World Class Experience with Blackstar Farms and Vineyard
Episode 12211th August 2023 • Total Michigan • Cliff Duvernois
00:00:00 00:32:07

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Blackstar Farms knows a thing or two about experiences. Starting as a simple vineyard, they have grown into a world-class experience that includes a plush hotel, beautiful horses, hiking and all kinds of activities. Sherri Fenton, General Manager shares with us the history of Blackstar Farms, what you can expect when you go, and how they made it to 25 years in this very competitive business!

Links:

https://blackstarfarms.com/

Transcripts

Speaker:

Sherri Fenton, Blackstar Farms: Part of my family's goal was to

Speaker:

create a destination, world class hospitality experience for guests.

Speaker:

So if you're going to have that kind of an experience, it

Speaker:

needs to be a full experience.

Speaker:

to set the tone for what true hospitality truly could be.

Cliff Duvernois:

Hello everyone and welcome back to Total Michigan, the

Cliff Duvernois:

show where we interview ordinary Michiganders who are doing some

Cliff Duvernois:

pretty extraordinary things.

Cliff Duvernois:

We are in the Traverse Wine Coast this week interviewing some pretty cool

Cliff Duvernois:

people, doing some amazing things.

Cliff Duvernois:

And I always love traveling up north in the summertime 'cause it's a great time

Cliff Duvernois:

to take the opportunity to get out, enjoy some wine, enjoy some beautiful country.

Cliff Duvernois:

And today we are fortunate enough to have Blackstar Farms open their

Cliff Duvernois:

doors and allow us to come in.

Cliff Duvernois:

And joining me today is Sherri Fenton, the general manager of Blackstar Farm.

Cliff Duvernois:

Sherri, how are you?

Cliff Duvernois:

Sherri Fenton, Blackstar Farms: I'm wonderful.

Cliff Duvernois:

Thank you very much.

Cliff Duvernois:

Excellent.

Cliff Duvernois:

Once again, thanks for having us here today.

Cliff Duvernois:

Really appreciate it.

Cliff Duvernois:

Sherri Fenton, Blackstar Farms: I'm delighted and I'm delighted

Cliff Duvernois:

that you've come to the right spot on Traverse Wine Coast.

Cliff Duvernois:

Oh, sweet Moses.

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Smell the roses.

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This place is gorgeous and we're gonna get to that in just a second.

Cliff Duvernois:

So before we jump into all the good stuff, if you would just take

Cliff Duvernois:

a couple minutes in, just explain to us what is Blackstar Farms?

Cliff Duvernois:

What all did you entail?

herri Fenton, Blackstar Farms:

Wow.

herri Fenton, Blackstar Farms:

Okay, number one Blackstar Farms is a winery.

herri Fenton, Blackstar Farms:

We started initially as a winery, and we, quickly added on an Inn because

herri Fenton, Blackstar Farms:

this property that we purchased, this beautiful a hundred and acre 160 acres,

herri Fenton, Blackstar Farms:

had a fantastic almost completed house on it, which we turned into an inn.

herri Fenton, Blackstar Farms:

And opened that the first fall after purchasing the property in the spring.

herri Fenton, Blackstar Farms:

So we are a winery.

herri Fenton, Blackstar Farms:

We're an inn.

herri Fenton, Blackstar Farms:

We are Bistro Polarius a Mediterranean inspired bistro.

herri Fenton, Blackstar Farms:

We are an event destination.

herri Fenton, Blackstar Farms:

We're a destination wedding venue.

herri Fenton, Blackstar Farms:

We're a place to go hiking.

herri Fenton, Blackstar Farms:

We're a place to come bring the kids and look at the horses and the baby goats.

herri Fenton, Blackstar Farms:

We are a lot of things.

Cliff Duvernois:

Yes you are.

Cliff Duvernois:

There's a lot more to, Blackstar Farms is just a winery and you're right.

Cliff Duvernois:

So why don't you tell us, just to do a recap, 'cause this is the

Cliff Duvernois:

second time you've been on the show.

Cliff Duvernois:

But just for a quick recap, tell us a little bit about where

Cliff Duvernois:

you're from and where you grew up.

Cliff Duvernois:

Sherri Fenton, Blackstar Farms: So personally, I'm from

Cliff Duvernois:

Michigan, but I grew up overseas.

Cliff Duvernois:

Okay.

Cliff Duvernois:

And that was part of the inspiration for Blackstar Farms was that my

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parents spent a lot of time when we were living in Wales and Belgium,

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going to wineries in Western Europe.

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So they were able to get a flavor for what fine wine truly was and

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develop an appreciation for it.

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So as we fast forwarded and moved back to Michigan and were vacationing

Cliff Duvernois:

up north up here in the Traverse City area, my father recognized that

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people were starting to plant grapes.

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They were making pretty decent wine.

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So he planted his first 40 acres on Old Mission Peninsula in the early nineties.

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Blackstar Farms, this property in Sutton's Bay popped up on

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the market in the mid nineties.

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And so purchasing that, it was a natural foray into, Hey, I'm

Cliff Duvernois:

already growing, producing grapes.

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we could start a winery.

Cliff Duvernois:

Sure.

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So we found a fantastic wine maker who was still with us to this day and we have

Cliff Duvernois:

been making extraordinary, increasingly extraordinary wine for 25 years now.

Cliff Duvernois:

So let me ask you this question, ' cause it's quite a leap from

Cliff Duvernois:

going from, I'm interested in wine to I'm gonna go out and plant 40 acres.

Cliff Duvernois:

Has your dad ever shared the reason why he decided to try to grow his

Cliff Duvernois:

own grapes and make his own wine?

Cliff Duvernois:

Sherri Fenton, Blackstar Farms: Because why not?

