Bringing Cali to Carmel


All 80 Indiana wineries offer something a bit different. Sometimes that’s good different and sometimes not. Many have a unique niche in the Indiana wine industry.

Peace Water Winery in Carmel is one of the state’s newest and probably most uncommon wine operations.

Owner Scott Burton owns a winery in northern California. He employs a California winemaker. His wines aren’t sold there. The Peace Water Winery tasting room is in downtown Carmel.

“Indiana has many wineries,” Burton said. “But several (of those wineries) source fruit and juice from outside of Indiana to supplement grapes grown in state. We grow all our grapes from the vines and do everything in Napa. The entire process from vine to bottle occurs in California but we sell all of our wine here in Carmel; therefore, making us the only locally-owned California winery in Indiana.”

The concept is certainly unique but it doesn’t stop there.

Burton, a very successful corporate lawyer and entrepreneur, opened the winery in the fall of 2014 as a family business and as a philanthropic endeavor. He designates 50 percent of his winery’s profit to seven different local charities. His seven children picked the charities which would benefit from wine sales.

The unique twist is when a consumer buys a bottle of Peace Water wine at the tasting room they are given a ticket. They drop the ticket in a basket representing one of the seven charities of their choice. Burton uses the customer picks to determine the percentage of profit each charity receives.

“It’s an interactive experience,” Burton explained. “A lot of businesses have a charitable aspect. Here, you have to physically go make your donation instead of participating in a mindless transaction where you have no concept of who you’re helping. It resonates a lot better when you make that decision yourself. Hopefully, it creates a more lasting impression.”

The business has been a success in its first year. Burton said wine insiders said he’d be successful if he could sign up 100 wine club members in his first year. In late August, his wine club membership was more than 200.

“Local restaurants have been talking to us about our wines so we’ll be on menus soon,” he said. “That’s the next phase of our growth.”

His urban-feel tasting room was filled on a Thursday evening in late August. The newly opened patio was also busy. His wines have done well already in the wine competition business. The high-end Cabernet and Sauvignon Blanc both scored well at the World Wine Tasting Championships in Chicago.

The Cabernet Sauvignon “Passion” has been his biggest seller. The $32 bottle is a good representation of California wine. The wines are definitely made in a consumer-friendly, fruit-forward style. The winery tasting notes suggested a lusty red with notes of blackberry and plum — right on target.

Most of the Peace Water wines range from $25 to $48. The white, Rose’ and two reds tasted during my visit were all well-made wines. I particularly enjoyed the reds.

There is one indulgence and that’s “Nirvana” — a Howell Mountain, Napa Valley Cabernet which sells for $120. Howell Mountain fruit is one of the most sought-after regions in all of Napa.

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Howard W. Hewitt, Crawfordsville, writes about wine every other week for more than 20 newspapers. Reach Howard at [email protected].

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