Transitioning Garage to Commercial Winery

Discussion in 'Commercial Winery Forum' started by joshjacobsen, Nov 11, 2017.

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  1. joshjacobsen

    joshjacobsen Member

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    Hi,

    I'm in the midst of working through all of the licensing requirements in CA to become a commercial winery. This is very early stages and I assume my request will be rejected/disapproved, which is fine as I'm attempting to legitimize my operation earlier than the quality of my wine currently warrants as I'm anticipating a lengthy process.

    I welcome any thoughts on whether or not this is a good or bad idea but what I'd really like to know is 1) has anyone else had success in doing this as a 'garagiste' (meaning getting their garage approved as a winery) and 2) would you recommend separating the wine-making portion of ones garage from the rest of the room (ie w/ some sort of temporary or permanent wall, which I know has implications on things like temperature control, etc.)?

    Appreciate any perspective you might have, thanks!
     
  2. GreginND

    GreginND Super Moderator Super Moderator

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    Just so I'm clear, you make wine of low quality and are thus trying to become a commercial winery? Who will you sell to? At least in my state, a winery needs to meet the specifications of a food production facility. You need all washable surfaces (no bare wood), a three basin sink, a separate hand washing sink, etc. etc. Do you have floor drains? Do they go into the municipal sewer? Can it handle your effluent? There are no more bonds required for small wineries. But you will have to still have your winery area separated physically from other living space.
     
  3. joshjacobsen

    joshjacobsen Member

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    I suppose the reference to my wine quality was a mix of being humble and acknowledging that I'm inexperienced and am producing a product akin to your average table wine. If I were to sell it, I'd probably attempt to do so at some of the local wine shops or nearby wine bars (one of which sells wine on tap). The goal would be to recoup costs while I continue to hone my craft at a small level of operation.

    Regardless, my main reasoning was to get a head start on a process that I've heard could take years. I have seen that the TTB does't require a bond for small wineries (assuming not owing or expecting to owe > $50K excise tax) but does that mean I can legally sell my wine?

    The rest of what you outlined is exactly what i'm looking for, so many thanks as I haven't been able to find much in the way of resources regarding the physical space. The answer to some of your questions is yes (ie drains) while others are no (ie winery separated from other living spaces, namely the rest of my garage). Is there anything else you can point me to?

    Thanks again!
     
  4. GreginND

    GreginND Super Moderator Super Moderator

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    I would suggest you talk to other small winery startups in your area. The laws and regulations vary so much from location to location. Getting the federal license is not that hard and does not take years. As a matter of fact, you don't even need to have your facility built and finished, just good plans. The big hurdles are local requirements. You need to find out a lot of information before you decide to sink any money into it. Are you in a city jurisdiction? County? Will they allow you to operate in your residential zone? What type of health department requirements will you need to meet? What does your state licensing allow for wine sales? Do you need an alcohol license in your city? Can you self distribute or will you need a distributor to get your wines into stores? If you are making small batch lots in your garage, it may not be economically viable to distribute as they will want 30%-50% less than your retail price. Just a few of the questions that come to mind. Again, I would strongly encourage you to talk to other wineries that are more local to you.
     
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  5. AkTom

    AkTom Supporting Members Supporting Member

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    I hope you get it.
     
  6. salcoco

    salcoco Veteran Wine Maker Supporting Member

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    the physical separation can be from just the rest of the home, make the entire garage your winery. that means lockable doors to all entries.plus positive answers to 4e comments especially the zoning although a special permit can be obtained, your neighbors may not be your friends for long. I would try to obtain there approval before venturing into commercial status.
     
  7. joshjacobsen

    joshjacobsen Member

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    Thanks all, good advice on all fronts. Will circle back is something more specific comes up in the process, really appreciate your help!
     
  8. Graves

    Graves Junior

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    I’m just curious if you have opened shop?
     
  9. joshjacobsen

    joshjacobsen Member

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    Hi @Graves - haven't opened shop but I feel like I'm making a bit of progress.