Cliff Duvernois:

He's a risk taker.

Cliff Duvernois:

He is a risk taker.

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Why not?

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So he is an, involved in many different businesses and if something

Cliff Duvernois:

grabs his interest, he jumps in.

Cliff Duvernois:

So your dad's an entrepreneur.

Cliff Duvernois:

Sherri Fenton, Blackstar Farms: He is very much an entrepreneur.

Cliff Duvernois:

Okay, so that explains right there.

Cliff Duvernois:

You should have just led with that.

Cliff Duvernois:

Beautiful.

Cliff Duvernois:

Absolutely love it.

Cliff Duvernois:

Okay, so we've got Blackstar Farms and this place is like up and running.

Cliff Duvernois:

And at some point in time your parents asked you to join the business.

Cliff Duvernois:

So talk to us a little bit about that.

Cliff Duvernois:

What was your thoughts coming in about taking over the business,

Cliff Duvernois:

being the general manager?

herri Fenton, Blackstar Farms:

the two partners that were really mostly

herri Fenton, Blackstar Farms:

involved in this business for many years, were my parents, Kerman, Sally

herri Fenton, Blackstar Farms:

Campbell, and then Don and Mary Luco.

herri Fenton, Blackstar Farms:

this other couple were also initial investors.

herri Fenton, Blackstar Farms:

There were two others who bowed out.

herri Fenton, Blackstar Farms:

earlier on.

herri Fenton, Blackstar Farms:

And so when our family bought out the Coss at the end of 2015, that's when my

herri Fenton, Blackstar Farms:

father tapped me on the shoulder ah, and said, I need you to leave your non-profit

herri Fenton, Blackstar Farms:

that you're working for and come join us.

herri Fenton, Blackstar Farms:

So I stepped in essentially, on the heels of the other managing partner.

Cliff Duvernois:

Now coming in, you've got this business that's established out there

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and they want you to come in and run it.

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What was, what were some of the skills that you brought over?

Cliff Duvernois:

'cause you said you were working for a nonprofit or

Cliff Duvernois:

running a nonprofit at the time.

Cliff Duvernois:

Sherri Fenton, Blackstar Farms: for a nonprofit, Working.

Cliff Duvernois:

So what was some of those skills that you transferred over to

Cliff Duvernois:

really start to, to make this place go?

Cliff Duvernois:

Sherri Fenton, Blackstar Farms: Initially I came on board and headed

Cliff Duvernois:

up marketing and public affairs.

Cliff Duvernois:

Okay.

Cliff Duvernois:

So I, I took over the marketing and the just our public voice and

Cliff Duvernois:

started maybe reaching out and doing different things and getting our team

Cliff Duvernois:

on board to I perhaps think a little bit differently about some things.

Cliff Duvernois:

I've also been, have a background in sales.

Cliff Duvernois:

So I love to talk about Blackstar Farms and love to sell the

Cliff Duvernois:

opportunities that we present here.

Cliff Duvernois:

And so those are a couple of the main things that I really brought to the farm.

Cliff Duvernois:

And over the years, 'cause you said that this started

Cliff Duvernois:

out as a vineyard and then within the first year you've added an Inn.

Cliff Duvernois:

And it seems like you're adding all the time to, to what Blackstar Farms is.

Cliff Duvernois:

So first off the, I know that you said that you built it in ' cause

Cliff Duvernois:

the house was almost completed.

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What was it like to turn that on?

Cliff Duvernois:

like I said, it's just, it's quite a leap to just have just a vineyard.

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You've got a tasting room, people come in, take, but all of a sudden,

Cliff Duvernois:

people could spend the night.

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So talk to us a little bit about getting that up.

Cliff Duvernois:

Getting that up and running.

Cliff Duvernois:

What was that like?

Cliff Duvernois:

Sherri Fenton, Blackstar Farms: So part of my family's goal was to

Cliff Duvernois:

create a destination, world class hospitality experience for guests.

Cliff Duvernois:

So if you're going to have that kind of an experience, it

Cliff Duvernois:

needs to be a full experience.

Cliff Duvernois:

So bringing the house to life.

Cliff Duvernois:

The house had a private bathroom with each bedroom.

Cliff Duvernois:

It was a natural just yes,

Cliff Duvernois:

do that

Cliff Duvernois:

now.

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And so allowing people the opportunity to come up and to stay at a

Cliff Duvernois:

winery adds a whole new dimension.

Cliff Duvernois:

we have guests who come up for a couple of days in the wintertime, get

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one of our suites with a fireplace.

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They eat here.

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They have some wine tasting.

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If they take a nap, or read a book, they don't even want to

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leave because this is so as you can see here, it's just so peaceful.

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And it's idyllic and it's a wonderful escape from the real world or the big

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cities that many people come to us from.

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so just creating that awesome experience.

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you get to stay here, you get to see, you get to walk and observe

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what's going on on the crush pad.

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You'll see the grapes coming in.

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You see the workers up in the vineyard, in the estate vineyard.

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You get to see it all going on.

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So why not stay and be a part of it?

Cliff Duvernois:

Actually, I really like that.

Cliff Duvernois:

The fact that this is a working farm.

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You can see exactly how the wine is being made.

Cliff Duvernois:

And then you've got a really nice room to go back to at the end of the day.

Cliff Duvernois:

Or if you just wanna stay and grab a bite to eat and maybe you've had one too many,

Cliff Duvernois:

Sherri Fenton, Blackstar Farms: then that's even better, right?

Cliff Duvernois:

No cars involved.

Cliff Duvernois:

No cars involved.

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And in addition to this, so you started off with the Inn.

Cliff Duvernois:

And I know you've got equestrian.

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You got horses running around here.

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where did that idea come from?

