Call of Leadership

The Call of Leadership

This interview was fun!  Sherri Fenton, the managing owner of Black Star Farms, sits down with us and shares Black Star’s rich history, their philosophy in creating great customer experiences, and some great wines for you to try.

We also talk about snow-shoeing around their farm, winter events that are happening … and how they are doing wine tasting safely.

So grab a glass of your favorite vino and enjoy this great episode!

Blackstar Farms Website

Blackstar Farms Facebook Page


Cliff Duvernois: [00:00:00] hello, ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the show on your host Cliff DuVernois. And today we have the honor of being joined by yet another great vineyard located up in the traverse city area. And we’re privileged to have Sherri Fenton with us. She is the managing owner of black star farms, Sherry, how are you? 

Sherri Fenton, Black Star Farms Vineyard: [00:00:51] I’m wonderful. Thank you so much for having me today, cliff.

Cliff Duvernois: [00:00:54] Thank you. Why don’t you tell us a little bit about where you’re from and where you grew up. 

Sherri Fenton, Black Star Farms Vineyard: [00:00:58] Oh, okay. Well, so I actually am a native Michigander. I was born in, in central Michigan, but when I was the age of four, I traveled overseas with my family, where I spent my formative years growing up. In both whales and Belgium. So I spent many years following my parents around to little wine Cubs and Western Europe, which was kind of exciting. 

 and then I keep, well, then we ended up coming back to Michigan and, and I’ve, I’ve been here I guess, a little bit off and on. I moved away to, a couple other States and then came back here about 20 years ago. 

Cliff Duvernois: [00:01:36] Excellent. Now, when you were living over there in Europe, cause it’s really, during your formative years, did you pick up any foreign languages while you were there?

Sherri Fenton, Black Star Farms Vineyard: [00:01:43] I spoke French. Yes. I went to, I went to an American school in Belgium, but we of course had to, had to take. The French language.

Cliff Duvernois: [00:01:53] Ah, 

 I miss it. This is so much, okay. So. 

So you, you came back to Michigan about 20 years ago. How did you wind up getting into the wine business? 

Sherri Fenton, Black Star Farms Vineyard: [00:02:04] So my parents had. I think, I feel like to answer this question. I need to back up a little bit. And the early nineties, my parents. Had built a retirement home in the traverse city area. We’d always had a summer place up here. And they started growing vines on old mission peninsula because, it was starting to become recognized that there was a little something special going on with the ability to grow, to, to plant vineyards and grow successful vineyards in this region. So they had been growing well. 

best 40 acre vineyard for probably seven years. When this fantastic property in Leelanau peninsula came up for sale. Which is now our flagship property for black star farms. And it, consisted of a private residence, which is now an in for us. it had a full equestrian facility, which we still have. And, and then there were other things that were to be added on at a later date. 

but my parents came along and decided we’re going to buy this gorgeous property and pull in some partners and start a business. And so they originally had three partners. Which started Blackstar farms. And at that point, because we had already been growing grapes and had mature vines, we found a fabulous wine maker. Lee loots, who was recently back from then, Northern region in Italy. the Piedmont region. 

And pulled him on board as our wine maker. And, decided to convert a part of the Inn or part of the house into an end. And that’s where the story all started in, in 1998. So that business was, going and growing. And I was actually at that time, living on the East coast with my family, started a young family. 

And, ended up moving back home for personal reasons back to Michigan and, five years ago, my parents bought out their last partner. And turned to me and said, we’d like you to join the family business. 

So it was that direct invite from the folk saying, we need you now, Sherry. 

Cliff Duvernois: [00:04:06] Nice. Now, did you know, during this time, did you, did you study like viniculture in college? What’s your. You know, besides enjoying a good glass of wine. What spray really been your experience in, in the world of wine? 

Sherri Fenton, Black Star Farms Vineyard: [00:04:20] So actually, it had been quite limited other than enjoying a fabulous Baila French wine at the dinner table.

