Easley Winery

Easley Winery: Lessons Learned from Indiana Businesses

April 20, 2018
INDIANAPOLIS - "We found Midwesterners like a little bit of sweetness and they like a little bit of fruitiness to their wines," said Mark Easley, Owner/Operator of Easley Winery, a second-generation owned winery in downtown Indianapolis.

"When you think of wines, you think of Napa Valley, Sonoma County. You think of France, Germany, Italy. You don't really think of Indiana," said Mark. "My mother and father ran the business all through the 70s, 80s, and 90s. My wife and I took over the business around 2000, 2001."

​"I've been in the family business now for 17 years," says Meredith Easley, the winery's VP of Sales and Marketing. "And in that time Mark and I have shifted the business from being a retailer just here at the winery to being a wholesale-based business."

And it's a big business.

"We do 90,000-100,000 cases of wine a year. That's really rare for the Midwest. There's a lot of manufacturing knowledge and expertise that we had to learn to develop the winery on the scale that it is today," said Mark.

Today, Easley Winery sells wine at their downtown Indianapolis winery and in stores across Indiana. They also sell in seven other states surrounding the Hoosier state.

"And so it was a matter of reaching out and finding those grocery stores and saying, 'Hi. Can we talk to you about the Reggae wines?' And at the time they didn't have anything on their shelves like that. A sweet, fruity, happy wine was something new and so we had amazing opportunities and we got lots of yeses," said Meredith.

One of their Reggae wines is particularly popular: Reggae Red.

"I would say it's 70 percent of our annual production which allows us to really focus a high volume and a high amount of attention to one particular product," said Mark. "You know, we're very fortunate it's a very popular wine."

Listening to their customers is key for Easley Winery.

"We're actually working with our consumer on a daily basis. When they come in and taste wines you can go out and get automatic feedback from your customer. Is it the tannin level? Is it the aroma, the bouquet? The flavors? The after taste? And so when you get that feedback you learn what particular consumers like," said Mark.

During the summer, Easley Winery hosts Groovin' in the Garden, a free music concert series that creates additional customer connections.

"I think one of Indiana's best-kept secrets is Easley Winery on a Saturday evening from 2-5," said wine enthusiast Roxanne Anderson.

"I traded in my tie for tie-dyed. What could be better? Just another day in paradise at Easley Winery," said Mark Van Auken, Easley employee.

The winery is a complex business. The Easleys have to make sure that their inventory is properly insured and that their bases are covered.

"You want an agent that understands the business. To that end, the insurance has been really important and he's been great. He comes once or twice a year and sits with us and we methodically for a couple hours go through the aspects of our business and see what's needed and do we have the coverages we need," explained Mark.

To learn more about Easley Winery and Groovin' in the Garden, visit http://www.easleywinery.com/