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Sherri Fenton, Blackstar Farms: sound like a wacky idea.

Cliff Duvernois:

doesn't it?

Cliff Duvernois:

Well, if you've had too many, it might be a wacky idea, but it's

Cliff Duvernois:

beautiful and for some reason it fits.

Cliff Duvernois:

So talk to us, where did that idea come from?

Cliff Duvernois:

Sherri Fenton, Blackstar Farms: So the gentleman who was building

Cliff Duvernois:

the house, his wife rode dressage.

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So he built her these beautiful stables.

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There was on the property and still is a centennial barn, which

Cliff Duvernois:

was built in the late 18 hundreds.

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So that was the hay barn for the horses.

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It's now I might add an event space,

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For cool weddings.

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But there was that centennial barn and then he built a huge indoor riding arena

Cliff Duvernois:

for her to ride indoors during the winter as well as an outdoor riding arena.

Cliff Duvernois:

So when our family purchased the property, it was so gorgeous.

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And like you said, who doesn't love seeing horses?

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Like we just saw one walk by right before we started the podcast.

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It's just beautiful.

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So my father would call it marketing.

Cliff Duvernois:

And we just love it.

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So we have just kept it going.

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We have anywhere between 20 and 27 horses on this property, privately

Cliff Duvernois:

boarded at any point in time.

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It just adds a different element to our winery experience that helps,

Cliff Duvernois:

makes us, make us really special.

Cliff Duvernois:

Wow.

Cliff Duvernois:

I find myself at a little loss for words there.

Cliff Duvernois:

So it seems like for this property here then your parents buying it, it seems

Cliff Duvernois:

and of course this is the entrepreneur side coming out, but there's just a lot

Cliff Duvernois:

of infrastructure was already in place when your parents bought this and was it

Cliff Duvernois:

always the plan just to turn everything on and let's just see where it goes?

Cliff Duvernois:

Or was it kinda hey, let's just feel this out and just do one thing at a time?

Cliff Duvernois:

It

Cliff Duvernois:

Sherri Fenton, Blackstar Farms: It just fell into place.

Cliff Duvernois:

Okay.

Cliff Duvernois:

Yeah.

Cliff Duvernois:

Yeah.

Cliff Duvernois:

A piece at a time.

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the tasting room.

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That is adorned with gorgeous, this post and beam structure.

Cliff Duvernois:

the tasting room was built that first year when we started the business.

Cliff Duvernois:

Sure.

Cliff Duvernois:

but that's been added onto outdoor terraces and, more outdoor areas because

Cliff Duvernois:

everybody comes up to Northern Michigan wants to be outside if they can.

Cliff Duvernois:

We just built a new pavilion and opened that up last week with a

Cliff Duvernois:

concert from Interlochen Arts Academy.

Cliff Duvernois:

But yeah, things just kept getting added.

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This building that we're sitting in front of right now, Bistro

Cliff Duvernois:

Polaris, was an open air mirror barn.

Cliff Duvernois:

It was turned into a, market.

Cliff Duvernois:

Then it was turned into, we incubated a business called Nine Bean Rows.

Cliff Duvernois:

And so we built this wood-fired oven in there, which we now use for pizzas.

Cliff Duvernois:

Used to be used for things like amazing European style croissants.

Cliff Duvernois:

So that business is up in Suttons Bay.

Cliff Duvernois:

And we still have this fantastic.

Cliff Duvernois:

Wood-fired oven.

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So this building started morphing and is now a restaurant.

Cliff Duvernois:

So things just developed over time.

Cliff Duvernois:

The event business people started coming here and looking around and then thought,

Cliff Duvernois:

I'd really love to have my daughter's wedding here, or, whatever it might be.

Cliff Duvernois:

or we should bring our board meeting here.

Cliff Duvernois:

Look how much fun that would be like when the meetings are done.

Cliff Duvernois:

So things just started happening.

Cliff Duvernois:

It was, never really truly a grand vision beyond the winery

Cliff Duvernois:

and the bed and breakfast.

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And here we are.

Cliff Duvernois:

and things just keep adding

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Sherri Fenton, Blackstar Farms: We just keep adding things.

Cliff Duvernois:

So I happen to acquire a carriage before my horse I fell upon a fantastic

Cliff Duvernois:

carriage and then had to seek out somebody who was a trained driver

Cliff Duvernois:

and had a horse that could pull it.

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Because you can't just grab a dressage horse to pull a carriage, right?

Cliff Duvernois:

So now we can offer carriage rides to the top of the vineyard before a wedding

Cliff Duvernois:

and bring the bride and groom down after they're married because it fits.

Cliff Duvernois:

We've got a really cool wagon and we'll give wagon rides.

Cliff Duvernois:

That's one of our silver anniversary things that we're doing this fall.

Cliff Duvernois:

Just a little family fun, free wagon rides at the end of October when

Cliff Duvernois:

the colors are amazing around here.

Cliff Duvernois:

So we just just keep adding different things.

Cliff Duvernois:

one of the things that I would like to explore is when

Cliff Duvernois:

we started this conversation, we were talking about just the vineyard.

Cliff Duvernois:

And then your language had started using terms like experience and

Cliff Duvernois:

destination, which is actually what I was thinking about when I was standing

Cliff Duvernois:

here looking at awe at your place.

Cliff Duvernois:

I was like, this is not a vineyard.

Cliff Duvernois:

This is a destination.

Cliff Duvernois:

At what point in time did you make that?

Cliff Duvernois:

And you say, you know what?

Cliff Duvernois:

We are no longer just a vineyard.

Cliff Duvernois:

We're now a destination.