Cliff Duvernois: [00:04:27] Yeah. Yeah. 

 Sherri Fenton, Black Star Farms Vineyard: [00:04:28] I actually had a very solid background in sales and marketing. 

Cliff Duvernois: [00:04:31] Sweet.

Sherri Fenton, Black Star Farms Vineyard: [00:04:32] so, so when I joined the business, that was my first capacity. I took our rebate communications and public affairs, for black star farms. And then, later on, took. Took over operations for all of our hospitality. So I currently, actually, managing all of our departments outside of the winery tasting room operations. So I, I helped manage a team that runs the end, runs our culinary program, the equestrian facility, and manages our property. 

So, yes. So, so wine education, has not been actually a part of my background. 

Cliff Duvernois: [00:05:07] And that’s fine. And.

You know, and I say that because usually you have people on staff that are really experts at this who really focus on, you know, how to blend. You know, the different types of grapes together to produce, the, the, the, the, the, the types of quality wines that, that black star is known to produce. 

Sherri Fenton, Black Star Farms Vineyard: [00:05:28] Oh, my goodness. We have a fantastic winery team. who? Yeah, so it was quite accomplished in that. and who’ve really helped you.  who, who are the ones who are responsible for giving us the name and the reputation as being the number one winery in Michigan? 

Cliff Duvernois: [00:05:41] Yes. And that’s and that’s a title that’s, that’s definitely deserve it. When, so you’re taking over the family wine business. Why don’t you share with us a little bit about, like, from your perspective coming in, what was your, what was your vision for the winery? What was the direction that, that you wanted to take it? What was some of the areas that you thought, you know what, this is. 

These are some areas that we could definitely improve in to help get our brand out there and be able to maintain the high quality of the wines that you produce. 

Sherri Fenton, Black Star Farms Vineyard: [00:06:14] My goal was to make black star farms, the number one wine and culinary destination in the Midwest. So we are still, we are still working towards that. That’s not something that you were able to do overnight. but we have, we have made significant gains. we have, we haven’t, we have a wonderful background. We’ve always been very highly regarded. we have been, been able to gain notoriety and, in some new areas in the. 

In the past few years, which has been terrific.  For, for the winery side of the business, they are doing a tremendous job in winning national and international awards that are amazing. we have remodeled the inside of our flagship, tasting room out here at the Suttons Bay location. And it looks. 

Better than ever. It’s a little bit more of an urban industrial style inside with this big, huge ceiling. You know, vaulted ceiling and, Big beings. It’s it’s stunning. we are underway at remodeling as we are able, rooms, any end to, to make it that. That much more of an exquisite destination for people who are used to traveling all over the, all over the world. I want them to come in and feel as comfortable as they are any place else that they travel. 

 we have worked tremendous, a tremendous amount at our hospitality training and really, we, we recognize that our number one asset at black star farms. is every single one of our team members. And so we continue to invest in making them stronger and better, because they are the ones on the front lines with our guests every single day. And, and so we, we feel that that’s our responsibility to really fully give them the right tools and build them up. 

Cliff Duvernois: [00:08:00] And it’s interesting you say that because the times that I’ve been in your tasting room there. At black star farms. I’ve always been. Just amazed at how knowledgeable your staff is about the, about the different types of wines. If you would share with us a little bit about the, about the training that goes in to make sure that, that these people are, you know, not only knowledgeable, but can be able to communicate that. 

to the general public who may not know a lot about wine. 

Sherri Fenton, Black Star Farms Vineyard: [00:08:32] Well, I think one of the first things cliff that we do is that we make sure that we put people in roles in a role that they can succeed in. So I, my, I guess, Unofficial training as I was growing up was watching my father. And I saw my father opened incredible doors in the corporate world, open doors to, in China and Russia is one of the first people traveling over, over there. And he built along with him, a culture of respect that former employee is on his. They still recall to me today. 

