Our first Wine show....

Help Support Wine Making Talk:

Hokapsig

Senior Member
Joined
Sep 5, 2011
Messages
1,140
Reaction score
323
chatting with another grape grower last evening, probably Concord, Traminette, and some Midwest grapes like Prairie Star, Brianna, or St. Pepin. Everything stopped by a neighbor that doesn't want a winery, but would rather have a Section 8 housing plan. Go figure....
 

wxtrendsguy

Senior Member
Joined
Jan 18, 2010
Messages
135
Reaction score
60
Sorry to hear that, I got a neighbor like that except I was here first, but he is still a major PITA. He wanted to play hardball so I point blank told him to his face that if the vineyard and winery are not financially feasible I will more than happily sub divide the land and put some of the largest and ugliest houses he has ever seen in his backyard. Been quiet for a year now. Guess he doesn't mind a vineyard so much.
 

KevinL

Senior Member
Joined
Jun 27, 2017
Messages
197
Reaction score
89
Location
Warrenville IL
It'd be really nice if the conversation ended after: "Is it your land? No? Okay, have a nice day then."

I'd check out some of the newer Minnesota Varieties. I've been pretty pleased with my Itasca and Petite Pearl thus far.
 

Hokapsig

Senior Member
Joined
Sep 5, 2011
Messages
1,140
Reaction score
323
as we reflect back on our year, we have had our fair share of success and frustration.

Our sales continue to climb and we are up another 48% year over year. We have moved to bigger shows, and we liked making a LOT for a one day show (which would have been more, but we ran out of wine). People are still viewing our wines favorably and we continue to try new blends to keep our line up fresh. We are learning more about economies of scale and have hit maximum density of producing in our "wine cellar".

Our attempt to purchase the 30 acre farm has been at a stand still due to the neighbor filing the lawsuit to challenge the variance. He has deep pockets and continues to delay the process, which we know will eventually go our way, but is delaying our actions until this is settled. We have heard that he intends to fight us the entire way. In the meantime, the seller of the property has changed her terms from a 5 year, no interest payment, to a full payment up front. The costs for a new building were viscously under estimated. A friend put up a pole building for $100K, but we were told ours would cost 8 times that amount. PA now has a law that requires no liquid waste from a winery, brewery or distillery can be put down a septic system. This has proven to be a stumbling block which will require some thinking to solve. We are now seeking alternative locations.

We also have considered a store front/retail location to get us over the hump of people wanting to purchase wine. Although this would provide a stop gap to sell our wine, this has not been received well by our customers who are asking for a location to come and purchase/drink wine. we now have alternative locations for a winery, each having positives and negatives. Our county has started a Pour Tour to promote wineries, breweries and distilleries. We are called daily asking for our hours, which we had hoped to have in the spring. Needless to say, tough decisions and much thought will have to be made (along with writing some big checks).

We continue to seek additional wines to add to our line up. We have rotated our wines from spring and summer to fall and winter wines. This allows us to temporarily retire some wines and stock up on them in the off season, then bring them back in season as a newer wine. Our dry red blend that used to take 2 years to sell out a batch is now selling out in 3 months. We have increased our tank sizes and our bottling equipment. Space continues to be at a premium.

we now have an operation website, though we are not taking orders from the site. Our site is in its infancy and needs to be further developed.

We expanded this year to 2 farmer's markets. Our sales increased dramatically, causing some issues in production (resulting in some long nights to be ready for those markets). We are seeking a third market for 2020. These farmers markets have done wonders on our cash flow.

Our bank account is healthy, and the winery is self supporting. We have been able to pay ourselves back all the seed money which was used to start the winery, along with any money used along the way. The winery has purchased 2 pickup trucks (paid for in cash) and we continue to flow more to our bottom line. It has taken 5 years, but the winery is totally debt free, running on its own merits and is ripe for expansion.
 

KevinL

Senior Member
Joined
Jun 27, 2017
Messages
197
Reaction score
89
Location
Warrenville IL
Our bank account is healthy, and the winery is self supporting. We have been able to pay ourselves back all the seed money which was used to start the winery, along with any money used along the way. The winery has purchased 2 pickup trucks (paid for in cash) and we continue to flow more to our bottom line. It has taken 5 years, but the winery is totally debt free, running on its own merits and is ripe for expansion.
Congratulations! This is an amazing story to follow.

It's a shame that the neighbor of the property insists on being such a pain. Why doesn't he just buy it himself? Good luck in your search. Although I hate to award a NIMBY a win, what is better for the business is more important than winning a legal scuffle. Hopefully you can find a place or resolve the issues and keep going!
 