Cliff Duvernois:

when did that happen?

herri Fenton, Blackstar Farms:

That was really, that was the goal the whole time.

herri Fenton, Blackstar Farms:

Ah, okay.

herri Fenton, Blackstar Farms:

Was to be.

herri Fenton, Blackstar Farms:

a destination experience.

herri Fenton, Blackstar Farms:

to set the tone for what true hospitality truly could be.

herri Fenton, Blackstar Farms:

And actually even the vineyard, as you drive in this, the big curve

herri Fenton, Blackstar Farms:

as you come into the property, That was just a bowl essentially

herri Fenton, Blackstar Farms:

when the property was purchased.

herri Fenton, Blackstar Farms:

So we chose to terrace it, like the vineyards that grow that

herri Fenton, Blackstar Farms:

come off the Rhine in Germany.

herri Fenton, Blackstar Farms:

So a lot of people will come in, will drive in and recognize how

herri Fenton, Blackstar Farms:

beautiful it is and not necessarily think right away that, Hey, that

herri Fenton, Blackstar Farms:

looks like it along the Rhine River.

herri Fenton, Blackstar Farms:

But that was the goal.

herri Fenton, Blackstar Farms:

So just pulling in a lot of those different things from our

herri Fenton, Blackstar Farms:

past and our past experiences.

Cliff Duvernois:

And for our audience, we're gonna take a quick break to

Cliff Duvernois:

thank our sponsors when we come back.

Cliff Duvernois:

we're gonna continue our conversation with Sheri and talk some more

Cliff Duvernois:

about some of the cool things that are going on at Blackstar farms.

Cliff Duvernois:

We'll see you after the break.

Cliff Duvernois:

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Cliff Duvernois:

Hello everyone and welcome back to Total Michigan, where we

Cliff Duvernois:

interview ordinary people doing some pretty extraordinary things.

Cliff Duvernois:

I'm your host Cliff DuVernois.

Cliff Duvernois:

Today we're talking with Sherri Fenton at Blackstar Farms, vineyards

Cliff Duvernois:

and Inn and Equestrian Farms and Bistro, and everything else that's

Cliff Duvernois:

going on underneath the sun.

Cliff Duvernois:

This really is a destination, Sherri, speaking of which,

Cliff Duvernois:

One of, there's a couple of big things that are going on that I

Cliff Duvernois:

wanna share with the audience.

Cliff Duvernois:

But let's talk about first bistro Polaris.

Cliff Duvernois:

Talk to us about Bistro Polaris.

Cliff Duvernois:

what is the inspiration for this?

Cliff Duvernois:

How long has it been open?

Cliff Duvernois:

What can people expect when they come here?

Cliff Duvernois:

Sherri Fenton, Blackstar Farms: That's a great question.

Cliff Duvernois:

So we had a cafe here for a number of years, and you know when

Cliff Duvernois:

you get to a point in time and something needs to be reimagined,

Cliff Duvernois:

Guilty.

Cliff Duvernois:

Sherri Fenton, Blackstar Farms: We were ready.

Cliff Duvernois:

And so along came Chef John Korycki, who is, a really incredible chef who has drawn

Cliff Duvernois:

his inspiration from 30 years of travel in italy, and down around the Mediterranean.

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So we brought him on board with his passions and he, I just charged

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him with recreating this place.

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So he created a fantastic menu, bringing in just the most fresh

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ingredients from our farm and local farms within just a short

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distance, bringing in truly authentic ingredients that you can really taste.

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You can tell the difference, right when a.

Cliff Duvernois:

When in ingredients, super fresh and really great quality.

Cliff Duvernois:

So he has put together a very approachable, simple menu, but things

Cliff Duvernois:

like salad neise with a seared tuna on top, which I'm living on this summer.

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he has, napole, NATO style pizzas.

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Some of them filled with, grilled vegetables or all

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kinds of great ingredients.

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and he's having so much fun doing that.

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We've got paninis, salads, amazing desserts, and so he just

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brought new life to the menu here.

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we updated the interior and gave that also a new look, so that as our guests who have

Cliff Duvernois:

come to us over the years could come in and know that they're in a familiar space,

Cliff Duvernois:

but know that something was different.

Cliff Duvernois:

Now is the bistro, Polaris, is that

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something that's open every day?

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Is it dinner only?

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Weekends only.

Cliff Duvernois:

How does that work?

Cliff Duvernois:

Sherri Fenton, Blackstar Farms: Right now it is open, Thursday,

Cliff Duvernois:

Friday, Saturday, and Sunday brunch.

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We just started our Sunday brunch, goodness, a month ago.

Cliff Duvernois:

And it is very popular.

Cliff Duvernois:

It's a fantastic brunch where you really, it's really a special brunch.

Cliff Duvernois:

You get to choose between three different courses, so a salad starter

Cliff Duvernois:

or a yogurt parfait, depending on you.

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If you're feeling like it's breakfast or lunchtime, right?

Cliff Duvernois:

And, a beautiful entree and a lovely dessert.

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We offer dessert wines.

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We offer mimosas all kinds of little things to accompany that brunch.

Cliff Duvernois:

We will be adding a Wednesday special wine paired dinner.

Cliff Duvernois:

We would like that to be really a chef dinner.

Cliff Duvernois:

And, a nice approachable price point we offer at Blackstar Farms about five or six

Cliff Duvernois:

times a year, an Arturo's dining series.

Cliff Duvernois:

Where we have a very, elevated 5, 6, 7 course meal that is wine paired.

Cliff Duvernois:

This one, we want to bring it down so it's a little bit more approachable for

Cliff Duvernois:

everybody, who, to be able to come in and experience that kind of a dinner.

Cliff Duvernois:

So we're looking at getting those going very soon.

Cliff Duvernois:

And, continuing those through the winter.

Cliff Duvernois:

This, the intention is that this will stay up and through the winter.