I saw him manage with integrity, respect, and gratitude, but he did all of those things only after putting people in the right roles. So, I am trying to. emulate the way that he led and making sure that people are where they need to be, where they can thrive. So if a person, has, has an affable, wonderful, outgoing personality, that’s a great start for them. we need somebody who’s going to be able to. 

You know, to put themselves out there and, and initiate a conversation and make people feel welcome and, and build a level of trust with them. Many of people who come to our tasting rooms have never gone wine tasting before they don’t know what to do, and they’re afraid of doing it wrong and there is no wrong, obviously as you. And I know. but so what we, what we train our staff to do is to just, just establish a nice level of rapport. You know, don’t, don’t jump in right away. 

Just kind of, you know, allow a little relationship to happen. And, and, and relationships do happen. Oh my goodness. People come back year after year asking for, for, you know, the person who waited on them. My son worked in the tasting room a few years ago and people would keep coming back, you know, is he here? 

 so that’s, that’s one of the things that we really encourage them to do is just to be themselves. and then the wine training. You know, that just comes with time. We, we pair people up. Really. We have kind of a mentor program where we pair them up with a more of a senior. A person who, who knows our wines and we let them, we let them kind of tag along for a few days and they. 

 they ended up having to learn by fire because then, you know, you turn to this person and you let them leave. And, we have, we just had an incredible level of, Of talent. And so we’re really, really blessed. 

Cliff Duvernois: [00:10:51] Indeed you are. And I do want to circle back on something that you talked about earlier as part of your vision. When you talk about. This being the, you know, one of the top culinary destinations, because when I think of vineyards, most of the time, it’s them selling wine, you know, their wine products, but you’re talking about culinary, which is, which is food. Why, why did you decide, or why did your family decide that. 

incorporating food into the winery was a direction you wanted to go. 

Sherri Fenton, Black Star Farms Vineyard: [00:11:22] Well, cliff, I think a lot of it was led by this property that we have. it’s an exquisite. It’s 160 acres. And we are situated, in a, in a, in a wooded area. So the backside of our property has woods. We also have a, a cherry orchard where we get a lot of our cherries for what we, what we make and. 

And then this big, equestrian property. We have a, an estate vineyard here also, which has turned into a wonderful spot for weddings, really. I mean,  It, how it just seemed like it seemed like a natural, it was. It’s it. It’s an entire place you could spend an entire afternoon here. So I think as, as it started to evolve and people came to the end and it, and it was a bed and breakfast. 

Then as more people started coming, well, gosh, you know, we could offer them some special wine pair dinners. And then people realize that it was such a spectacular looking property. They wanted to be married here. So, originally we had, we had offsite caterers come in, but then we started developing our own culinary program. 

And, from there, we, we actually, converted a building that was on property into a small cafe. So we now have a, a cafe that that’s, that’s a seasonal the cafe. We have a year round culinary program because we took a, an indoor swimming pool, behind me in and converted that to a banquet room. So that can accommodate 150 people. And then all of a sudden you’re able to host business. 

Meetings and may need food and wine, and it just started, it just started growing, you know, and, and one thing really kind of led to the next, I would love to tell you class that my parents and their partners came in and said, boom, boom, boom. And this is our business plan a may laugh today. But. 

No, a lot of it just kind of happened. And I think. The way things have to happen in business, because we certainly have learned this year that we can’t predict anything. so you just, we, you. I think one of the things that we’ve done is we’ve taken our, our fortes and, and we’ve just built upon those. 

Cliff Duvernois: [00:13:33] Yeah. He, you know, and I think you bring up a really good point because a lot of the times when you go in there, like, you know, you’re, it sounded like your, your family and their partners were first initially going in because they wanted to build. A vineyard. But what happened is, is that other opportunities started to present themselves that paired nicely. Pardon the pun paired nicely with the, you know, with the vineyard and. 

