Our first Wine show....

Discussion in 'Commercial Winery Forum' started by Hokapsig, Jan 27, 2016.

  1. Hokapsig

    Hokapsig Senior Member

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    well, 2017 has started and we have done 5 wine shows and 2 fundraisers. We have past the halfway point of money made in 2016 after just 6 weeks. We are still learning and selling.

    We learned that sweet wines sell 10 to 1 over dry wines, though there are areas/shows that are almost all dry wine drinkers. We learned to take a dry wine and make it a sweet wine and were able to sell to both sweet and dry drinkers. We also took carboys of wines sitting around since our hobby days of home winemaking and blended them together to make another wine. After a TTB label approval, those wines have sold out. A blend of Carmenare with Red Zin did very well, and a party wine of Corot Noir, Cab Sauv and Red Zin appeared as "Winemaker's Blend" and sold out too.

    Finding time to clean tanks, bench test and bottle is hard to do. We (the wife and I) would spend from 6 to 1130 bottling and cleaning in preparation for weekend shows, only to sell out and have to do it all again the next week, which is a good problem to have. Purchasing the pickup truck has given us some freedom to run for bottles and juice, and we got some magnetic stickers for the truck which makes us look more professional.

    Thanks to Runningwolf for the heads up on equipment which a winery was selling as he was voluntarily going out of business, ffemt for all his counselling, truck use, physical help and wine selling expertise, and Julie for mentoring me along in the early days. More to come.....
     
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  2. Hokapsig

    Hokapsig Senior Member

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    another 4 months has passed and we have exceeded our sales from all of 2016. Our learning from the first shows has helped us greatly and we are a fine tuned wine selling machine now. We are now able to figure out the amount of cases that we will sell, which saves us from handling the wines twice. We have expanded out for larger quantities of California and South American juices, though these will sit for another year at least before bottling. We can now be more choosy with the shows that we do, but even the shows that we are doing to help a non profit or charity are helping us to sell a bunch of wine. We are learning that we need to seek the counsel of a professional for our taxes, which are far more complex than anyone can figure out.

    Equipment wise, we are now reinvesting some profits in bigger tanks and bottling equipment. We are constantly looking for deals. We are also shopping for property in which to put up a building or tasting room. We are gauging our decision on our sales at a local farmer's market. Sales have exceeded our expectations and we have been encouraged to follow our dream of a building/tasting room. We now have financial backing based on our success, though we absolutely hate debt and we try to figure how much wine will need to be sold to make the mortgage payments.

    we are also helping to mentor 3 new wineries who are learning from our mistakes and successes. Although only less than 2 years into the process, we have taken the seat of "old winery owner" and love to pass on our wisdom learned from experience to new winery owners. Looking back, we wish we would have done this years ago, but with schools to pay for and a mortgage, this was not possible. In our mid 50's, we are happy to make and sell wine, which beats sitting around watching TV. Let's see what the second half of 2017 has in store for us.
     
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  3. GreginND

    GreginND Super Moderator Super Moderator

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    That's awesome. We are also growing - 150 cases in 2015, 450 cases in 2016 and over 900 cases this year. I keep ordering more bigger tanks. Just ordered a new larger destemmer with must pump. Now I just need to figure out how to make some more climate controlled storage for the wine. The stacks of cases in the winery leave no room to do anything. The other problem is our laws. I'm only allowed to do 20 events off site a year and each one must be approved by the state tax commissioner. 17 of those are used up with our local farmers market in the summer. So we can only do 3 events beyond that.

    I did make a mistake this year and forgot to add the sorbate to our sweet red Frontenac wine this year. It would have been our bestseller but we had to uncork 800 bottles. However, we are using it as a base for Sangria which is selling like crazy. And I can take wine right out of the tank for that even while it is still fermenting.
     
  4. Hokapsig

    Hokapsig Senior Member

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    Luckily, PA lets me do 100 shows off site, not including farmer's markets. Farmer's markets are ALL covered under one permit which is good for the year. However, my project is to figure out how to drive people to the winery once its built. That asset will have to be working 24/7 to generate the cash flow to make the bills. However, we will probably still do the shows as they generate free cash.