Cliff Duvernois:

We've done weekend dinners at the Inn that have been very well received.

Cliff Duvernois:

We'd like to move those down here now.

Cliff Duvernois:

and do them in a similar manner.

Cliff Duvernois:

And because I think, if I remember correctly,

Cliff Duvernois:

you offer, now you offer

Cliff Duvernois:

food here at bistro polaris, but you've also had, you got another kitchen that

Cliff Duvernois:

you offer food there as well, like when you were talking about the dinner.

Cliff Duvernois:

So your plan is to move everything down here to Bistro polaris?

Cliff Duvernois:

Okay.

Cliff Duvernois:

Sherri Fenton, Blackstar Farms: because the other kitchen is inside

Cliff Duvernois:

the inn and that's not a restaurant, so that those are special events.

Cliff Duvernois:

Oh, okay.

Cliff Duvernois:

Alright.

Cliff Duvernois:

Yeah, that makes sense.

Cliff Duvernois:

Yeah.

Cliff Duvernois:

Let's talk about the next thing.

Cliff Duvernois:

I wanna save the big thing for the end.

Cliff Duvernois:

Let's talk about the music that you've got going on here.

Cliff Duvernois:

what is happening with the music?

Cliff Duvernois:

Talk to us about that.

herri Fenton, Blackstar Farms:

So this summer we started bringing in every

herri Fenton, Blackstar Farms:

Thursday night, a young man who has a passion for rock, soul, blues, like

herri Fenton, Blackstar Farms:

just almost like every genre of music.

herri Fenton, Blackstar Farms:

And he is really talented.

herri Fenton, Blackstar Farms:

So he is blessing our winery terrace with music on Thursday nights.

herri Fenton, Blackstar Farms:

But it spills over down here to the bistro.

herri Fenton, Blackstar Farms:

So it's a great opportunity to just come and have dinner, have a little

herri Fenton, Blackstar Farms:

farm, true farm to fork experience, and then go up and have a glass

herri Fenton, Blackstar Farms:

of wine and listen to some music.

herri Fenton, Blackstar Farms:

we just find that, Those kinds of things add to people's experience.

herri Fenton, Blackstar Farms:

it gives' them a little bit reason to just linger and enjoy, the surroundings

Cliff Duvernois:

as someone's, singing out their favorite tunes.

Cliff Duvernois:

yes.

Cliff Duvernois:

Beautiful.

Cliff Duvernois:

And then of course, all right, so we're gonna let the big thing outta the bag.

Cliff Duvernois:

What special year is this?

herri Fenton, Blackstar Farms:

Woohoo.

Cliff Duvernois:

25.

Cliff Duvernois:

baby.

Cliff Duvernois:

Oh, that's incredible.

Cliff Duvernois:

Congratulations

Cliff Duvernois:

on that.

Cliff Duvernois:

Yes.

Cliff Duvernois:

So what do you got going on to celebrate 25 years of being awesome.

herri Fenton, Blackstar Farms:

we like to party around here, so instead

herri Fenton, Blackstar Farms:

of just throwing one big shindig, we are having parties every month.

herri Fenton, Blackstar Farms:

the end of this month we are having a special cocktail party because we also

herri Fenton, Blackstar Farms:

started, the year after we opened the winery, we started a distillation program.

herri Fenton, Blackstar Farms:

So we are creating European style eau-de-vie.

herri Fenton, Blackstar Farms:

these amazing brandies.

herri Fenton, Blackstar Farms:

And so we are really bringing forward some fantastic cocktails that

herri Fenton, Blackstar Farms:

we're making with those products.

herri Fenton, Blackstar Farms:

So we're gonna have a cocktail party.

herri Fenton, Blackstar Farms:

And show people how they can, mix different cocktails out of

herri Fenton, Blackstar Farms:

some of our base basic products.

herri Fenton, Blackstar Farms:

after that we're going to have a summer soiree with live music and

herri Fenton, Blackstar Farms:

dancing and some fantastic food.

herri Fenton, Blackstar Farms:

I think I mentioned we're gonna have hay rides in the fall for families.

Cliff Duvernois:

Oh, I did not know that.

Cliff Duvernois:

This you got going on.

Cliff Duvernois:

Sherri Fenton, Blackstar Farms: So we're just, we're celebrating.

Cliff Duvernois:

We already released a special anniversary Covet, so it's a

Cliff Duvernois:

hundred percent pinot noir grape.

Cliff Duvernois:

Awesome.

Cliff Duvernois:

And it's been in the works since 2019.

Cliff Duvernois:

that's its vintage.

Cliff Duvernois:

So made in the true method style, it takes.

Cliff Duvernois:

It takes a while.

Cliff Duvernois:

It takes longer than if you're just infusing with bubbles, a wine.

Cliff Duvernois:

So this is a fantastic covet.

Cliff Duvernois:

We only made 150 cases and just released it.

Cliff Duvernois:

So that's a special tribute to our 25th.

Cliff Duvernois:

So the question I got, ' cause I do drink a

Cliff Duvernois:

little bit of wine on occasion.

Cliff Duvernois:

So when you talk about it being pinot noir, is it a rose, is it white?

Cliff Duvernois:

Sherri Fenton, Blackstar Farms: It is more like a rose.

Cliff Duvernois:

Okay.

Cliff Duvernois:

because of it being a pinot noir.

Cliff Duvernois:

Okay.

Cliff Duvernois:

we do have a blanc DeBlanc that is the, a true white grape.

Cliff Duvernois:

so yeah, this is more of a rose kind of champagne.

Cliff Duvernois:

Wonderful.

Cliff Duvernois:

I love having a good rose bubbly.

Cliff Duvernois:

Yep.

