The couple thought long and hard about it.
“In 2001, we made the final decision to go for it, which meant spending money left and right,” Rick said with a laugh. “We call that the big year.”
The Moultons don’t like to do anything too fast, though. It would be another two years before the couple opened Oak Hill Winery inside the 119-year-old carriage house on their property.
In the meantime, Rick spent time learning about the business. He wrote a 20-question survey and sent it out to 100 wineries in the region.
He expected to get maybe 20 back. He got 71.
Winery owners are a tight-knit group of people, he said. They were all more than willing to offer him their advice.
He learned Michigan has a hearty supply of grapes. The farmers there grow more in one county than Indiana does in the whole state.
Rick learned that wine-making equipment is made primarily in Europe and costs a lot of money. You can’t start a winery for $10,000, he said.
What he couldn’t glean from local winery owners, he learned from a distance education course through the University of California Berkeley.
He laughed when he recalled the class. He said the university sent him VHS tapes to watch, and he then called the professors to discuss what he learned.
By 2003 he and his wife had done all the research they could. They had renovated the carriage house — mostly by themselves because they’d run out of money.
They were ready to open their doors. The Miami County couple had even carved out their own niche in the market.
They would sell all natural wines made with little to no preservatives.
“We don’t claim to be superior,” Rick said. “We’re just a little healthier.”
The Moultons thought they had a good business model, but still they were nervous. What if people didn’t like their wine?