I think anybody out there who knows or goes out and does any kind of wine tasting is that, you know, the best and most enjoyable experiences of courses. When you have a really great glass of wine with a really good plate of food. 

Sherri Fenton, Black Star Farms Vineyard: [00:14:11] Exactly. And then that creates the whole experience. And so what we are all about when somebody drives onto our property is we are all about the experience that people have. we have called down, our business focus to our two main destination properties we have, on the old mission peninsula, we also have a winery production facility and the tasting room air, and then the broader, 

property over near Suttons Bay. but we, we just want to focus. We’re focusing on those and providing an excellent. Experience in hospitality when you arrive at either one of our properties. 

Cliff Duvernois: [00:14:48] Excellent. And. So you’re. So your vineyard now you are essentially for all intents and purposes. second generation. Is there any advice that your parents gave you that, that you have found to be invaluable in running the family business? 

Sherri Fenton, Black Star Farms Vineyard: [00:15:07] I’m sure. I don’t believe that we ever sat down at a table and had that advice. Given to me, you know, like spoken to me. As a, as a directive. but I would say that, if I’m going to be. 

Running the family business that I needed to run it in the way that they would want to see it run. And so what I is. Attempt to do, or I have attempted to do is build a culture of respect.  I attempt to manage with integrity.  with that respect and with gratitude, and those are things again that I saw modeled, by my parents. 

without integrity and respect and showing gratitude. I don’t believe that a successful team can be built, that, I don’t believe that without those things, you can have the culture that you need to grow and thrive and established long-term employees. So I’m hoping by the, by the example of. 

Be as wonderful teams that we have, that those practices are. Are working. 

Cliff Duvernois: [00:16:14] Well, I can attest that they are working, because black star farms is. One of the handful of vineyards that I always visit when I’m in Travers city in it’s it’s you, you brought up a good word before, and I’m hearing this more and more on this podcast when I talked to the various, people around Michigan, but you guys really do create a really great experience and it’s not only in the, in the people interaction, but. 

You know, it’s just the, the type of the type of the wines that you offer and the quality that you offer. Which, to be any ways, keeps me coming back and Lee. I’m always looking forward to seeing the new stuff that’s there and, trying, I actually got exposed to a not, I don’t think that the actual term is the Icewine, but I want to say like the dessert wines that you have. 

Sherri Fenton, Black Star Farms Vineyard: [00:17:01] Oh, yes. Well, we have both. Yes. 

 Cliff Duvernois: [00:17:04] absolutely delicious. And you guys are gonna put me into bankruptcy because of those. So, 

Sherri Fenton, Black Star Farms Vineyard: [00:17:10] yeah, those are amazing. 

Cliff Duvernois: [00:17:12] Yes they are. And so what I want to talk about here is I want to start talking about some good stuff. What I would like to do is I would like to ask for you, like, let’s say that somebody is listening to this podcast. Maybe they don’t have a lot of experience with wines, but they’re like, you know what? I want to go check out Blackstar. I want to go in there and actually try something. 

What would be some really good. perhaps maybe entry level wines that you would recommend that people take a look at, maybe even try when they come to your facility. 

Sherri Fenton, Black Star Farms Vineyard: [00:17:41] So, as I mentioned before, many people come to us without, having, having a base basic why knowledge or wine experience. so often that, that more, perhaps can we say novice, person coming to, to the wine table? loves to start with a sweeter wine. And so we have, found that our best selling wine is actually our late harvest Riesling. 

That is our sweetest reasoning. And that is a, is a great way for people to come in and start enjoying a line.  I think as people begin to try other things, we have this region obviously is known for very much of a fruit forward wine, which does not always mean sweet just means fruit, fruit. 

Fruit flavors, and flute fruit characteristics coming forwards as some of the notes that you are tasting. initially. And, Oh my goodness. We have, other than the late harvest Riesling. I could suggest that somebody try on on the red side, maybe try a Pinot noir.

