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Hoosier making history in wine industry

Nicole Kearney is now one of two Black wine makers in the state.

INDIANAPOLIS — Launching a business can be challenging.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, less than a quarter of businesses were minority-owned and about 20 percent of all businesses were owned by women.

But one woman is making history in Indiana.      

Nicole Kearney, a college professor-turned-community development worker, is now one of two Black wine makers in the state.

"I used to come to the Tuesday tastings (at Mass Ave Wines) and learn about wine," said Kearney.

It's where her journey into creating Sip and Share Wines began.

"I always made sangria (at home) and so it kind of morphed from there," said Kearney.

She said it morphed into making her own collection of wines, now sold in Mass Ave Wine in downtown Indianapolis.

"We're also in Total Wine (and More), so we just launched in Total Wine at the beginning of November," said Kearney.

Her wines are also in several locations across the country.

Winemaking for Black women, and women in general, historically hasn't been at the forefront.

According to a 2020 Bloomberg report, out of the more than 8,000 wineries in the U.S., less than 1% are Black-owned.

B Legendary Wine Boutique, a female and veteran-owned company, is the second Black-owned winery run by Carmen Randolph of Indianapolis.

"Historically we've done the work. We just didn't know we were doing it," said Kearney.  "But we have grown this country and we have grown the agricultural base. We left to do more industrial work and now we're kind of getting back to our roots."

Kearney released her "7 Word Wine Collection" in January 2019. The names of her wines include: Manifest, Intention, Gratitude, Love, Conjure, Awaken and Abundance.

"We wanted to give people one, names that were easy to pronounce and say,  but also to give people affirmations and inspiring names," said Kearney.

All of her wines are vegan.

"A lot of mass produced wines use animal byproducts, so it could be egg whites, fish bladder, pork gelatin, crustaceans, any of those. We use bentonite clay. Most people have used a clay mask. So it's the same thing. You put it on your face, it pulls out the impurities. It does the same thing and then it settles to the bottom," said Kearney.

Kearney said this is just the beginning of representing Indiana in a long career in the wine industry.

"This is an exciting time for Black winemakers," said Kearney.

Kearney says she plans on having virtual guided educational wine tastings in January 2022 called "Sip and Set Goals."

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