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Does anyone have experience (hopefully in Michigan) with licensing to be a small winemaker? I have a pretty nice set up in my basement, but don't know if it is possible to license as a small winemaker if I am producing out of my home. I am looking to be able to sell my wine.

Thank you!
 

Norton

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Go to the commercial winery forum and/or the grape growing and Vineyard forum . Someone put in a thread a couple of years ago about what they went through to get licensed commercially in Missouri.
 

Boatboy24

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Welcome, Kris! As @Norton said, check out the Commercial Winery forum. We have several members who have 'gone to the big show' and are still regular contributors here. Much of their trials and tribulations can be found in that forum. And most are more than willing to help out if you want to send them a PM. Obviously, there are state-specific laws that you need to be concerned with, but there are also many regulations at the federal level that someone from any state can help guide you through.
 
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Welcome, Kris! As @Norton said, check out the Commercial Winery forum. We have several members who have 'gone to the big show' and are still regular contributors here. Much of their trials and tribulations can be found in that forum. And most are more than willing to help out if you want to send them a PM. Obviously, there are state-specific laws that you need to be concerned with, but there are also many regulations at the federal level that someone from any state can help guide you through.
Thank you!
 

Stressbaby

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Where in Michigan?

Our family has a place near St. Joe. There are lots of wineries in the area making some pretty decent wines, not just hybrids but vinifera as well.
 
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Where in Michigan?

Our family has a place near St. Joe. There are lots of wineries in the area making some pretty decent wines, not just hybrids but vinifera as well.

I work in Cadillac, and live just south of there. I have gone tasting in Traverse City, and there are some pretty good wines. I notice that the concord vines we have up here do extremely well, and it makes me think there is some potential there. I would obviously make other wines, but that is the one that jumps out at me.
 

jgmillr1

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The TTB has a pretty thorough start up guide for new wineries to get the "basic permit". Not sure about Michigan but states generally require wineries to get the federal basic permit before applying for a state winery permit.

I doubt a basement in a residential home would qualify though. The space WILL be available for inspection by TTB officers and state excise police as part of the licensing process and routine records inspection. Besides, you will probably need more room once you get successfully selling. Anything you've made prior to being licensed can't be sold by the way. The basement also may not have sufficient electric, water, drains for your needs and it may be difficult to get larger equipment and tanks into the space.

Then, where would you do your tasting and sales? The location must meet county zoning requirements. Likewise, the space will be inspected by the health department and need to have sufficient sanitation sinks and restrooms.

Just some things to consider, not trying to discourage. I made the move 6 years ago from garage wine maker to opening up a winery. I remodeled an ag building for the winery&tasting room and put in 10 acres of vines. One big lesson I've learned is that you will always need more space than you think. The other lesson is that things will always cost more than you think.

Note that the winery and tasting areas do not have to be in the same building. I've seen small wineries make wine in renovated hog barns or in a warehouse and have a nice, quaint tasting room elsewhere.

Good luck and have fun
 

Stressbaby

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I work in Cadillac, and live just south of there. I have gone tasting in Traverse City, and there are some pretty good wines. I notice that the concord vines we have up here do extremely well, and it makes me think there is some potential there. I would obviously make other wines, but that is the one that jumps out at me.

OK so you are quite a ways north and away from the lake.

My 2 cents (and it's probably worth no more than that) - I would temper expectations with regard to Concord wine. We were at the Lake Michigan Shore Wine Festival last year and sampled lots of wines from I think 14 different area wineries, and I don't remember a Concord there anywhere. Concord is distinctly, unpleasantly foxy.
 
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I would agree. There are few out there, and the few that there are, are very sweet. I intend to do the concord just to continue doing it, but it is pretty tart. I am planning on going to a wine event this March in Kalamazoo. It should be pretty enlightening.
 
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The TTB has a pretty thorough start up guide for new wineries to get the "basic permit". Not sure about Michigan but states generally require wineries to get the federal basic permit before applying for a state winery permit.

I doubt a basement in a residential home would qualify though. The space WILL be available for inspection by TTB officers and state excise police as part of the licensing process and routine records inspection. Besides, you will probably need more room once you get successfully selling. Anything you've made prior to being licensed can't be sold by the way. The basement also may not have sufficient electric, water, drains for your needs and it may be difficult to get larger equipment and tanks into the space.

Then, where would you do your tasting and sales? The location must meet county zoning requirements. Likewise, the space will be inspected by the health department and need to have sufficient sanitation sinks and restrooms.

Just some things to consider, not trying to discourage. I made the move 6 years ago from garage wine maker to opening up a winery. I remodeled an ag building for the winery&tasting room and put in 10 acres of vines. One big lesson I've learned is that you will always need more space than you think. The other lesson is that things will always cost more than you think.

Note that the winery and tasting areas do not have to be in the same building. I've seen small wineries make wine in renovated hog barns or in a warehouse and have a nice, quaint tasting room elsewhere.

Good luck and have fun

Thank you for the advice!
 

jgmillr1

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I would agree. There are few out there, and the few that there are, are very sweet. I intend to do the concord just to continue doing it, but it is pretty tart. I am planning on going to a wine event this March in Kalamazoo. It should be pretty enlightening.

As much as I resisted at first, I did end up adding a concord wine to our list and it is our best seller here in Indiana. Our version of the concord is not nearly as sweet as some on the market. It is 5-6% sugar and we get quite a few people gravitating to our version from sweeter offerings as their taste becomes more dry. Of course we still have the occasional customer that doesn't find it sweet enough and I have to fight to keep from having a bowl of sugar cubes under the counter for those people!
 
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I've definitely noticed that. I'm in Ft. Wayne, IN, and I'd say about 75% of the wines made here are either sweet wines or fruit wines.

On a side note, I don't know if this helps but I found something about winemaking licenses in Michigan

I was reading on that before, and it really didn't specify that it needed to be in a separate dwelling, but I imagine it probably does. For the sake of inspection and sanitizing...
 

GreginND

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In most places, it can be in the same building but must be separated by locked doors from living spaces. So, you would need to make sure it was it's own secured area.
 

HopsandVine

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I was reading on that before, and it really didn't specify that it needed to be in a separate dwelling, but I imagine it probably does. For the sake of inspection and sanitizing...
Hi Kristopher,

We regularly work with our clients to apply for and file TTB permits. A basement is probably not an ideal space for TTB purposes and would likely be very hard, if not impossible, to get approved. You will also likely want to make sure that the space you do use has a discrete entrance into the winery operational space (i.e., generally, no passing through residence to enter into the space; must be able to enter in directly to winery space from outside area).

For state licensing, states vary so much that it is probably best to talk to your state agency. Also, you probably want to check in with your city/locality/town in regard to zoning. Chances are, that could be a bigger battle to fight than either TTB or State.

Best of luck with everything!


Hops & Vine Consultants
 

Scooter68

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Just a WAG here but in your neck of the woods, there should be plenty of sources of fruits other than grapes. They might be a good draw along with grape wine. VERY few wineries actually dealing in pure fruit wines, most mix berries with white grapes or other fruit. That might also let you boost the price on the wine as a "Pure Fruit" wine. Maybe also check with local wine shops as to what they sell a lot of (Without telling them of your intent to 'compete').
 
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I have pretty much determined that a separate building would be the way to go. For now, I plan on planting Marquette grapes. We'll go from there. Maybe I can fund my endeavor selling grapes.
 

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