You know, peanut Juarez are, are kind of traditionally a, like a lighter red. And, you know, a big, full, red might be a little bit too much for somebody who’s just coming into wines, but maybe trying a peanut, a wire or a Pinot noir rosé could be just a really nice way to start getting into wines as well. 

Cliff Duvernois: [00:19:03] Okay. So we’re talking about the late harvest Riesling, which by the way, yours is really good. Pinot noir, which is like, what? I think one of my love languages and then peanut Nawar Rosa. 

Sherri Fenton, Black Star Farms Vineyard: [00:19:12] Yes, I think those would be fantastic. 

Cliff Duvernois: [00:19:15] Now I’m going to, I’m going to kind of put you on a spot, Sherry. 

What would be if somebody had, like, let’s say, if somebody came in and bought a late harvest Riesling, what would be some really good foods that they could pair that with? 

 Sherri Fenton, Black Star Farms Vineyard: [00:19:26] boy, you know, if you want to, keep it really simple and pull out a box of cheese and crackers. It would be wonderful to have what’s with just anything like that. if you were going to sit down and have a late harvest Riesling with a meal.  I would put, potentially pull it out with, 

With maybe. A pasta dish. you know, you could the sweetness sometimes you want it to cut through something. So if you’ve got like a creamy pasta dish, maybe. You know, Help that out a little bit. definitely.  something spicy or ethnic, which you’re not gonna find a lot of, unfortunately, up in the traverse city area. But, if you’ve got some kind of us. 

You know what ethnic cuisine, I would love it with that. Late harvest Riesling would also, well, obviously has to go with German food. 

So, you know, you could put it with any kind of a fantastic little traditional German dish. but I would say probably, you know, stick to those things, maybe something that’s a little bit more rich and. maybe in a pasta, something spicy and ethnic or some fun German food. 

Cliff Duvernois: [00:20:28] Sure. That’s excellent. No, and thank you for taking the time to answer that question, because one of the things that I’ve, I’ve really enjoyed with wine is just how much better it seems to go when it is paired with something. And so there’s, there’s been more than one time where I’ve popped open a bottle of wine or a bottle of bubbly, whatever it might be, and then just have finger food with it, you know, or just snack it or whatever it is. I just. 

I just really enjoy having a glass of wine to go along, especially if I’m cooking dinner. and putting in all that effort to have a really good bottle of wine to go with, it is just to me, it’s just icing on the cake. 

Sherri Fenton, Black Star Farms Vineyard: [00:21:02] It is terrific. So cliff, I would love to share with you, a little experiment that I post to some people. So we

Cliff Duvernois: [00:21:08] do. 

Sherri Fenton, Black Star Farms Vineyard: [00:21:08] We host a series called the Arcturus Harvard harvest dinner series. And this is when we, put on a spectacular five. So seven course a meal, and each course is paired with a wine that has. Been chosen by our wine making team. And we were at a dinner, gosh, probably about a year ago. And I encouraged and clarify. I honestly can’t even remember which wine this was that I was having them. 

pair with it. But which was really embarrassing. but. 

But I asked them, I said, okay. I’d like you to all take a taste of the glass of wine that you have in front of you right now. And they said now I’d like you to, put your fork into your food. And, and put that point of bite in your mouth and now taste the wine again. And I said, and I want you to tell me if you notice anything different. 

And we had two long rows of 25 people at each table and their eyes started to light up. And he looked up and he started going, Oh my gosh. It’s like dancing around in my mouth now. And just the X that. 

Cliff Duvernois: [00:22:13] Huh. 

Sherri Fenton, Black Star Farms Vineyard: [00:22:14] Meant that they had about how a wine can change when you have also food in your mouth was really, really fun. so absolutely one of the things that that are why maker always does to everybody at those dinners is. Please. I don’t want to see a clean glass at the end of the night. You need to have. 

take a bite of your food and then have a drink of your wine to really get the full effect of what this wine is capable of doing. 

