An ‘Element of Romance’

Winter winery visits and romance go hand in hand, especially this Valentine’s Day
Tables set up for Valentine’s dining at the Inn at Black Star Farms. Photo courtesy of Black Star Farms

As the cold weather sets in, romance is heating up at Michigan wineries.

At Cherry Creek Cellars in Brooklyn, igloos make the winery an even cozier and more romantic destination for couples.

This February, the winery will continue its Winter Date Night Series, hosting dinners on Thursday, Feb. 10, and Friday, Feb. 11, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. The gourmet four-course meal will be served in private, candlelit, heated igloos for two to six people. The meal will have an Italian theme, with a bottle of wine hand-selected for each party by owner Patrick Spensley.

Cherry Creek intends to provide a “fine-dining experience,” says Janet Smoyer, café manager and event coordinator. “Everything is scratch-made, so you get a real dining experience.”

The view from a cozy Cherry Creek Cellars igloo. Photo by Stephanie Smith for Cherry Creek Cellars

The winery started the Date Night Series a few years ago, but the igloos were a new addition in 2021.

“This is our third year going into it,” Smoyer says. “We did it indoors before COVID, so this is our second year of doing it in the igloos. We had a very good response last year — we did it January, February, March, and all of our events were sold out.”

The atmosphere at Cherry Creek sets it apart from other Valentine’s Day offerings, she says.

“It’s very romantic,” she says. “The igloos, especially in the evenings, we’ve got them all lit up and decorated for the season. It’s just a very intimate, private experience, and you typically don’t get that type of experience in a restaurant. … And Valentine’s is a great time for people to visit wineries.”

A Passionate Pairing
Dorothy DeBlasio, director of event and culinary operations at Black Star Farms in Suttons Bay, shares a similar sentiment.

“There’s just something so romantic about sharing wine and sharing food with someone you love,” she says. “A lot of people find passion behind those things. And so I think it’s a natural element together, food and wine. … There’s just this natural element of romance.”

Black Star Farms is hosting two Valentine’s Day dinners, one on Saturday, Feb. 12, and the other on Valentine’s Day, Monday, Feb. 14. The menu for the five-course meal can be found on the Black Star Farms website, and it features she-crab soup, roasted marrow, citrus and pomegranate salad, beef cheeks, and a chocolatey, fruity dessert. Each course is paired with a wine.

The dinners will take place in the Inn at Black Star Farms’ Aquarius room, with a maximum of 50 guests seated in a room with a capacity of 200.

“We want it to feel like intimate dining while still keeping in mind that some people are still wary in this time of everything being so, so crazy,” DeBlasio says.

The winery has been offering Valentine’s dinners for years to provide tourists and locals with another type of Valentine’s experience.

“We have some fabulous restaurants in the area, but you know, they can only accommodate so many on Valentine’s Day,” DeBlasio says. “So we wanted to invite guests out to our farm and out to the property and really highlight what chef John [Wojnarski] does — or the chefs previous to John — as well as what [vintner] Lee [Lutes] and his team do in regards to the wines and how well they pair with different food options and things like that, and just kind of grow some knowledge in our region towards the food and wine scene.”

Round Barn’s Galentine’s Day brunch provides a private suite for each party. Photo by Nicole Brown with Moersch Hospitality Group

In Southwest Michigan, Valentine’s celebrations include Tabor Hill Winery & Restaurant’s Valentine’s Weekend Dinner on Friday, Feb. 11, and Saturday, Feb. 12. The winery’s “romantic dining experience” comprises a three-course meal from a prix fixe menu — reservations required.

And for those who choose to spend the holiday with friends, Round Barn Estate in Baroda is celebrating Galentine’s Day in style with its event Bubbles and Babes. Participants will enjoy brunch and mimosas in a private suite for up to eight guests. Two seatings are available: 11 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. on Feb. 13.

Offseason Offerings
DeBlasio notes that winter — when things are a little quieter and calmer than they are during the peak season — is an excellent time to visit a winery, for a romantic getaway or otherwise.

“While it’s not crazy busy with harvest or there’s not a lot going on with crush or in the vineyard itself, there’s still a lot going on in the winemaking world,” she says. “In our Suttons Bay tasting room, we have a glass wall between our winemaking and our tasting room, and depending on when you’re there, you can really see our winemakers in there testing things in the tanks and testing things in barrels, and so you’re able to see a little more of the process. And you get a little more one-on-one with our tasting room staff in the offseason.”

Complimentary glasses at Round Barn’s Galentine’s Day event. Photo by Nicole Brown with Moersch Hospitality Group

For guests who want to experience a quiet and intimate winter stay, the Inn at Black Star Farms has 10 guest rooms with a variety of views and amenities. Each stay includes a gourmet breakfast, hospitality hour, and wine tasting. To complete a romantic visit, the Inn offers special packages such as the Romantic Getaway Package and Private Dinner, as well as add-ons like a vase of roses.

Other wineries in the Traverse City area also offer accommodations. Chateau Chantal’s bed-and-breakfast has 12 rooms and suites that overlook either East or West Grand Traverse Bay. At Chateau Grand Traverse, lodging is only for those ages 21 and up, and includes a complimentary bottle of wine each night and a guest discount on wine purchases. Finish off a leisurely weekend with the massage package, which consists of a massage for two, white wine, and a mini chocolate cake.

And not only is the environment quieter and calmer in winter months, but rates are often lower.

“[Winter] is different than the warm summer months,” DeBlasio concludes, “but it’s equally as fun.”

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