makes our fruit some of the best in the world – Michigan is a beautiful place to grow things.

Anyway, if you’re interested in attending, there’s a giveaway you can enter until 5 PM today that gives you 2 tickets to the Riesling Oyster Riot on Sunday afternoon, 2 tix for the Night of 100 Rieslings on Sunday and 2 tickets to any one of three sessions at the Salon Riesling symposium on Monday. Details right here!

Trent writes: “We spent the day driving the Old Mission Peninsula … sandy beaches, historical lighthouse and fresh fruit stands … the ‘spine’ of the peninsula is dotted with vineyards that thrive in the temperate climate created by the surrounding lakes … reminded us of the Rhine Valley … beautiful”

View his photo background bigtacular and see more in his Michigan USA slideshow.

Traverse City Film Festival 2005

2005 Traverse City Film Festival, photo by John Robert Williams

There were hundreds and hundreds of thousands of dollars of materials that were donated by the community. It was a miraculous, Herculean feat. So cool to be a part of that. We had three meals a day for 35 to 40 people, donated from area restaurants for six weeks, every single day. And they’d drop it off. That’s how supported this thing was. The air was bristling with excitement for this thing and it was really, really cool. It was really cool to be a part of it.
~first-year volunteer Timothy “The Phantom of the State” Grey

I’ve been helping the Traverse City Film Festival (TCFF) with their online media since my offer of assistance to festival co-founder Michael Moore after a film at the State Theatre that first year. The State was where I saw Star Wars, and the theater we all grew up with in Traverse City. It had lain empty for years, but Michael and company led a community effort that got the State open for that first festival and ultimately opened it for real. The transformation that this has wrought on downtown Traverse City can’t be overstated. As one of the most successful theaters of its kind in the nation, the State draws thousands of people downtown for movies every week. They stay to shop & dine and these film patrons are arguably the single greatest factor in Traverse City’s renaissance.

The State is also the home of TCFF which will draw tens of thousands of people to Traverse City for the 10th annual Traverse City Film Festival July 29 – August 3rd and sell over 100,000 tickets to 200+ films. As any TC business owner can attest, it’s a beautiful thing. The Northern Express has a feature this week titled A Traverse City Film Festival Oral History that tells the story of the founding through the memories of the people who were there. Despite the fact that Michael Moore was involved, it’s not a story of politics, but rather of a community working together to realize a dream. Here’s a few highlights:

Co-founder Michael Moore: The lunch began with deciding, ‘Let’s do this.’ And, ‘How are we going to do it?’ And I said, ‘You know, we could start out very small, like really just do it in somebody’s backyard. Or we could do it in a barn. I’m doing it for whatever you guys think we can do.’ By the end of the lunch we all got kind of excited about the possibilities of it all… By the end of it I think we decided that we would try to get like two or three venues — we talked about the Old Town Playhouse; we talked about the Opera House. We brought up the State Theatre but we were told that was not possible … I walked out of there and I was crossing the street, crossing Front Street there by Amical, and I turned and I looked at the State Theatre and I said, ‘Why can’t we use the State Theatre?’ and then I think John said, ‘Well, Rotary owns it now. It’s all closed up and it hasn’t been functioning in years and there’s no real projector there or anything. It’s just an empty building.’

Co-founder Doug Stanton: The defining image for me of the founding of the Traverse City Film Festival is a mason who showed up on his own, without being asked by anyone, to help restore the theater. I wish I could remember his name. His first name was Delbert. He was down on his hands and knees with a toothpick restoring the destroyed tile floor of the State Theatre lobby. He loved the the idea of this new festival so much. That embodied for me the community-driven heart of the whole enterprise. Its founding values to me are not driven by one person at all, but by a community.

Co-founder John Robert Williams: The night that we got the big screw-in fuses and the big push-in fuses from the ‘40s, the night we got through the breakers and made the marquee light up, and only half the neon came on — it’s actually an electrical motor that spins to make those chasers all blink around — we got that thing spinning, and we’re standing out there on a hot, early July night, it was just after the Cherry Festival, we got the lights going on the State Theatre and the cars were honking and people were jumping out of their cars taking pictures. It was like, ‘Oh my God, the lights are on at the State Theatre!’ Because they hadn’t been on in years. That was the pivotal moment for downtown Traverse City.

Williams: Our opening night was a movie called Mad Hot Ballroom. We had this movie about these fifth graders ballroom dancing and learning this in New York City. Mike came up with this little plan… When the credit crawl started rolling at the end of the movie, we were going to switch over to this hot salsa music. We got the approval from the director to switch into some dance music, and so when Michael comes popping up out of the corner at the State Theatre, ‘Ladies and gentlemen, from P.S. 136,’ and he starts naming the kids’ names, and we switch over to the salsa music and here are the cast calls in black background and white type, and these kids come out and dance the winning dance, right in front of the audience. They convulsed. This entire audience came out of their seats as one. I mean the air pressure changed in the room. Whoomp. After Mad Hot Ballroom on that Wednesday night, ticket sales went nuts the next morning because everybody in town was talking to everybody else saying, ‘You can’t believe what these guys did.’

Lots more at the Express with Part 2 coming next week.

View John’s photo from the first TCFF bigger, see his work at his website and definitely check out the Traverse City Film Festival on Flickr for a ton more photos!