Cliff Duvernois: [00:22:40] Yeah. So that’s absolutely a, it’s absolutely cute story. And that’s something where. With drinking with wine that I’ve really noticed. Firstly, when I pair it with food is how it will, how would just to me, it just really augments the flavor and the taste of food, you know, having a really nice, so one of the things that I like to have with peanut Duar is duck. I love duck. I love doc. I craved doc. So Pinot noir with the doc and it’s like amazing how. 

You know, maybe after two or three bites, it’s almost like you get a little bit of a customed to the food that you’re eating. And then when you take a drink of the wine and then take another bite of the food, it’s like all of a sudden, it’s almost like a freshness of the, of the total flavor. Hits your palette. And you know, my eyes are rolling back in my head and you get everything else can, 

So it’s really awesome that you guys are doing that. And, In, you know, I, I, I’m gonna ask my next question here because I really wish that we had this ability to. You know, to be able to do these things, but with COVID that’s going on right now and all these progressions that are in place. If somebody is thinking about coming to Blackstar or up there or whatever it is, why don’t you talk to us a little bit about some of the, some of the precautions that you have that you’ve implemented to make sure that people are safe when they come in. 

Sherri Fenton, Black Star Farms Vineyard: [00:23:57] Oh, absolutely. So Earl earlier this year, before we reopened the Inn and reopened the tasting room, our management team got together, and really did some significant research on the best safety. the best practices and safety practices in order for us to reopen safely. we have been very, very, strict about our policies and we have been following closely the guidances by the center for disease control. 

OSHA Michigan restaurant lodging association. American hotel and lodging association and our local health department. so we are, we are implementing sanitation practices. that go on all day long. distancing practices. following the mandates to numbers of people allowed in a space, or number of households. 

That can be in the same space. we do, I mean, Obviously our priority was to make sure that nothing was going to happen on our property and that our team members, our team members and our guests would be as healthy and safe. if there was any possible way that we could ensure that. So, we’ve we continue to what we actually, 

We actually just, are working on a new little video, just kind of retraining because, you know, as, as some of the fatigue is starting to set in, we found that. along the way we need to just kind of keep reminding people of everything that they have to be doing. In order to keep everybody safe. And so, so we’ve gotten a new training video that’s going to be launching probably, just before Christmas, just to keep everybody, you know, on, on their toes, especially heading into the holidays and going, you know, 

Potentially to see family and being away from work for a few days. 

Cliff Duvernois: [00:25:44] Certainly. And if people did want to, to purchase, you know, some of the wines that, that you have, you’re, you’re definitely open for that. 

Sherri Fenton, Black Star Farms Vineyard: [00:25:53] We are. So what we’re doing right right now is we are offering curbside service. we will start after Christmas on Saturdays. To having our, outdoor terrace and our Suttons Bay location open because we also, have, have, a snow shoe pack, a snowshoe adventure that we encourage people. 

Cliff Duvernois: [00:26:12] That’s awesome. 

Sherri Fenton, Black Star Farms Vineyard: [00:26:13] So we have three miles of trails that go through. A raspberry patch in the woods and tall Pines and our cherry orchard and a top, a top, our vineyard. And, so people, we have snow shoes to rent. If you don’t have your own, you can rent snowshoes. Come out and traipse around in the snow and then come back and have some hot molds. 

Cider, have a hot bowl of soup and, and have some wine out on the outdoor terrace. So that’s going to work very well with, with COVID and with the distancing and safety practices and wanting people wanting to be outdoors. So that’s something that we’re excited about on Saturdays. We are, we’ll just continue to monitor, what is allowed at this point in time, as far as tasting, we are not doing, we’re not allowed to do any indoor tasting. so that is closed at this point. 

but if people are in the area, we do want to encourage them to come stop by and grab wine. So we are offering 20% off, carry out. You know, you just all call ahead or call from the parking lot and we’ll run wine out to you. collect, we’re really anxious to get back to business as usual. Putting smiles on people’s faces.

