It was, says Rick Black’s wife, a job in the making for more than three decades. “Everything he’s done in his career has led him here,” Kathy Black says. “Here” is a serene rural oasis near Lafayette where the Blacks have created Wildcat Creek Winery.
With an MBA, Rick spent years as a financial manager for manufacturing corporations. But, he says, he always wanted to do something on his own. “I looked longingly at people who could create their own businesses,” he says. But he couldn’t put his finger on anything definitive. “For 30 years I didn’t know what that might be,” he says. He did have criteria, however. It had to be a product that was interesting, unique, and produced without a whole cadre of people. “
I wanted something that was a piece of me.” And then he found small wineries in southern Indiana with winemakers who’d stop their work to talk to him about their passion. He liked that, a lot. And then he found that Hoosier vintners were inclined to help one another, sharing know-how and equipment and marketing strategies. He liked that even more.
He’d found his passion, but he knew he wasn’t ready to be a winemaker. So he set about learning all he could about every aspect of the business – not only the making of quality wine but also the growing of the fruit, physical layout of a winery, finances, zoning, liquor laws. He spent time with the Purdue Wine Grape Team, which partners with the Indiana Wine Grape Council to grow the state’s wine industry.
“I didn’t want to disappoint my community, my family, or my industry,” he says. Through trial and error and with welcomed advice, Rick began making wine, and Kathy began tasting. “I would come home from school (she was a teacher) and there would be three glasses of wine for me to taste, each one finished differently,” she says.
Both of them volunteered at a number of wine events. And he competed, as an amateur, entering three wines into competition in 2012. He took a gold, a silver, and a bronze. His gold was named Indiana Amateur Wine of the Year.
And then they opened the winery. “Here’s the one thing that drives me,” Rick says. “It’s all about the wine. I don’t want to put anything out there that isn’t the best we can do.”
Wildcat Creek Winery
233 E 200 N Lafayette, Ind.