Cliff Duvernois:

On a nice summer day.

Cliff Duvernois:

Sherri Fenton, Blackstar Farms: Absolutely.

Cliff Duvernois:

That's absolutely credible.

Cliff Duvernois:

So 25 years, and you've been with Blackstar that, that whole time

Cliff Duvernois:

Sherri Fenton, Blackstar Farms: I have been with

Cliff Duvernois:

since

Cliff Duvernois:

2015.

Cliff Duvernois:

2016.

Cliff Duvernois:

16,

Cliff Duvernois:

okay.

Cliff Duvernois:

You guys have grown so much over that timeframe.

Cliff Duvernois:

Did you ever envision when you came here that Blackstar would be what it is today?

Cliff Duvernois:

Sherri Fenton, Blackstar Farms: Actually, no.

Cliff Duvernois:

honestly.

Cliff Duvernois:

Okay.

Cliff Duvernois:

when Blackstar Firms was started, I was.

Cliff Duvernois:

Raising a family and,

Cliff Duvernois:

I wasn't paying that much attention to the family business, honestly.

Cliff Duvernois:

Okay.

Cliff Duvernois:

And, we were, we set a goal that making 10,000 cases a year would be fantastic,

Cliff Duvernois:

but we kept planting more grapes and we kept growing and the demand kept growing.

Cliff Duvernois:

We distribute in Michigan and Illinois and, we shipped to a

Cliff Duvernois:

number of different states just to people's houses through our.

Cliff Duvernois:

Wine Club, which has 3,500 members.

Cliff Duvernois:

Beautiful.

herri Fenton, Blackstar Farms:

And so yeah, we have just continued to grow.

herri Fenton, Blackstar Farms:

Sometimes in a really good year, we'll make 35,000 cases that's awesome.

herri Fenton, Blackstar Farms:

But we also have a lot of different kinds of wines, which is great because we have

herri Fenton, Blackstar Farms:

something for everybody's palate.

herri Fenton, Blackstar Farms:

we have over 45 different wines and spirits.

herri Fenton, Blackstar Farms:

We truly do say that we have something for everybody.

herri Fenton, Blackstar Farms:

We now even have a slushy

herri Fenton, Blackstar Farms:

machine.

herri Fenton, Blackstar Farms:

Okay.

herri Fenton, Blackstar Farms:

We gave in, we have a non-alcoholic for the designated driver or kids.

herri Fenton, Blackstar Farms:

And then

herri Fenton, Blackstar Farms:

we have whatever's the flavor of the week.

herri Fenton, Blackstar Farms:

I think it was sangria recently.

Cliff Duvernois:

Man, you guys get your figures in everything.

Cliff Duvernois:

I gotta get out more the, what I would like to do is I would like to talk to

Cliff Duvernois:

you about, ' cause it 25th anniversary.

Cliff Duvernois:

There's a lot of things that are going on.

Cliff Duvernois:

So the question I got for you is how

Cliff Duvernois:

do you manage all this?

Cliff Duvernois:

How do you manage the growth?

Cliff Duvernois:

How do you manage the quality that you produce every single year?

Cliff Duvernois:

Making sure that when people come here to this destination that

Cliff Duvernois:

their expectations are being met.

Cliff Duvernois:

How do you manage all that?

herri Fenton, Blackstar Farms:

We select the right people to be on our team.

herri Fenton, Blackstar Farms:

We have the most incredible team.

herri Fenton, Blackstar Farms:

they are, they understand what true hospitality is.

herri Fenton, Blackstar Farms:

They know how to treat people.

herri Fenton, Blackstar Farms:

They know how to bring people out of.

herri Fenton, Blackstar Farms:

Out of, their maybe discomfort.

herri Fenton, Blackstar Farms:

A lot of people who come to tasting rooms have never been in, been wine tasting

herri Fenton, Blackstar Farms:

before, so they dunno what to ask for.

herri Fenton, Blackstar Farms:

They don't know, they don't know anything about it.

herri Fenton, Blackstar Farms:

We've got a great team who really knows just how to make people feel at ease

herri Fenton, Blackstar Farms:

and that it's okay to try something that every wine, if if you like a

herri Fenton, Blackstar Farms:

wine that you think you shouldn't, like, everybody has different tastes.

herri Fenton, Blackstar Farms:

So that's the wine you like.

herri Fenton, Blackstar Farms:

So it's awesome.

herri Fenton, Blackstar Farms:

It doesn't matter if it's the least expensive wine we make or

herri Fenton, Blackstar Farms:

the most expensive, that's great.

herri Fenton, Blackstar Farms:

it's what you like.

herri Fenton, Blackstar Farms:

And at the end we've got a fantastic team, events, people just that

herri Fenton, Blackstar Farms:

know how to embrace and truly, take ownership of what they're doing.

herri Fenton, Blackstar Farms:

They, our team members, our leaders want to make sure that the

herri Fenton, Blackstar Farms:

experience that every guest receives is the best that they can get.

herri Fenton, Blackstar Farms:

And it takes time to find the right people.

herri Fenton, Blackstar Farms:

we feel it when we don't, when somebody's not a right fit.

herri Fenton, Blackstar Farms:

and I think our guests feel it.

herri Fenton, Blackstar Farms:

So that's something that I hold true to my heart, that we really select

herri Fenton, Blackstar Farms:

the right people, which has been challenging for the last few years.

herri Fenton, Blackstar Farms:

But we're very blessed.

herri Fenton, Blackstar Farms:

We have a amazing team and they are the reason for our success.

Cliff Duvernois:

because in doing some interviews with some other hotel

Cliff Duvernois:

operators, especially independent family run operators, it always

Cliff Duvernois:

surprises me that there's a good portion of guests that are repeat guests.

