This piece is part of our INDYtoday Q+A series. Do you know someone we should interview? Nominate them here.
Profile: Nicole Kearney is a lover of words + wines. She’s combined her passions to become winemaker and owner of Sip & Share Wines. She was named one of 40 African American Tastemakers (Under/Over 40) by Sabrina Jackson. And just recently, her wines have landed on the shelves of Total Wine & More in Nora — just in time for the holidays.
We asked Nicole 10 questions about her inspiration + how she got into winemaking. Keep reading to find out how Sip & Share Wines came to be.
Describe your perfect day in Indy in the length of a Tweet (280 characters).
Good food. Going to locally owned restaurants + spots, like 3 Sisters Cafe for breakfast — one of my favorite places. Probably The Trap Seafood for lunch and ending up at The Missing Brick pizza for dinner.
Name 3-5 other local leaders, influencers, or movers + shakers you’re watching.
I have to say of course, Chef Oya with The Trap. She’s a really good friend of mine. I watch how she’s moving + kind of talk to her to get advice. Then, I would say Angel Hicks with 28Boutique and I would probably say Mr. WildStyle, the producer. He’s another person that I watch and look up to. I get a lot of my local news through him.
You can only choose one local restaurant menu to bring with you to a deserted island — which one is it and why?
The Trap because I’m a pescaterian. I’m a huge fan + I’m gonna take every item on The Trap’s menu.
What were the last 3 things you did locally?
I went to FOX59 this morning. Went to our winery off of 44th + Keystone. We’re a working winery, so a production space only. We’re not a tasting room — it is [a goal to have a tasting room]. We’re looking at it + we’re gonna be working with some IU finance students in the spring to look at the financial feasibility of opening one up. And I went to Lowe’s.
Who are 2-3 other local leaders you’re inspired by? Why?
Shelley Covington (AKA the Former Fat Preacher or the “Community Auntie”). She is just inspiring in everything she does. She is — of course — a preacher, but she’s also just an amazing person. She lost a huge amount of weight + she’s into fitness for people of all ages. She just did a walk across the city to raise money so she’s probably one of the people I most admire.
And then I would have to say WildStyle because he’s this artistic renaissance person. He does everything from writing about social injustice, he’s also a community historian, but he’s also this magnificent skater — which most people wouldn’t think. And he’s just a community advocate + he recently went through his own weight loss transition, and he’s just all around a really good guy.
As one of the few female Black winemakers, how did you get into this industry + what made you want to do this?
So I got into wine because I like to drink wine. One day, I was in grad school — I’m also a writer by trade — so we were all going to bring in a wine + have to talk about it. And so I had never thought about wine from that perspective, just from the consumer perspective. So I asked the question, “Are there any Black people in the wine space?” And so I did a Google search and then, there were about 30 different people. So then I was like, I’m going to start a business so that people know there are Black + Brown winemakers in small boutique wineries. [...] That’s always been the goal, to really educate people about wine, that Black wine exists, and along the path we pivoted and opened our own winery.
How did you come up with the names for your recent wine collection?
So I wanted people to be affirmed + inspired, and get a vibe and feeling with our wine. And so with traditional names — Black + Brown people, specifically, don’t grow up with wine — no one wants to be embarrassed or not be able to pronounce the name. We wanted to give [the wines] names that are super easy, like “Gratitude, Love, Intention” to really put that into people’s spirits, so you get it when you buy, you get it when you drink it. We just want everyone to get that energy that we put into it.
What does it mean for you to now have your wines sold at Total Wine & More?
So for us, this is that next step that shows people that we are really official. In the wine world it’s like a certification that says “Hey, they’re really a legit winery + they make a good product.” The community has known that and have been supporting us for the last three years, between events and festivals. But for the community, it makes it more accessible because we don’t have a tasting room + we’re only open typically Mon.-Fri. They can now come to Total Wine or Mass Ave Wine downtown. We have a plan to be on all sides of town.
What’s some advice that you have for Hoosiers who are shopping for wine?
Typically, a glass of wine at the average restaurant is $8-10. The bottle might cost you $36. Most people might look at that + think “$36? I’m not going to spend that.” And then you end up, if there’s two of you, usually getting two glasses of wine and then you’ve spent $40. Say you only have one glass, you can still take it home and finish it. I also tell people to look for things that you can’t buy in the store and look for things you don’t know and try those.
What are some wine pairings that you recommend for the holidays?
We’ve been talking about “Winesgiving,” so our Intention Riesling — because it’s an off-dry Riesling — it’s going to pair well with everything on your table, but it’s also a good welcome wine when people are just coming in the house. We have our Manifest Chardonnay, which also goes well with everything from the turkey to your ham to your green beans. It’s lightly oaked so it’s going to be really nice + refreshing. Then our Gratitude red blend for the red lovers — because it’s Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot — goes well with everything across the table. That’s our “Winesgiving” trio. All of these wines are available at Total Wine & More. Pro tip: A Black Friday 48-hour sale is coming + will be online only. 🍷
Bonus: How are your wines vegan? Tell us more about that.
A lot of wines that are commercially produced to get them ready for the market, animal by-products are used to clear them. So when you get your wine + you can see through it and it’s pretty, those could be egg whites, fish bladder, crustaceans, pork gelatin. But what we use is clay, so we want to let everyone know what we make is vegan.
Most of my family is plant-based, which is why we make vegan wines. Because most of my family + friends are all vegan. It’s interesting because in the wine world, there’s no label of ingredients + there never will be.