Cliff Duvernois: [00:27:20] You know, Sherry, I will say this with all sincerity. I am anxious as well. To get back to, to business as usual. And I miss. I was actually, and I know you and I talked about this before I hit the record button, but I was at black star farms. A handful of weeks ago. And I missed the whole experience about being able to come in and be able to try some more of the different types of wines and everything else. 

You know, I’m like you said, I’m, I’m experiencing, I’m not even an employee there, but I’m experienced the fatigue of it. I just. 

I just, I just can’t wait to just be able to travel like I’m used to. So, You know yeah. But good for you for offering that snowshoe thing. That is so cool. That is something I’ve really been exploring as I put putting together this podcast. So it’s really cool that you have the ability to be able to offer that to people. And where did you say this was being offered out again? 

Sherri Fenton, Black Star Farms Vineyard: [00:28:09] This does at that. Suttons Bay, black star farms location.

Cliff Duvernois: [00:28:13] Gotcha. 

Sherri Fenton, Black Star Farms Vineyard: [00:28:14] So, I should probably also add, so we’ve also had to get a little bit creative at the end because we have a 10 room in here also on this property. And, it’s obviously gone through some ups and downs as mandates for not traveling have been in place. but people were open now and for people looking for a quiet respite coming up, we’ve, we’ve managed to make some changes at the end to keep people very distanced and safe. 

 changes that actually, I would say are enhancing your, you know, a person’s visit to be in. We are offering room service breakfast now. So no more dining down in the breakfast room. room services so bad, right?  hospitality hour, we typically have a room full of 20 of our, you know, 20 guests and mingling. And since that’s not happening right now, we are, we are providing hospitality hour on a tray that people can take back to their rooms, or if weather’s appropriate, they could take it out by the fire out on the back patio. we’ve also, 

We offer a complimentary wine tasting with, in addition to the hospitality, our, for our end guests. And so what we’re doing there with the tasting rooms, since they can’t go over to the tasting room for that, we’re bringing the wine tasting to them. So we’re also providing that as part of hospitality hour. So, you know, we’re working. 

We’re making it work. It’s, there’s not as much interaction going on, but it still is very exquisite. And speaking of snowshoes, after or before a little wine tasting, we have complimentary snow shoes hanging out the back door of the end, so people can go pop those on and go for a little walk and walk off some of their wine. They’ve been tasting. 

Cliff Duvernois: [00:29:47] Sherry. You’re my hero of the day. 

Sherri Fenton, Black Star Farms Vineyard: [00:29:49] Oh wait, but I’m not done cliff.

Cliff Duvernois: [00:29:51] Oh, keep going, keep going. I want to hear more. 

Sherri Fenton, Black Star Farms Vineyard: [00:29:54] This year of distancing. We, we had a fantastic package this summer, where we would have bikes waiting for people at the back door and be in and they could go ride along the best. This trail, that was a rails to trails system, and find themselves that up in the little village of Suttons Bay, which is a few miles up the street. 

And there we would have a picnic lunch waiting for them, and then they could hop on a standup paddleboard or a kayak and go out on the nice tranquil bays of Suttons Bay.  we decided, well, that was so successful this summer with people wanting to be outside that what could we do for this year, this winter? So, 

Fat tire bikes, right? Let’s go through snow.

So we now starting the day after Christmas, we’ll have, if you request it. Fat tire bikes waiting outside the back of me in the trail will be groomed. Now the snow snow cover trail is groomed all the way up to Suttons Bay. And then people will be greeted there with, some of a soup and a little hot beverage that we have up there for them. 

And then we swap out the bike for snow shoes and they can go traipse around a park. And then. Weatherall. Hot and sweaty and whatever. That’ll be that’s when you don’t want to be outside anymore, then we will have them transported back to the end, just in time for hospitality. Our, so we are, we’re getting creative. We’re coming up with things that definitely people can do. They can come up. They don’t have to sit inside the, in all day long. 

