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A Taste of Black Spirits: Grand Rapids makes a splash in West Michigan  

Posted at 8:44 PM, Nov 13, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-14 00:33:53-05

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Dozens of people checked out more than a dozen African American entrepreneurs in the wine and spirit industry at the City Flats Hotel Saturday.

“This event is a celebration of diversity and entrepreneurship, similar over 30 African American-owned spirits, brands, and companies to be downtown Grand Rapids so that people can come and taste and learn about everything that's going on within the spirits ecosystem,” says Co-Founder Jonathan Jelks.

Kalamazoo’s Roche Collection was one of the centerpieces of the Taste of Black Spirits Grand Rapids.

“I’m Nicole Roche. I'm the first African American female winemaker in Michigan.”

The winery started two years ago as a way for entertainment and to hang out with friends and eventually into a tasting room.

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Roche says she didn’t realize the lack of presence of strong African American entrepreneurs who made wine.

“I was quite taken back but also inspired to try to do the best that I can and to actually begin to get more educated,“ Roche said.

“Diversity in the spirits industry is sparse but it's growing; there's a movement; there's a lot of energy behind it,” Jelks said.

Roche says she wants to share that energy and pass it on to others who aspire to be in this industry.

“We just continue the reach by making ourselves available and approachable. Because that's what we need to have in this industry so that we all feel welcome and that we all can succeed and survive,” Roche said.

READ MORE: Local organization working to make SE neighborhood ’beautiful with Black-owned businesses’

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