By Chris Bavender
What do you call an electrical engineer and a veterinarian whose hobby produces so much wine they can’t drink it all? Winery owners of course!
“When we moved to Indiana eight years ago, we had the opportunity to seriously consider doing it sooner rather than later,” said Deb Miller, co-owner of Blackhawk Winery in Sheridan with her husband, John. “We discovered all the fun grapes you can grow out here and thought ‘We’ve always wanted to do it, so let’s do it.’”
The couple - he’s the electrical engineer and she’s the vet - started to develop the winery in 2011 and opened the tasting room in 2014. Ten of the 30 acres is planted with vines of 11 varietals. They plan to add two to three acres of vines every year for the next five years. Blackhawk specializes in wines made from American French hybrid grapes.
“Those grapes are able to grow successfully in the Indiana climate,” Miller said. “Cold is really tough on the vinifera and our growing season is too short for them to ripen appropriately.”
The resulting wines range from semi sweet fruit to dry red.
“We have some great dry whites - Vidal Blanc which is similar to a Sauvignon Blanc - and my favorite, our estate Cayuga White, which is similar to a Pinot Gris,” Miller said. “For the reds, I really enjoy our Marechal Foch, a lovely dry red that is very flexible and goes with just about everything, and our Norton, our robust ‘steak wine.’”
The winery’s semi sweet wines include the Catawba - similar to a Moscato - and a concord offering, the Little Brother Red. Both wines also come in a sparkling version.
Peterson’s celebrates 18 years
When Joseph Peterson decided to open a restaurant in 1999 he had plenty of experience in the corporate world running the family business, Crown Technology, but zero experience in the world of fine dining beyond entertaining clients at high end restaurants over the years.
“I thought by providing the same type of products, service, pricing, etc., that we did at Crown, it would be successful,” Peterson said. “We wanted to be a ‘one of a kind’ destination place in the Indianapolis area.”
Peterson opted to open the eatery, aptly named Peterson’s, in Fishers - which was on the verge of expanding at the time.
“Frisch’s Big Boy restaurant was available and we visualized that great things could happen at this location,” he said.
His goals then and now remain the same - not only to provide the best steaks and seafood in the area, but offer “unbelievable service and ambiance.”
“I wanted customers in the Indianapolis/Fishers area to have a top of the line restaurant to come to and be sure they would always have expectations of ‘Only the Best.’” Peterson said.
Growing up, Diana Dexter watched her mother run a successful beauty salon and import business. The two would often talk about opening a restaurant one day.
“We’d evaluate restaurants we visited, discuss how we’d do things, putting together a plan we both knew would never be a reality,” Dexter said. “It was just a daydream, just for fun. After I married, every once in a while I’d casually discuss it with my husband, Paul. We’d both say, ‘Nah, we better not. It’s a bit risky.’”
But that didn’t stop Dexter from imagining how she’d run a restaurant.
Omoni means Mother
“Even after my mother passed away, every time I dined out, I’d think about what I’d change, whether the location was good, the menu was balanced, whether there was good parking and easy entry,” she said.
As a busy mom shuttling kids from school to activities, the former nurse was always looking for something fast, flavorful and healthy – and knew there must be others with the same need.
So, she started to develop her restaurant philosophy.
“I noticed Korean food was making headlines quite regularly. I also noticed the uproar when the Sriracha factory closed,” Dexter said. “I was surprised to see how many people had to have spice in their life.”
Italian eatery features pasta shop in a restaurant
Walk into Convivio and there’s no doubt the pasta served here is fresh. The pasta kitchen is located by the front door with a full view of all the pasta made from scratch daily.
“We have 10 to 12 different types right now – some are flavored – and we use vegetables such as spinach or beets,” said Andrea Melani, co-owner of the Italian restaurant that opened Nov. 14 at The Bridges shopping center in Carmel. “The idea is that you can express creativity in the shapes of the pasta and it is really what Italian cuisine is known for.”
Some of the pasta is made by a machine that runs constantly, while other is made by hand. Not only is the pasta served at each meal fresh, you can also buy it by the pound to take and enjoy at home.
“I think this is a unique twist,” Melani said. “The idea is to also have sauces to sell as well but we are still working on that. We’ve just been so busy since we opened.”
Passion for food and culture.
Melani knows a few things about restaurants – he grew up in the family restaurant business in Italy. He moved to the States 17 years ago and had his first job in Indiana at Ciao in Zionsville, owned by his partner in Convivio – Emilio Cento. Melani went on to work for a few other places, including Bravo, the well-known Castleton destination.
“The passion’s always been there but opening a restaurant can be a scary thing these days, especially coming up with a new concept,” Melani said. “It took a while to get rid of the fear – I was in a good place at Bravo and about to be made partner – but things had just become stale.”
When Eldon Chuck left the corporate world in 2012 he wasn’t envisioning a future spent playing golf with his buddies.
“I was thinking I was still fairly young and not at a point where I wanted full retirement,” Chuck said. “But I knew I didn’t want to go back to work for someone else so the choices were start another company or do something more hands on and something I enjoyed.”
He knew his friends always enjoyed the Jamaican food he cooked up for gatherings at his home so his thoughts turned to opening a small restaurant featuring the food of his childhood in Jamaica. Food he learned to cook helping his grandmother in the kitchen.
So, in April 2015, he and his wife, Maryann, opened the Jamaican Reggae Grill in the Monon Square Shopping Center in Carmel.
“When we first opened we thought our sales would be within a 10 to 15 mile radius but we have people coming from Greenfield, Greenwood, South Bend – just all over,” the 57-year-old said. “Even to this day we still get many first time visitors which is amazing.”