You know, we’ve got activities for them to do, and we really want to encourage people to get outside and still enjoy. I mean, Northern Michigan you’ve, you’ve been here. It’s so beautiful when it’s covered in snow, as it is right now, I’m looking outside. it’s. It’s absolutely amazing. So we want to be able to provide as many opportunities for people to enjoy it. 

in light of the current circumstances in the, around us. 

Cliff Duvernois: [00:31:46] No, that is, that is absolutely brilliant and kudos to you and your team for being creative and really, you know, turning this. You know, turning this, you know, I don’t want to say a disastrous time, but this very difficult time, but turn it around and actually creating a very beautiful experience for the people that stay at, at your end. And just what you described. 

Shoot. I want to take a weekend and come up there and do this. That’s a, that sounds like so much fun. I’m I’m I will admit I’m one of the crazy Michigander scraps. Absolutely loves snow. And I wish we had like 10 feet of it right now. So.

Sherri Fenton, Black Star Farms Vineyard: [00:32:19] Well, when you grow up in Michigan, when you live in Michigan, you have to, you do become a little bit crazy and you have to love snow or else you’re not gonna make it. 

Cliff Duvernois: [00:32:25] You’re you are. You’re absolutely right. And I will admit living in California for 20 years, every, every year that came by, I always said the same thing. God, I missed the snow every year. So.

Yeah, there it is. So Sherry, if, if somebody wants to, you know, learn more about these packages, learn more about your wines, you know, maybe follow what you guys are doing, what would be the best way for them to be able to connect with you online? 

Sherri Fenton, Black Star Farms Vineyard: [00:32:48] You know what? I would just encourage people to go to our website. So our, the in-page on our website has all kinds of special packages that are going on right now. This winter outdoor adventure package, a work cation package when you bring your laptop along because you’re working from remote, all those things are our online. we have a fantastic page that describes, describes all of our wines from, you know, Some

wines for the novice, two wines for the aficionados. and you know what, and people are just welcome to just call us anytime. Also color tastes, room collar in. but we do, we do pride ourselves on staying up to date on our website. So that’s a great way to find things out.

I’m also not shy about sending out press releases to try to get them to get the word out. When we receive notable awards, such as the number one best and show Riesling, I be Canberra international reasoning. Jam, competition that we won in 1998. So things like that you’ll see things pushed out, because we want people to continue to. 

To learn about this area. this area has been dubbed the Travers wine coast. I don’t know if you’re familiar with that, but that Trevor’s wine coaster encompasses old mission peninsula and the Leelanau peninsula. And it truly has. Started being noticed in his, as being recognized now as one of the notable up and coming regions to watch. And so that’s just really exciting and all of us who were involved in Trevor’s wind coast, and any of the wineries here are just really want to get that word out, because like you said, out in California, people don’t necessarily know that there’s a really great thing going on back in Michigan. And so, you know, grab those wine magazines and, and. 

You know, read about, read about Michigan and other wine regions that, that people are starting to gravitate towards because there’s a lot to be a lot to be. I think discovered, you know, that the wine characteristics are so different here in Michigan. Then you’re going to get out of a wine, where you’ve spent the last 20 years. 

And it’s really fun to be able to, to get into some of those, you know, to go. Go to a friend’s house when we can go to friends’ houses again and, and put some bottles in Brown bags and have a wine tasting, have different States represented, you know, It just have a little fun with it. there’s so much to explore and learn and experience that we just think the world of wine is pretty, pretty incredible. And, 

And, and hope that people can discover Michigan. Why more. 

Cliff Duvernois: [00:35:18] Yeah, indeed with that. And, and for our audience, we will have all the links in the show notes down below Sherry. Thank you so much for taking the time to be on the podcast today. This has been a lot of fun. Thank you. 

Sherri Fenton, Black Star Farms Vineyard: [00:35:31] Thank you so much, Cliff. I really appreciate it.