Over the course of his life, Scott Burton, owner of Peace Water Winery, has enjoyed several careers. He began as an attorney before transitioning to commercial real estate investment. Next, he opened a business that ran youth sports leagues and tournaments. When he retired seven years ago, only a few weeks had passed before his wife Laura lovingly told him, “You need to find something to do. You’re driving me crazy.”
After contemplating what might be a good fit, the couple thought about how much they enjoyed wine tasting trips to Napa, California.
“We wanted to do something fun and different,” Scott Burton says. “We thought, ‘Why not create the Napa experience back here at home?’”
When they first mentioned the idea to friends, they were met with skepticism.
“A lot of people thought we were crazy, but we kind of swam upstream with the idea,” Burton recalls.
In 2015 the Burtons opened Peace Water Winery in Carmel, Indiana’s only locally-owned California winery – meaning the owners handcraft wines in Napa Valley and bring them to Indiana. They followed up on that venture by opening another location in downtown Indianapolis in 2017. Around that time a property developer approached them to ask if they would be interested in some real estate in Fishers District. The Burtons didn’t want to bite off more than they could chew so they passed at the time. They revisited the idea this year and were thrilled that there was space available.
“It’s a perfect fit for what we do,” Burton says. “That area of Fishers is so unique, full of restaurants and entertainment destinations.”
Earlier this year the pair had been plugging along in the building process when the governor issued the lockdown order, forcing Burton to do the majority of the construction himself in order to get it done on time. Though some people may have been scared of committing to a new business venture during a pandemic, the Burtons weren’t fazed.
“We were committed to this,” Burton says. “Someday this pandemic will go away and we’ll get back to normal.”
In the meantime, the owners are happy to see people with masks social distancing. They held a soft opening in late June and have been pleased by turnouts. They draw people in with live music on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, as well as partnerships with several local establishments including the HC Tavern + Kitchen, 1933 Lounge and Sangiovese Ristorante.
The couple is devoted to giving back to the community, and they created a Giving Wall that highlights eight local and global charities, each selected by one of their eight grown children. They donate 50% of proceeds to these charities.
When a customer buys a bottle of wine they receive a token, which they deposit next to the nonprofit of their choice. The owners purposefully designed the Giving Wall to be an interactive experience so customers can feel good about giving. Burton says many organizations do great things for charities but it’s often behind the scenes. Here, the giving is front and center.
“The idea is that hopefully the giving will have a lasting effect,” he says. “If they do it at Peace Water Winery, maybe they’ll do it somewhere else down the road.”
Employees at Peace Water Winery don’t accept tips, so any tips customers wish to give are also passed on to charities. In addition, since the Burtons want to help as many nonprofits as possible, they regularly host fundraisers and donate 10% of each night’s sales to a particular nonprofit.
The Burtons created a monthly wine club called the Peace Posse, which has grown to 1,500 members. For a monthly fee, members get one or two bottles of wine each month. When members pick up their bottles, they can enjoy a free glass of wine or free wine tasting. In addition, when a winemaker from Napa comes to town, they do meet-and-greet nights as well as special dinners with the club.
Some of the owners’ favorite gatherings center around community service.
“Laura often volunteers at the soup kitchen downtown,” Burton says. “Sometimes when there’s nobody to staff it, we’ll put calls out to our Peace Posse and they get to participate in those give-back opportunities.”
Burton says Laura is always doing things for other people.
“Her philosophy on life is, ‘We’re all in this together. Let’s help each other out,’” he says.
With a successful business, eight children, two grandchildren (and three more on the way), as well as three dogs, three horses, two cats and a cow, the couple doesn’t have a ton of free time. They often spend it practicing yoga and going to the Bridgewater Club. Mostly, they’re simply happy making people happy.
“We didn’t open the winery with any grand ideas to become some huge, mass-production winery,” Burton says. “We just love the interaction with the people and seeing their faces when they realize that this is really good wine.”
Peace Water Winery is located at 11547 Yard Street, Suite 830 in Fishers. For more information, call 317-537-2190 or visit peacewaterwinery.com.