Best way to confirm that commercializing my wine would be a terrible mistake?

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chambers

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I have a few heirloom cider apple trees in my yard and instead of letting animals get to the fruit, I made wine this last year. I started giving it away this week and the response I've received is what I'm sure what everybody gets, "You should go into production!"

I really like the product though (as I'm sure everybody feels about their wine) and would like to confirm that trying to go into commercial production is a bad idea. It's essentially an apple wine made with techniques that are consistent with higher price point white wines. It tastes more refined and complex than I ever would have expected and has this sublime mouthfeel. I'm not aware of anything like it on the market. I've ordered apple wine from 10-15 commercial orchard wineries and what they're doing with semi-sweet dessert wines strikes me as a different product for a different market. This tastes closer to a sauvignon blanc but with a nose that is pleasantly different.

What is the best way to figure out that trying to go into commercial production with this wine is a bad idea? Is there some way to gauge market interest or get production commitments?
 
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I looked at going commercial, mostly for fun. Start with your production costs, e.g., what does it cost, including labor, to produce a bottle. Figure everything in, which includes all consumables (corks, labels, capsules). Then look at the market -- what are comparable wines going for locally? From there, figure your gross profit per bottle.

Part time or full time? If full time, how much do you need to make to live on? How many bottles must you sell to manage your income? If part time, do you have the personal time to make the business work. There's a new difference between making a few carboys every other month vs. making 500 to 1,000 gallon batches.

How long is your lead time, e.g., how long from start to marketing? Can you make wine year round to maintain a production pipeline, or is this a once a year thing?

What hardware do you need to hit the above target, and what does it cost?

What does licensing cost? Can you sell on premises (local zoning matters!), and if so, what will it cost to build a tasting room? If not, the above gross profit per bottle will be dramatically reduced as you will sell wholesale and someone else will sell retail.

Do your best to think of everything. Several folks on this forum have either started a commercial winery or are in the process of doing so, and they can provide much better details.

In my case, I decided I like winemaking as a hobby and am keeping it that way. Not that I might not work part time for a local winery after I retire from my job.
 

joeswine

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unless you have the cash to burn, just make your cider, the share has fun with your hobby, just my thoughts.
have you ever put your ciders into competition across the country to see what people who don't know you think then do it, again and again, that will give you the direction to take, honestly?
 
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what other wine can you produce to meet customer desires?
This is a key point -- very few wineries sell just one kind of wine. In NC, wineries typically sell dry to sweet, including Vinifera, hybrids, and muscadine/scuppernong. They have something to appeal to everyone who walks in the door.

This is a great thread.
 

chambers

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Not enough. I think any kind of production arrangement would need to be made in concert with a local orchard. Thank you everybody for your kind comments. It seems like the next step is to start gathering feedback from other people in the community and just get on the scene, whether that be from competitions or otherwise. I appreciate everybody's help here.
 

NorCal

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I am a SCORE business mentor volunteer and I speak with over 100 people a year wanting to start a business. There are a lot of resources available to help guide people through the process. Selling alcohol has a few extra hurdles and hassles. You can look at the SCORE website for a lot of resources. I like to start with a very important element, understanding the key factors of making money, by building a spreadsheet model of the businesses.

I think it will come down to a few key questions.
What is the upfront investment?
What is your gross margin on each bottle?
How many bottles can you sell, year 1-5?
Is the gross margin x bottles enough to cover your overhead?
Do you have the cash reserves to cover the shortfall and no salary until it is cash positive?
 

Scooter68

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To me It comes down to -
Now - It's a hobby and if you quit so you have a little equipment to sell off perhaps.
Then - It's work and your books, records and actions all matter including your personal health. Oh and don't forget liability insurance for your business and you. Even if you you set up an LLC. You could still have to defend yourself. and in the worst case lose everything you invested in your business.
If you've ever run your own business and been both successful and happy at it, chances are this could be a good thing to consider. Some folks don't realize the amount of control you give up when you make and sell a "Food" product. You are subject to inspections and oversight beyond your control.
 
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