    I only want to work professionally for 4 more years, then transition to the winery. It's something that I like to do and have a passion for. I can't do much stuff right, but selling wine is something that I excel at.
     
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  5. ffemt128

    ffemt128 Senior Member Supporting Member

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    Glad to have been there for the journey thus far. Looking forward to the rest of 2017 and the adventures it will bring.
     
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  6. GreginND

    GreginND Super Moderator Super Moderator

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    We find a lot of traffic coming out to the winery after the farmers market. Mainly because we only take a small sampling of our wines there. We have had great growth due to social media. My wife is vigilant about posting on Facebook several times a day. Word of mouth has been increasing exponentially because we provide an amazingly welcoming experience. We have hardly ever paid for any advertising or marketing.
     
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  7. Hokapsig

    Hokapsig Senior Member

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    with 2017 all but in the books, we can look back on the year. We came close to tripling our sales. We took a chance and did a local farmer's market. I had told my wife that people usually don't go to farmer's markets to buy wine, but only vegetables and plants. I put a goal to sell $100 a week and the cost to attend the market was $10 per week for 18 weeks. The first week, we missed our goal by selling 7x our goal and we never looked back. Once our wines caught on, we were selling 10 to 15 times our initial weekly goal. People liked our story, liked that we were local and that we attended every week. We learned to vary our wines every other week which kept our line up fresh. However, this created another problem that I didn't foresee - The farmer's market cut into our inventory so much that we ran short of wines at the end of summer. Success has its problems, but those are good problems to overcome.

    We took a chance and did some additional shows. Some were very good and we sold well. Others ere TOTAL busts. Lesson learned that if a show didn't sell tickets and the promoters tell you that people will come without advertising, turn and run away as fast as possible. One show ended up with 12 people at the 5 hour show. Fortunately, we sold to the vendors to cover our costs, but still should have lost money, We also found many shows that didn't cost a lot to attend and sold well at these shows.

    We are currently looking for a tasting room/property to establish a winery as we have outgrown our basement. Supplies storage now force me to park my car outside of the garage. Though we use some 6 gallon carboys for blending purposes, the carboys take up valuable floor space and we will be selling many of those this year. We acquired a heat tunnel for capsuling, 2 more Italian corkers and an additional enolmatic filler, though we are looking for a 4 or 6 spout filler. Our super jet filtering system is being replaced with a twin 20 inch column system to allow us to filter twice at one pass.

    With 2018 looming, we are seeking local property to put in the tasting room. We were offered to rent a church with 5 acres, but for $3500 a month, the cost was too high with little return for equity. We have found several possibilities, the best being 2 old farmhouses with acreage, and one with 22 acres and no improvements, Our bank account is healthy and we can put down an higher than modest down payment. We realize that a property will strap us to make us have to make a mortgage payment, but we feel that our cash flow can more than handle that. We are looking forward to the challenge.....
     
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  8. Johnd

    Johnd Middle Aged Member Supporting Member

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    Wow, that’s quite a story!!!! Congratulations for pursuing your passion and making it work, sounds like you guys are on a wonderful trajectory. Looking forward to seeing pics of the new winery when you make the move.
     
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  9. sour_grapes

    sour_grapes Victim of the Invasion of the Avatar Snatchers

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    That's just great, Ho. Congrats to you, and may you exceed your goals again in 2018!
    :br
     
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  10. balatonwine

    balatonwine The Verecund Vigneron

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    There is no free lunch. You "pay". But simply not in cash. ;)
     
  11. ffemt128

    ffemt128 Senior Member Supporting Member

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    Its been a fun year..
     
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  12. JohnT

    JohnT Moderator Super Moderator

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    Question: Are there any permits or special hoops you have to jump through to be allowed to sell alcohol at a farmer's market?
     
  13. Hokapsig

    Hokapsig Senior Member

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    not in PA, other than paying for a farmer's market permit and adding it to our master state permit. We can sell by the bottle or case, but not by the glass as the farmer's market has no liquor license. At our farmer's market, there was one other winery and 1 to 2 distilleries.
     

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