Cliff Duvernois:

That come here, and I'm sure you could probably quote off maybe 30

Cliff Duvernois:

or 40 people I won't ask you to,

Cliff Duvernois:

Sherri Fenton, Blackstar Farms: who've been coming here for 25 years.

Cliff Duvernois:

guest.

Cliff Duvernois:

Yes.

Cliff Duvernois:

or three or four times a year.

Cliff Duvernois:

Yes.

Cliff Duvernois:

Yes.

Cliff Duvernois:

We have a.

Cliff Duvernois:

a, nice, healthy amount of repeat guests.

Cliff Duvernois:

So we are very blessed with that.

Cliff Duvernois:

And the word of mouth spreads.

Cliff Duvernois:

Sometimes people come and they meet.

Cliff Duvernois:

We have a hospitality hour every evening in the Pegasus Lounge where

Cliff Duvernois:

you can sit on, bar saddle stools.

Cliff Duvernois:

And guests will become good friends.

Cliff Duvernois:

They'll end up going out to dinner together.

Cliff Duvernois:

They'll leave and they'll rebook the same time next year so that

Cliff Duvernois:

they can be together again.

Cliff Duvernois:

we love that kind of experience.

Cliff Duvernois:

so we're, we have.

Cliff Duvernois:

We're blessed with

Cliff Duvernois:

repeat guests and we're blessed with a lot of new guests who

Cliff Duvernois:

just keep discovering us like you

Cliff Duvernois:

try again today.

Cliff Duvernois:

Yes.

Cliff Duvernois:

And that's one thing too that I do wanna discuss because as

Cliff Duvernois:

I, you and I first started talking, I did not realize that Blackstar

Cliff Duvernois:

actually has two locations, so I was always going to the one.

Cliff Duvernois:

I believe it's probably the one that's located closer to traverse city.

Cliff Duvernois:

That's correct.

Cliff Duvernois:

And then this one here is up further in suttons Bay.

Cliff Duvernois:

When did the second place open up?

Cliff Duvernois:

Sherri Fenton, Blackstar Farms: So we opened here in 1998.

Cliff Duvernois:

We're three miles south of Sutton's Bay.

Cliff Duvernois:

And in 2008

Cliff Duvernois:

we opened up on old mission peninsula.

Cliff Duvernois:

We're the first winery as you start up center road off of center

Cliff Duvernois:

road on Old Mission Peninsula.

Cliff Duvernois:

Gotcha.

Cliff Duvernois:

Okay.

Cliff Duvernois:

Because we, this location, the one that we're at is the, which one is this one?

Cliff Duvernois:

near Suttons Bay.

Cliff Duvernois:

Okay.

Cliff Duvernois:

This is the one that we're talking about.

Cliff Duvernois:

Okay.

Cliff Duvernois:

cause I didn't, if a member of the audience wants to come here, I

Cliff Duvernois:

wanna let them know that there's two

Cliff Duvernois:

Sherri Fenton, Blackstar Farms: actually, that's a very good point.

Cliff Duvernois:

Yes.

Cliff Duvernois:

Yes.

Cliff Duvernois:

So on old Mission Peninsula, we produce our white wines there, and

Cliff Duvernois:

then we have a full tasting room here.

Cliff Duvernois:

We produce our red wines and our champagne style Bubbies.

Cliff Duvernois:

and then, oh, and we also produce our brandys on old Mission peninsula.

Cliff Duvernois:

So

Cliff Duvernois:

Old V that

Cliff Duvernois:

Sherri Fenton, Blackstar Farms: is, is truly, a tasting room.

Cliff Duvernois:

Stop there.

Cliff Duvernois:

Here is where you could spend

Cliff Duvernois:

the night

Cliff Duvernois:

or spend the weekend if, you still wanted to,

Cliff Duvernois:

Sherri Fenton, Blackstar Farms: if you're lucky enough to get

Cliff Duvernois:

a reservation on a weekend.

Cliff Duvernois:

Yes, I ahead.

Cliff Duvernois:

Hey, I tell you, I drove in here and your sign up front said no vacancy.

Cliff Duvernois:

we're right now, we're in the middle of the week shooting this interview, so yeah.

Cliff Duvernois:

I couldn't believe when I pulled in, saw no vacancy.

Cliff Duvernois:

I was like, okay, good for them.

Cliff Duvernois:

Sherri Fenton, Blackstar Farms: I love that site.

Cliff Duvernois:

Yes.

Cliff Duvernois:

How many only have 10.

Cliff Duvernois:

Okay.

Cliff Duvernois:

so we have three suites.

Cliff Duvernois:

One has a complete kitchen in it, and a separate bedroom.

Cliff Duvernois:

We have another suite that we call the girlfriends quarters.

Cliff Duvernois:

It has a room within a room.

Cliff Duvernois:

so it's great for either girlfriends on a weekend trip or a family traveling

Cliff Duvernois:

perhaps with like young adult kids.

Cliff Duvernois:

and then we have one that's affectionately called the honeymoon suite

Cliff Duvernois:

For the weddings that happen here.

Cliff Duvernois:

yes.

Cliff Duvernois:

Sherri Fenton, Blackstar Farms: two of those rooms are on the main

Cliff Duvernois:

floor and then eight rooms upstairs.

Cliff Duvernois:

Okay,

Cliff Duvernois:

Okay, great.

Cliff Duvernois:

And the other thing that I would like to talk about too is the fact

Cliff Duvernois:

that this is a year-round place.

Cliff Duvernois:

Because you also have snowshoeing.

Cliff Duvernois:

And talk to us about the winter stuff that goes on here.

Cliff Duvernois:

Sherri Fenton, Blackstar Farms: Oh my goodness.

