Photo © Ian Coristine/
 You are here:  Back Issues      Archive

“Spirit of the River in Every Bottle”

 The first time Doreen Garrett drove by the Fairview Manor, the restaurant had just closed its doors permanently. “Every time I passed the magnificent chateau, I felt like the property was calling to me. I hoped so much that someone would take it over and make it into what it deserved to be. I just kept admiring its beauty as I passed by “ said Doreen Garrett.  Jody an doreen

That was in 2008, and the Garretts were developing the Lucky Star Ranch that they had purchased in 2006. “I was working on Lucky Star Ranch, and figuring out how to make the 2000 acre property more sustainable. We were considering a vineyard or a distillery; they were all options”.

But in 2014 just before breaking ground on a distillery at the Ranch, which is 12 miles from Clayton’s waterfront with limited infrastructure Doreen and Jody Garrett decided to inquire about Fairview Manor.

The home was built in the 1920s by Carl Zimmerman, the owner of the Carbola Chemical Company.  The late Paul Malo provided the history of the Manor in TI Life’s April 2008 article, stating that Zimmerman and his wife Gladys, and two step-children enjoyed the Manor until his death in 1958 at age eighty.  Thereafter, the property was transferred to the Sisters of the Holy Cross, who built the chapel. The property became a religious retreat until acquired by John and Jeanette Dedek in 2000 and operated as a restaurant until 2006. 

Doreen’s call was just days late, a new owner had purchased and was subdividing the property. Right away Doreen and her husband Jody, made an offer on the magnificent river stone mansion. The stone used to build the 1937 structure was all quarried from the property many years before. Rnovation photograph

The offer was accepted and the journey began.

“The most rewarding aspect of opening the Chateau has been the journey,” said Doreen. “Over the last three years, we have been able to meet and get to know so many amazing people in the community who have helped and supported our vision of restoring and repurposing this property. There are many talented people living here, that have breathed new life back into this gem on the St. Lawrence, and we truly look forward to sharing their vision.”

Right away, the Garretts, working with local contractors, began cleaning out the building; digging out the overgrown patio; and rebuilding the leaking chimney. The slate roof was harvested and replaced with a modern composite slate roof. In fact, the slate harvested from the roof is being recycled and sold as part of the unique history of this property. Staying true to the history of the building, which is on the historic register, the Garretts replaced the windows with Marvin energy-efficient custom replicated windows, and a state-of-the-art geo-thermal heating and cooling system replaced the existing boiler and helps to reduce the use of fossil fuels.Grater building

The interior returned to its former grandeur, keeping the Murano glass tiles from Venice, Italy and the color schemes in tact. “I think what makes it unique is that Carl Zimmerman was such a forward-thinking modernist, the bathrooms look modern today. Beautiful to be envied.”

Like Carl Zimmerman, it is right that the forward thinking Garretts should buy and develop the property.

After completely updating and bringing the Chateau up to date the Garretts added an architecturally correct craft based distillery. The 500-gallon custom still was built by Vendome Copper in Louisville Kentucky and took two years to complete.

“Our passion is to create through education, exceptional experiences. Our goal is to host a farm-to-table cuisine experience using local farmers and products.”

“At Lucky Star Ranch we have the ability to not only grow our own corn and botanicals for the distillery, but we will also put our greenhouses to work for fresh produce, herbs and flowers for the restaurant,” said Mrs. Garrett. “In addition, we look forward to making a commitment to sustainability by using our spent mash from the distillery to feed bovine and swine, a true still-to-grill experience and providing fresh rainbow trout, also being farmed.”

Executive Chef Christian Ives has joined the team leading a staff of highly trained and skilled restaurateurs; his passion is for a total dining experience.

“Before head hunting for an executive chef we felt that it was important to start to look for local talent first,” said Doreen Garrett. “Chef Ives was the local chef that immediately came to mind as someone who would embrace our passion for educating through exceptional experiences. He shares that same vision being an adjunct professor for the farm-to-table course at Jefferson Community College.”

The Distillery, The Chateau, history and future… by Elaine Vedette Tack

Doreen was won over when the chef told her everything is going to be made from scratch and sourced using local products.