Last edited:

Hokapsig

Senior Member
Joined
Sep 5, 2011
Messages
1,140
Reaction score
323
You are absolutely ruining the whole winemakers joke about how do you make $1,000,000 selling wine! But seriously congrats to you and your family. Hard work pays off.
ffemt, is killing it too. He's got a storefront that we drool about.
 

montanarick

Senior Member
Joined
May 15, 2015
Messages
156
Reaction score
68
Location
Montana
bushyrunwinery.com, but it needs a LOT of work
I can understand that - but at least it's a start and it does take a lot of work. you do have a nice variety of wines available and that's whats important - the website will come together in due time
 

Jal5

Senior Member
Joined
Dec 27, 2017
Messages
409
Reaction score
178
Wishing you a successful 2020 despite the hurdles you have yet to overcome. Keep up the good work!
Joe
 

Allan Kyle

Junior
Joined
Jan 3, 2020
Messages
6
Reaction score
3
Not commercial yet, but at the shows I have been to many places will ask you to fill in your name/address/email/etc. as you queue for wine tasting. This weeds out those just looking for a quick free drink and helps speed any sales/build a list of potential customers.
 

Hokapsig

Senior Member
Joined
Sep 5, 2011
Messages
1,140
Reaction score
323
Allan, if they are making you fill out information, that's probably the promoter. When we do shows, we are balls to the wall trying to make a good experience for our customers who want to just taste and buy the wines. We don't have time to ask for such info, though if you'd go to a wine tasting room, they might ask you complete something to get you on their email listing. But don't be fooled by the tasting room experience, That's the fun part when you actually get paid for all work behind the scenes (and it's a LOT of work to get wines ready for a show - A LOT OF WORK). We just got done with a 4 hour show and we are physically beat.
 

Hokapsig

Senior Member
Joined
Sep 5, 2011
Messages
1,140
Reaction score
323
well, an update.....

After a very positive start to 2020. sales were up another 45 to 50% from the previous first 2 months of 2019. Things were looking up. Shows that yielded almost the same as the year before had better profit as we were able to cost out some overhead and increase our take home profit.

THEN, the virus hit, cancelling at least 2 large lucrative shows and 2 smaller shows. even with all these cancellations, we are only 10% behind last years total.

We have walked away from the local farm, as the zoning officer told us the neighbor that was causing us the problems was prepared to use his considerable bank roll to prevent us from locating a winery at the farm we were to buy. Terms with the seller also changed, as she wanted to stay on site and then call all the shots of what we should do to "her" farm (even after we paid to make it OUR farm). On to plan B or C.

Plan B is another location in our township, properly zoned and already has public water. This was a farm which was purchased by the gas company for the mineral rights. We are interested in a log cabin which was rented by the gas company to some previous tenants. there is also a 4500 square foot barn which we would like to turn into a wedding center/reception center. We would gut the log cabin to make this our tasting room, so that we could operate the winery while still hosting a wedding at the same time. we have asked to lease or purchase at least 10 up to 20 acres where we could plant grapes, berry bushes and a small orchard. The site would still need a septic system (cost about $80 to 100K) to be installed until public sewage is installed. The site has no direct neighbors, so the fussy neighbors aren't a problem. The township asked us to consider this area, as they would like to develop this area as the business corridor (we would still keep it as agri-tourism). We are currently waiting on the gas company to make a decision as to either lease or sell to us. They have a gas well pad on the other end of the property, so they can't rezone to residential. we are hoping that this goes through sometimes this year.

Plan C is another 38 acre farm right on a major highway, accessible with a traffic light. The site has 2 barns that will need work and a mobile home that will be removed. the site has no public water or sewage, both of which will require $$ to remedy. the site used to be a miniature golf course and golf driving range and has a slight slope. there are 4 gas wells on site (hopefully we can get some free gas) and a pond. There is one neighbor, but they are located a little further away. A local festival in the fall right up the road brings in 5,000 people over a weekend and would undoubtedly stop at the winery. The farm has been on the market for a while and we could probably negotiate a lower price than what is listed. Building a 3000 square foot building would be about $100K, but we would have to install a septic system and a water well too.

we have standardized our line up and have wines that sell well and people tend to come back as repeat buyers. We have learned to sell our wines, which is as important as making a good wine. We are looking to try some different flavors this year. We will let you know how that comes out.....
 

sour_grapes

Victim of the Invasion of the Avatar Snatchers
Joined
Sep 19, 2013
Messages
10,189
Reaction score
7,636
Thanks for the report, Don. I am happy for you that you have what seem to be viable options. (But sorry about the viral downturn!) Best of luck in your next step!
 

wxtrendsguy

Senior Member
Joined
Jan 18, 2010
Messages
135
Reaction score
60
Don't forget about a place to make the wine...and store bottle inventory. You will need 3000 sq ft just for that. Trust me moving stuff in and out of the winery for every event that needs heated or cooled space gets real old real quick.
 

Hokapsig

Senior Member
Joined
Sep 5, 2011
Messages
1,140
Reaction score
323
oh we are learning about economies of scale the hard way. We try to only handle the cases once (take them out of the winery for selling and not having to return them to inventory). We have it down pretty good now for the most part. We figure out how many wineries will be present, expected attendance, location of the show and can usually guess about how many cases to take and what we want to make in revenue for the show. On our local shows, we take 28 to 30 cases, use 1 to 1.5 cases in tasters, sell 20 (usually plus but sometimes minus), bring back less than 6 (plus or minus) partial cases. Go back to the winery and figure out what to bottle that week to replace inventory.
 
2
Group Builder
Top