Cliff Duvernois:

So winter we have had many guests.

Cliff Duvernois:

Tell us that they feel like they're in a hallmark movie.

Cliff Duvernois:

How do you do it?

Cliff Duvernois:

' cause when this place is blanketed in snow, yes, just hop in your SUV

Cliff Duvernois:

and put in your four wheel drive.

Cliff Duvernois:

It's gorgeous up here.

Cliff Duvernois:

We have snowshoes that are hanging at the back door of the inn for a Inn Guests.

Cliff Duvernois:

We have every weekend we have, a whole rack of snowshoes up at the

Cliff Duvernois:

taster room that are for rent.

Cliff Duvernois:

We have over three miles of recreational trails.

Cliff Duvernois:

So whether you're riding a horse or walking or snowshoeing, there's

Cliff Duvernois:

a great opportunity to just really experience beauty in nature.

Cliff Duvernois:

the trails are one of my favorite things, seasonally.

Cliff Duvernois:

In the fall, the colors are amazing.

Cliff Duvernois:

in the winter to go snow shrew through there, it's so quiet in the woods

Cliff Duvernois:

in the winter time, it's incredible.

Cliff Duvernois:

In the spring, I'm crazy about flowers.

Cliff Duvernois:

All the little wild flowers that are there are just amazing.

Cliff Duvernois:

you might find some wild, some ramps growing in the woods.

Cliff Duvernois:

some famous morale mushrooms.

Cliff Duvernois:

It's just a great opportunity to get out and let nature surround you.

Cliff Duvernois:

I just have peace at the top of the trail system.

Cliff Duvernois:

You'll end up at the top of the vineyard.

Cliff Duvernois:

That's our wedding ceremony site.

Cliff Duvernois:

You have little peekaboo glimpses of the bay depending upon the time of year, and

Cliff Duvernois:

that's just a great place to just hang out up there at the top of the vineyard

Cliff Duvernois:

too, and looking down over the farm.

Cliff Duvernois:

So the last question I have for you is, you said you've got

Cliff Duvernois:

45 different types of wine and drinks here, which I really wish I could sample

Cliff Duvernois:

them all, but I can't do it all at once.

Cliff Duvernois:

Here's my question to you.

Cliff Duvernois:

What would be the one that you would recommend that people

Cliff Duvernois:

try when they come here?

herri Fenton, Blackstar Farms:

I would say that people need to try our

herri Fenton, Blackstar Farms:

dry riesling, and I'll tell you why.

herri Fenton, Blackstar Farms:

Okay.

herri Fenton, Blackstar Farms:

So this region grows Riesling and Pinot Noir.

herri Fenton, Blackstar Farms:

varietals very well.

herri Fenton, Blackstar Farms:

They like this climate, our soil, everything.

herri Fenton, Blackstar Farms:

In 2018, we won the best of Show at the canberra international riesling challenge.

herri Fenton, Blackstar Farms:

Which was essentially being named the best Riesling in the world, beating out

herri Fenton, Blackstar Farms:

the best Riesling growing, countries in the world over 600 different entries.

herri Fenton, Blackstar Farms:

We meddled in every six, riesling that we entered.

herri Fenton, Blackstar Farms:

And one best of show.

herri Fenton, Blackstar Farms:

So our dry Riesling is fantastic and I would suggest that people try that.

herri Fenton, Blackstar Farms:

It is lovely and fruit forward, but because our cool climate has a nice crisp

herri Fenton, Blackstar Farms:

acidity and it's smooth, it's lovely.

herri Fenton, Blackstar Farms:

So I would say people need to try that.

Cliff Duvernois:

Alright, perfect.

Cliff Duvernois:

Sherri Fenton, Blackstar Farms: For a red, gosh, you can't go wrong

Cliff Duvernois:

if you try acab Franc or a Merlot.

Cliff Duvernois:

We've got some great red blends too.

Cliff Duvernois:

It's really challenging sometimes to,

Cliff Duvernois:

certainly to,

herri Fenton, Blackstar Farms:

but I am quite fond of cabernet franc.

Cliff Duvernois:

Okay.

Cliff Duvernois:

Excellent.

Cliff Duvernois:

Sherri, if somebody's listening to this interview and they wanna check out

Cliff Duvernois:

what it is you're doing, I want to book a night at this mysterious inn that

Cliff Duvernois:

I've heard so many great things about all the activities you got going on.

Cliff Duvernois:

it's your 25th anniversary.

Cliff Duvernois:

Where can they go to do that?

Cliff Duvernois:

Sherri Fenton, Blackstar Farms: Please go to Blackstar farms.com.

Cliff Duvernois:

We have a fantastic website.

Cliff Duvernois:

we keep it very updated with the events, the current events, the events that

Cliff Duvernois:

are upcoming, New Year's Eve dinner.

Cliff Duvernois:

You can come spend New Year's Eve with us.

Cliff Duvernois:

Do you know that you can have a wine pair dinner stay right at the Inn?

Cliff Duvernois:

Piece cake after wine case waste after wine tasting.

Cliff Duvernois:

Why do I get the feeling?

Cliff Duvernois:

Your rubes are probably already booked for New Year's Eve.

Cliff Duvernois:

Sherri Fenton, Blackstar Farms: they might be

Cliff Duvernois:

be.

Cliff Duvernois:

somebody could crash, I could crash at someone's couch.

Cliff Duvernois:

Awesome.

Cliff Duvernois:

And, for our audience, you can always roll it over to tone michigan.com and

Cliff Duvernois:

click on Sherri's interview and get all the links that she just mentioned above.

Cliff Duvernois:

We'll see you

Cliff Duvernois:

next week when we talk to another ordinary Michigander doing some

Cliff Duvernois:

pretty extraordinary things.

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