When Nicole Kearney opened her winery, Sip & Share Wines, in 2016, she had no idea what it would grow into. With several collections of year-round and seasonal wines, Kearney and her team have been sharing vegan wine around the country by tabling at events and festivals.
Four years later, Key Bank and the Indiana Pacers named the winery Small Business of the Year.
“It lets me know that others see us and what we’re doing,” Kearney said. “For myself as a Black woman winemaker, I’m one of the 1% [that fit that demographic]. That is an acknowledgement right there.”
Kearney said she was nominated for the award, and was informed by email that Sip & Share Wines received the award. The nominated businesses were judged by their impact on the local community.
Under normal circumstances, the recognition would come with an opportunity in the summer to open a pop-up shop, complete with a window display, in the city to host events and sell their wine. Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, Kearney will have to open her pop up shop later in the year. However, COVID-19 has let Kearney get creative in how she celebrates and sells her wine.
Since the pandemic, Sip & Share has held virtual wine tasting events through Google Hangouts. After ordering a sampler set of Sip & Share’s 7 Words wine series, a group of 17 people or less meet virtually for a wine tasting, accompanied by music and conversation.
“We spend about an hour-and-a-half talking about each wine,” Kearney said. “All of our wines have a very affirming, uplifting name, like Intention, Love, Manifest. We kind of talk about how the names come about, I give them wine tips and education. We just drink good wine and have a lot of fun. … It’s a wonderful energy exchange.”
Kearney and her team are thinking about continuing the virtual wine tastings even after large gatherings and events can take place again.
“We don’t have a tasting room,” Kearney said, “ … This has allowed us to expand our reach to places that we normally don’t go. We usually get out to the west coast once a year. Now, I can say, ‘We’re going to California every other week.’”
As for the Small Business of the Year recognition, Kearney views it as the beginning of change in the wine community.
“Wine is historically white, male and money,” Kearney said. “I think that has created this illusion that you have to be one of those things to enjoy wine. … We as a people deserve to have accessible, affordable wine that’s just as good as what everyone is able to drink, that speaks to us in our own terms and our own cultural vernacular. … I think this is the dawning of a new day.”
Contact staff writer Breanna Cooper at 317-762-7848. Follow her on Twitter @BreannaNCooper.
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For those new to wine, Kearney recommends a Riesling — not too sweet but not too dry. She said Sip & Share’s “Intention” wine is a good place to start.