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Farm Winery Startup - Logistics?

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bshef

Highland Meadow Vineyard
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I've looked throughout the forum and can't find the answer to this question: I'm in Virginia and slowly planting a vineyard, starting with 1/4 acre and planning to add 1/2 to 3/4 acre each year until I get approximately 3 acres under vine. Virginia requires a farm winery to grow 51 percent of the fruit used in production. Also, as I understand, I can't sell anything that I make before I am bonded. In that case, if I decide to open a winery, during the first year or two, do I plan on selling/producing only white wines, rose, and Nouveau red wines? I'll need a year or two or more to age the big reds. I realize that most customers will be buying the whites, the rose, the lighter semi-sweet or semi-dry reds, so I may be worrying unnecessarily. Any thoughts or ideas??
 

salcoco

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I had a Farm Winery. I also produced fruit wines. Kansas rules are that the production had to be from fruit or grapes established in the State of Kansas. Are you restricted to only your own production or in the State. if the Sate, produce some fruit wines to make up the percentage every year. this frees up the capability of purchasing grapes from anywhere.
 

bshef

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In Virginia at least 51 percent of the fruits or agricultural products used by the farm winery to manufacture the wine shall be grown or produced on such farm and no more than 25 percent of the fruits, fruit juices or other agricultural products shall be grown or produced outside the Commonwealth. I shouldn't have a problem buying grapes or fruit in Virginia. We do have some leeway in the case of drought or disease to petition the state for a variance to buy out of state.
 

salcoco

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well based on your restrictions your plan seems to be best. add some semi sweet fruit wines to the mix. although "customers talk dry they buy sweet".
 

bshef

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The winery is going to be located in an area with few other wineries so the local clientele will (generally) need to be educated and trained to drink dry reds. Of course some people never move away from sweet wines. Thanks for the guidance and support.
 

mainshipfred

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There are a lot of benefits to opening a Virginia Farm Winery as opposed to a commercial winery. The main benefit is the permit and inspection process, the setback requirements as well as the 51% owned property rule . A farm winery only requires a grading plan and sometimes depending on the jurisdiction zoning may get involved. The health department may require a ODW well even if you are not providing public drinking water. The ODW well requires greater setbacks, deeper casings and water quality testing. The testing is close to $10,000.00, at least around me in Loudoun County. We are in the process of building our third farm winery (as a contractor not an owner) and even though a building permit or inspections are not required we have always built to building codes and ADA requirements. BTW the 51% rule has been in effect for a long time the enforcement is just now starting to take place and is hardest hit by new applications. There are many established wineries around me that do not meet the requirement and they are starting to get worried.
 

bshef

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Thanks so much Fred. I didn’t realize you were helping build wineries. I’m really glad to have such good information.
We are starting with the vineyard, slowly. I’m sure we can sell grapes until we decide whether to start a winery. The vineyard is on the family farm so we’ll have to set up leases for the farm winery and an LLC for the business. We plan to turn an existing building into a winery building for personal hobby use with an eye to future farm winery use. We are easing into the business rather than borrow a fortune and dive straight in. If we can manage a winery, great; if not we still have a vineyard. If nothing else, the farm can always sell the grapes to me and other hobbyists.
 

bshef

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I’ve often wondered about many Virginia farm wineries; there is no possible way they are growing 51% of the fruit they are using. I know enough about the varieties they can grow and the amount of grapes required for production. I figure there is a lot of fudging going on.
 
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