Tre Cugini delivers world-class dinner, with Michigan-crafted wine
I was sipping a glass of Arcturos Riesling at Tre Cugini’s bar recently when I learned about the upcoming Michigan-themed wine dinner featuring one of my favorite local wineries: Black Star Farms.
Coincidentally, Arcturos is one of Black Star’s most popular wines — and one of my personal favorites. Before I left that night, I had made plans to attend this six-course meal, held July 18.
As I entered the restaurant, I was greeted by Adriano Moscatelli, owner of Tre Cugini, and Don Coe, managing partner of Black Star Farms. They would be my gracious hosts for the evening and I felt honored to be sitting at their table to get their personal perspectives on the wine and food pairings.
The evening started as every memorable wine dinner should – with a glass of bubbly! Specifically – Black Star’s BeDazzled brut. Delightful on its own, this Cremant-style wine really popped when paired with crawfish tails that were swimming in a sea of butter. Much like mini lobster, the delicate tails were a real treat — served with wild mushrooms. Bedazzled — a dry sparkling wine made from Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Pinto Gris and Pinot Blanc — is the ideal starter wine with a light citrus fruit flavor.
The seafood theme continued as the second course — smoked Michigan whitefish terrine — was placed in front of me, along with a glass of crisp Pinot Gris. Served on a bed of artisanal lettuce, it was dressed with a flavorful Pinot Gris vinaigrette. This is what summer in Michigan tastes like! No wonder this fabulous wine was awarded a Gold medal and the 2011 Great Lakes Wine Competition.
Typically not a fan of heavy, oaky Chardonnay, I was pleased to see an un-oaked vino served next with a pretzel crusted walleye — one of my favorite Michigan fish. The Sur Lie Chardonnay was smooth and fresh, making me second-guess my previous critiques of Chardonnay. The filet was mouth-watering, leaving me wanting more — even though three courses remained.
But first…a palate cleansing mango sorbetto.
Although my primary wine of choice is Riesling, I find myself ordering Michigan Pinot Noir more and more, especially with meals. The nose of this Pinot was like sun-kissed soil — rich, warm and comforting. A fork-tender slice of Michigan turkey, topped with blueberry chutney, brought out the initial fruit tones and peppery finish of the wine.
As if that wasn’t enough, the fifth course delivered an ultimate Michigan treat: a pasty. The flaky pastry held a wonderful treat inside — beef and potatoes, topped with a light horseradish sauce. A bold Cabernet Franc complemented the pasty which was — in and of itself — a complete entrée.
Although I was stuffed beyond belief, I couldn’t help myself from picking at the crust until the waitress finally took my plate away. This full-bodied Cab Franc is well decorated, having scored Gold medals at the 2010 Michigan Wine & Spirits Competition and the 2010 Harding’s Cup Challenge.
Finally, there was bittersweet light at the end of the tunnel. But, how in the world was I going to find room for not one, but two desserts with the Duo of Cherry Delights?
Well, where there’s a will, there’s a way — especially for a trained professional such as myself! The double-whammy dessert — a cherry cheesecake and a cherry bread pudding were not only served with but were made with Black Star’s sweet cherry dessert wine. Oh, how sweet it is!
I attend my fair share of Michigan wine dinners, and this one did not disappoint. Kudos to Chefs Bob Huynh and Joe Frizzel for delivering a complete menu of culinary treats from around the state, each one more interesting that the one before. The pairings were spot-on, further showcasing the chef’s ability to draw on the flavors of the wine while celebrating Michigan’s rich agricultural diversity (we rank No. 2 in the nation, second only to California – if you weren’t aware).
But don’t just take my word for it. John Leese of Harvey Automotive Group said he also attends a lot of dinners at Tre Cugini and “this is one of the best.” In fact, John had a hard time picking his favorite pairing of the evening, saying “everything was perfect.”
Now, when it comes to producing world-class, award-winning wines, winemaker Lee Lutes has mastered his craft. Several of his wines — including the A Capella Ice Wine, Sirius Maple Dessert Wine and Cabernet Franc — have even been served at the White House.
With locations on both Leelanau and Old Mission Peninsulas — as well as a tasting room inside The Village at Grand Traverse Commons — Black Star Farms has been a true agricultural destination for more than a dozen years. In addition to its winery and distillery, Black Star operates a quaint luxury inn, Hearth & Vine restaurant, equestrian center and is home to Leelanau Cheese — makers of world-class artisanal Raclette cheese, all in Suttons Bay.
Tre Cugini hosts monthly wine dinners on the third Monday of each month. Aug. 22 will focus on one of the many magnificent wine regions of France.