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Tastemakers: Hor D‘Oeuvres On The Porch Chef Jim Voltz/ Black Star Farms Leorie Vineyard Merlot/Cabernet Franc

Rick Coates - August 1st, 2011
Hors d’oeuvres on the Porch - Chef Jim Voltz

The cottages and cabins that line the shorelines of the lakes of Northern Michigan have many stories to tell. These summer homes often host some of the best social events of the summer, where people from all over gather to enjoy great food and drink. I grew up in that environment with my grandparents having a place at the end of the Old Mission Peninsula and each night around 5 pm was “cocktail hour,” My grandmother would prepare hors d’oeuvres and we would nibble and talk about the happenings around the world. Often those from neighboring cottages would wander the beach with empty cocktail glasses and make their way to our porch to fill their glasses, enjoy a few nibblers in exchange for contributing to the conversation.
When I stumbled onto the cookbook “Hors d’oeuvres on the Porch” published this year by Chef Jim Voltz I was immediately transported to my Old Mission days. Voltz lives on Crystal Lake near Frankfort, a former petro-chemistry industry executive, Voltz now has a second career as a chef and more importantly, plays host to the best cocktail and dinner parties on Crystal Lake. He has captured the recipes and stories of these parties in a collection of cookbooks from “Sunny Shores,” the name of his cottage. “Dinner on the Porch” and “Brunch on the Porch” were released in 2009 and 2010 respectively and both are in at least a second printing.
Chef Voltz has organized these cookbooks by menus, making party planning simple. “Hors d’oeuvres on the Porch” offers “15 distinctive menus,” created and themed for a variety of cocktail parties. In addition to making the recipes easy to understand Voltz, via his friend Tim, makes beverage recommendations for each menu. The anecdotes that start each chapter set these cookbooks apart from others. The “Sunny Shores” series from Voltz are must haves for any cottage or for that matter anyone who likes to host parties.
Chef Voltz also offers cooking and culinary classes in two different locations. Classes have different themes and take place at the brand new Elizabeth Lane Oliver Center for the Arts in Frankfort or in private homes on Crystal Lake. Seating is limited and classes sell out quickly, for details check out --Rick Coates

Black Star Farms Leorie Vineyard
Merlot/Cabernet Franc

At a recent dinner party I opened a bottle of 2001 Leorie Vineyards Merlot/Cabernet Franc and the first comments from my guests were “there is no way this is from Michigan.” I only smiled and nodded. Responding that “red wines from Michigan get an undeserved bad rap.”
While Michigan whites have gained international recognition, Michigan reds have unfortunately been overlooked by many. A big reason is the benchmark for many red wine drinkers is either a big and bold California Cab or a red from one of the great European wine regions. Michigan reds tend to be lighter in style.
Wine tasting trends are changing and today’s connoisseurs are starting to assess wines by focusing on flavor profiles and the wines terroir versus using benchmarks. The Black Star Farms Leorie Vineyards 2001 Merlot/Cabernet Franc I tasted with friends benefitted from what I like to call the key to enjoying all wines produced in Northern Michigan: patience. I have found with both white and reds from the region that cellaring them for a few years helps “mature” the wines. This particular wine benefitted from time in the cellar and the flavor profiles were robust and intense with strong spice notes along with hints of chocolate and coffee. This is a great red meat wine (currently the 2008 vintage is available).
Leorie Vineyards is located at the base of the Old Mission Peninsula at a former gravel pit. The owners felt there was potential for a vineyard and their hunch was right. After hauling in soil from the former buffalo farm in Traverse City and planting grapes 18 years ago, Leorie Vineyards has been producing several award winning wines for Black Star Farms including the current Merlot/Cabernet Franc that recently won a Gold medal at the Great Lakes Wine Competition.
If it has been awhile since you last tasted a Michigan red it is time to revisit them; a good place to start is with the Merlot/Cabernet Franc from Black Star Farms from Leoire Vineyards. Of course this Friday at the Paella in the Park (see article) is another great place to sample some local reds. Check out --Rick Coates
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