PS: Here’s my favorite piece of media we’ve ever created at TCFF, Song to Cinema. It’s well worth your time…

The Dunesmobiles

The Dunesmobiles, by  Phil Balyeat

Don Harrison operates UpNorth Memories and shares many of the historical post card photos I feature on Michigan in Pictures. Yesterday in honor of photographer Phil Balyeat’s 99th birthday he posted an incredible collection of photos Phil had taken over the years from the Traverse City area including this one.

View Phil’s photo bigger on Facebook and see LOTS more via UpNorth Memories  here, here and here!

More about the Dunesmobiles at Leelanau.com!

Cherry Time in Michigan

July 11, 2014

Ready to Pick

Ready to Pick, photo by Bruce

While much of the state is still waiting on cherries to ripen, the National Cherry Festival is heading into the final weekend for their 88th annual event. Their history page says (in part):

French colonists from Normandy brought pits that they planted along the Saint Lawrence River and on down into the Great Lakes area. Cherry trees were part of the gardens of French settlers as they established such cities as Detroit, Vincennes, and other midwestern settlements.

Modern day cherry production began in the mid-1800s. Peter Dougherty was a Presbyterian missionary living in northern Michigan. In 1852, he planted cherry trees on Old Mission Peninsula (near Traverse City, Michigan). Much to the surprise of the other farmers and Indians who lived in the area, Dougherty’s cherry trees flourished and soon other residents of the area planted trees. The area proved to be ideal for growing cherries because Lake Michigan tempers Arctic winds in winter and cools the orchards in summer.

The first commercial tart cherry orchards in Michigan were planted in 1893 on Ridgewood Farm near the site of Dougherty’s original plantings. By the early 1900s, the tart cherry industry was firmly established in the state with orchards not only in the Traverse City area, but all along Lake Michigan from Benton Harbor to Elk Rapids. Soon production surpassed other major crops. The first cherry processing facility, Traverse City Canning Company, was built just south of Traverse City, and the ruby-red fruit was soon shipped to Chicago, Detroit and Milwaukee.

…The most famous sweet cherry variety is the Bing cherry; this cherry variety got its name from one of Lewelling’s Chinese workmen. Another sweet cherry variety is the Lambert, which also got its start on Lewelling Farms. The Rainier cherry, a light sweet variety, originated from the cross breeding of the Bing and Van varieties by Dr. Harold W. Fogle at the Washington State University Research Station in Prosser, Washington. The Bing, Lambert and Rainier varieties together account for more than 95 percent of the Northwest sweet cherry production.

Today, the U. S. cherry industry produces more than 650 million pounds of tart and sweet cherries each year. Much of the cherry production is concentrated in Michigan and the Northwest. Michigan grows about 75 percent of the tart cherry crop. Oregon and Washington harvest about 60 percent of the sweet cherry crop. Other states with commercial cherry crops are Utah, Wisconsin, New York, Pennsylvania and California.

Read on for more, and if you want to read about how some cherry farmers think that Federal cherry policy is leaving dollars in the orchards, head over to this Bridge Magazine article on how USDA cherry policy impacts Michigan cherry farmers.

Bruce photographed these beauties last week at at Lemon Creek Winery near Baroda. View his pic background bigtacular and see more in his slideshow.

More cherries and more summer wallpaper on Michigan in Pictures!

Mirror Morning

June 4, 2014

Hasrot Beach

Haserot Beach, photo by lomeranger

One of the things I love about Spring and early Summer is how calm the water can be.

Jason shot this at 6 AM on the Old Mission Peninsula near Traverse City. View his photo background bigtacular, see more in his Landscapes VII slideshow and purchase it if you wish at his photography website.

There’s more sunrises and more Spring wallpaper on Michigan in Pictures!

Dandelions and Cherry Trees by Michigan Nut Photography

Dandelions and Cherry Trees, photo by Michigan Nut Photography

I know that Spring Fever is in full bloom when I start getting people coming in droves to read about cherry blossoms. While we don’t have an exact report, it looks like we’re running about a week behind, which would put blossoms in the 2nd to 3rd weekend of May depending on where you’re located.

In terms of the early outlook for the 2014 growing season, the West Michigan tree fruit regional report – April 22, 2014 from MSU Extension says:

Recent warmer than average temperatures have pushed a little green tissue out of apple flowering buds on the earliest varieties – Ida Red, McIntosh, Zestar and some early Gala sites. Growing degree day accumulations continue to run about 10 to 14 days behind normal averages. In 2013, green tip in McIntosh occurred on April 27 and we are not quite there yet for 2014, but it should occur by the end of the week if not sooner. So, 2014 is shaping up to be similar to and even a bit ahead of 2013 for growth stages. This is surprising given the record-breaking ice cover on the Great Lakes and the cooler than average weather pattern we’ve been in for the past six months.

Stone fruits are slowly developing. Sweet cherry flower buds are expanding, but no green tissue yet. Peach buds are plumping up nicely. Growers in the Grand Rapids, Mich., area are reporting mixed levels of bud loss from the extreme winter cold temperatures. Overall, it appears that the peach crop in this area was mostly spared and holds a normal crop potential at this time.

The Northwest Michigan Horticultural Research Station doesn’t have any information up yet, but you can follow the development an actual Leelanau County tart cherry tree via their webcam!

John took this photo on the Old Mission Peninsula in Spring of 2012. View it bigger on Facebook, check out more on his Michigan Nut Photography page and surf over to Flickr for his Spring slideshow.

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