Opening a winery and vineyards--lessons learned?

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tjmeyer

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Hi all! I'm opening my first boutique (fancy word for silly small) winery in southern California and wanted to ask around for lessons learned. Check us out at meyerwine.com! What are some things that you would do differently/better if you had to do it all again?

The rest of this is just info, feel free to skip if uninterested:
Currently, we have 24 acres, not all planted yet, but getting there. 4-6 acres are actively producing good to excellent qualify Zinfandel, Malbec, Sangiovese, and Sauvignon Blanc. More to come over the years. As weird as it sounds, the goal of the winery is to make good wine, not to turn in to an empire. I'm fine if we just break even.

I'm the only winemaker here, so it's a lot a work and I love it. I'm open to hiring. I'm very confident in the wine quality, and have awards to back it up, though I really don't think they should be required.

I'm currently doing batches of 50-60 gallons of must at a time (larger tanks aren't really viable just yet until we have more grapes). 112L (31ish gallons?) barrels because they're easier to with with than full size ones. I'd like to keep the winemaking as "homemade" as possible. Focusing on the terroir and history. I plan on hand labeling, hand corking (floor corkers), hand-crank crushing/destemming, air vacuum transfers or siphon only (no big must pumps), etc---yup, that kind of hand made! This isn't for financial reasons or anything like that, I just love the process.

Once open (just waiting on county and ABC permits now), I'm planning on doing a wine club subscription, direct to consumer shipping, on-site sales during events only, and limited on-site tasting.
 
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Hi all! I'm opening my first boutique (fancy word for silly small) winery in southern California and wanted to ask around for lessons learned. Check us out at meyerwine.com! What are some things that you would do differently/better if you had to do it all again?

The rest of this is just info, feel free to skip if uninterested:
Currently, we have 24 acres, not all planted yet, but getting there. 4-6 acres are actively producing good to excellent qualify Zinfandel, Malbec, Sangiovese, and Sauvignon Blanc. More to come over the years. As weird as it sounds, the goal of the winery is to make good wine, not to turn in to an empire. I'm fine if we just break even.

I'm the only winemaker here, so it's a lot a work and I love it. I'm open to hiring. I'm very confident in the wine quality, and have awards to back it up, though I really don't think they should be required.

I'm currently doing batches of 50-60 gallons of must at a time (larger tanks aren't really viable just yet until we have more grapes). 112L (31ish gallons?) barrels because they're easier to with with than full size ones. I'd like to keep the winemaking as "homemade" as possible. Focusing on the terroir and history. I plan on hand labeling, hand corking (floor corkers), hand-crank crushing/destemming, air vacuum transfers or siphon only (no big must pumps), etc---yup, that kind of hand made! This isn't for financial reasons or anything like that, I just love the process.

Once open (just waiting on county and ABC permits now), I'm planning on doing a wine club subscription, direct to consumer shipping, on-site sales during events only, and limited on-site tasting.
Congrats and Best of Luck!!!

Curious what kind of vessels are you using for fermentation and bulk aging?

Cheers!
 
Congrats and Best of Luck!!!

Curious what kind of vessels are you using for fermentation and bulk aging?

Cheers!
We're using false bottom flat stainless steel fermenters. I just love the vacuum press method myself and have been hooked on fermenting/pressing in the same vessel for a number of years. These range from 20gallons up to 60 gallons. Will need to buy more or larger ones as the vineyard expands, haven't decided which yet. I'm leaning on the side of buying more since doing it as old school as possible is easier in smaller containers.

Bulk aging is being done in many many 112L barrels and concrete mounted stainless tanks, depending on the wine profile I'm going for for each batch.

I have sworn off glass and plastic. Glass out of necessity after a demijohn almost took off an employee's finger, and plastic because... well I'm terribly bias and archaic, I'd rather work with wood, concrete, or ceramic before anything plastic.
 
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We're using false bottom flat stainless steel fermenters. I just love the vacuum press method myself and have been hooked on fermenting/pressing in the same vessel for a number of years. These range from 20gallons up to 60 gallons. Will need to buy more or larger ones as the vineyard expands, haven't decided which yet. I'm leaning on the side of buying more since doing it as old school as possible is easier in smaller containers.

Bulk aging is being done in many many 112L barrels and concrete mounted stainless tanks, depending on the wine profile I'm going for for each batch.

I have sworn off glass and plastic. Glass out of necessity after a demijohn almost took of an employee's finger, and plastic because... well I'm terribly bias and archaic, I'd rather work with wood, concrete, or ceramic before anything plastic.
Bravo! ✌️✌️

Any pics to share?
 
Bravo! ✌️✌️

Any pics to share?
I'll have gather a few, but a lot of construction work pictures at the moment 😅

Here are a few I have on hand.
Living in a trailer, bought big piece of dirt lol

PXL_20210515_004036346.jpg

Started planting vines, LOTS of construction
PXL_20220426_151510630.jpgPXL_20230511_225802906.MP.jpgPXL_20230603_223156723.jpgPXL_20230603_224051517.MP.jpg

Things are slowly coming together after 3 years of work! Permits and licenses are almost done. It's an estate winery, so we're living here too. Been an adventure!
PXL_20211207_190458670.MP.jpgPXL_20230815_134618811.jpgIMG_20200816_091456.jpgPXL_20211120_222855641.jpg


Lots more pictures here: https://www.meyerwine.com/gallery

I was just thinking about it... a lot of wine imbibers seem to think wine is "fancy". Well, it's NOT--that's post WWII advertising showing through. It's hard work, dirty, expensive, and gritty. If there isn't some sweat and tears in your must from someone, something isn't right. After doing so much work I just can't seem to bring myself to create wine using automation.... It feels wrong.
 
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Let me just say congrats on starting a new winery, I started a winery with a friend in 2023, we processed 13 tons of grapes last year and will do 30 ish this fall. We don’t own our own vineyard we have a contract with another winery for grapes because we wanted to save costs on managing a vineyard and because I would rather visit vineyards pick fruit from specific locations and do unique wines periodically that showcase a specific location and I can change what we produce as required and not really have to worry about being stuck with any varietal in particular.

If you ever have any problems I would be more than happy to help if you need any help with anything. I would also suggest planting more Zinfandel it’s my favorite varietal and I am extremely knowledgeable about working with it, Zinfandel has a lot of quirks and requires finesse to not encounter problems and so it does not end up out of balance.
 

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