“What farm-to-table truly means to me is that you need to source locally from the area farms. You need to know them (the farmer), you need to go to the farms,” said Chef Ives. “You can buy stuff from any large broker, and they can say it’s from this farm and that farm but at the end of the day I know I’m talking to Dani Baker about my goats and duck eggs and my specialty produce that Cross Island Farms is producing, I know I’m going to talk to Almeda about her rabbits. Steve Winkler at Lucky 7 Farms is providing me with my pork, bacon, eggs and chicken.  It’s actually going to the seller, knowing them from the beginning- even knowing their kids.” Chef Eves

Having a distillery on the property means having a top-notch mixologist. The family business was committed to using high-quality spirits and using fresh products. To create unique spirits Jody and son, Bill Garrett, attended Moonshine University in Louisville, Kentucky for a hands-on distillery experience. New York State has been a proponent for craft beverages similar to that of craft beer and the Garrett’s have embraced the trend; harvesting their 40 acres of corn from Lucky Star Ranch and handpicking Juniper berries for their Gin.

“Our idea was to do pre-prohibition style drinks bringing back the craft of the cocktail. Fresh ingredients mixed by hand that brings out the flavors of our spirits and cocktail recipes that were forgotten.”

The Garretts have designed specialty drinks for their downtown location just off the river walk, as well as the Chateau

“Our whiskey barrels are aging, and we will be hosting tastings, we also have a sommelier who will over see the extensive wine collection from small vineyards around the world.”

The family and staff spent three weeks tasting and selecting the wines to be offered by the glass and bottle.

“ We tasted over 170 different wines, it was a rough job, but somebody had to do it,” says Doreen.

The distillery is the first in the world to use water from the St Lawrence River. “ Water is one of the key ingredients in making a great spirit. That’s why so many of the distilleries in Kentucky are on or near rivers. Having the mighty Saint Lawrence in our backyard gives us the opportunity to win awards and create outstanding products for the International Thousand Islands community and beyond.”

“Our La Fee Rouge Absinthe,” she goes on, “received a Silver Medal at the American Craft Spirits Awards in Nashville Tennessee this year and our Verte Absinthe also won a silver award along with Downbound Gin, Even Keel Moonshine and Rye Knot Moonshine taking bronze at the American Distilling Institutes Conference in Baltimore Maryland in April. “

The Saint Lawrence Spirits slogan is “Spirit of the River in every bottle.”® So it's quite possible the Saint Lawrence spirit you're sipping, has been by your dock.

By Elaine Tack Vedette

Elaine is well known in the Thousand Islands for her many volunteer activities, including serving on the board of the Thousand Islands Land Trust.  She is the daughter of Martha and Dan Tack and grew up both at summer camp in Vermont and on the River at her parent’s cottage just outside of Clayton, NY. Elaine’s 14-year broadcast journalism career was spent reporting and anchoring for CBS, ABC and NBC affiliates in Chicago, Cleveland and Las Vegas. Presently she is creating her own Independent Video “storytelling” company.  In August, 2014 Elaine wrote Come and visit the Grenadier Island Country Club… for TI Life.  and the unique story about the Hobart,Tasmania, Australian Wooden Boat Festival. You  can reach this videographer at

Note: Elaine Vedette also created a video story about the corporate life of Doreen Garrett at

Please feel free to leave comments about this article using the form below. Comments are moderated and we do not accept comments that contain links. As per our privacy policy, your email address will not be shared and is inaccessible even to us. For general comments, please email the editor.


Comment by: Lauran
Left at: 6:14 AM Tuesday, May 16, 2017
Very nice article about a spectacular new business in Clayton. Well done!!
Peter Markham
Comment by: Peter Markham
Left at: 4:47 AM Wednesday, May 17, 2017
The photo of the chef has a garage door in the background.
The video seemed to skip the distilling process itself.
Overall well done! Loved it.
Comment by: Brigitte
Left at: 2:54 PM Friday, June 2, 2017
Looking forward to purchasing a bottle of your gin for my favorite cocktail: a Gin and Tonic with extra, extra lime.