    I had a call w/ a local wine compliance consultant and was told to first get approval from the city prior to further pursuing the requisite state and federal licenses.

    I then had a call w/ city plannning to determine whether or not the residential zone I lived in allowed for winery operations. As of now, it doesn't appear that it does but I'm still discussing potential options w/ the city planner and am in contact w/ another 'garagiste' who's apparently already faced this same problem and was able to gain an exception.

    So, baby steps but I'll report back here if I'm able to make progress.
     
  10. GreginND

    GreginND Super Moderator Super Moderator

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    That's good advice. If your location won't allow it, no reason to bother going through the federal and state red tape. Many people in residential areas have sought waivers from their city and/or township council. That's probably where I would start. You will want to reassure them that you are not creating a hazard or nuisance to your neighbors. You are not looking at a tasting room, right? Just a production facility? That may be important for the neighbor part. Most residential neighborhoods don't want business traffic.
     
  11. joshjacobsen

    joshjacobsen Member

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    Thanks @GreginND - correct in that I'm not looking to have a tasting room, just production. That said, I don't anticipate any nuisance for my neighbors or any objections should they be made aware of eventual production licensing.
     
  12. Cxwgfamily

    Cxwgfamily Member

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    When you are designing your production facility, be sure to ventilate the production area really well. During fermentation, a lot of CO2 (carbon dioxide) is generated. CO2 is an asphyxiant. It is what kills people when they go into their garage and run the car with the garage door closed. I would read up and educate yourself on CO2 hazards. I converted my boat garage to a home "wine production" room. I installed a pipe that vents directly outside and during primary fermentation, the exhaust goes into the header and vents directly outside.
     
  13. GreginND

    GreginND Super Moderator Super Moderator

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    No, that would be carbon monoxide in exhaust fumes. But you are correct about the dangers of CO2 displacing oxygen from enclosed spaces.
     
  14. Cxwgfamily

    Cxwgfamily Member

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    You are right. My bad. \

    But the dangers of CO2 is just a bad. I strongly recommend everyone putting in a wine room investigate the hazards and mitigate them appropriately.
     
  15. joshjacobsen

    joshjacobsen Member

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    Hi @Cxwgfamily & @GreginND - thanks for the input regarding C02 risks. Given that my garage has open vents in the garage door and a side door that I open keep sporadically, do you think there's additional actions I should take to further ventilate? Any examples of how you've seen this done?

    Thanks!
     
  16. Cxwgfamily

    Cxwgfamily Member

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    I would recommend separation. Because wine is considered a food from a regulatory perspective (at least it is in my state), you will have to maintain sanitary conditions in the wine production area. It will be easier if you have your wine space separated. Also, I am a bit over concerned about CO2. I would make sure you have good separation from the rest of the house and the wine space is well ventilated like I mentioned earlier. I converted part of a "Boat garage" into a wine room with thoughts of doing exactly as you are doing. I put in a vent from the wine room to the outside of the garage for the express purpose of venting the CO2 outside during fermentation. Again, probably over kill but better safe than sorry. If you decide to do this,remember CO2 is heavier than air. So the vent should be slightly higher than the fermenter vent or the CO2 line will have to be a tight seal and the fermentor will have to be capable of maintaining a little pressure. Again, this is probably mostly from my own paranoia regarding the hazards of CO2. Just my thoughts. Good luck
     
  17. Hokapsig

    Hokapsig Senior Member

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    let me chime in too as I just went through this 3 years ago, albeit I am in PA. First things first. Do you have any zoning requriements for your location? That may put a stop to everything until you get zoned or get a variance. We are currently looking at putting in a tasting room, but the zoning is already agri-business, so we are good with that. BUT, being that we will have patrons, we have to comply with ADA requriements and have to put in a commercial septic system/sand mound. Where will your trash/waste water/ grape waste go? you will need to physically separate the living quarters from the rest of the house. Ask ffemt about that as he had to seal off a doorway from the rest of the house.
     

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