"You Should Sell Your Wine!"

Discussion in 'General Wine Making Forum' started by KAndr97, Apr 13, 2019.

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  1. May 23, 2019 #21

    jgmillr1

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    Yep, and to sell that much wine you need employees which then cut into any "profits" there appear to be. So you need to sell more then...
     
  2. May 23, 2019 #22

    LouisCKpasteur

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    Yes, people have asked me if I've ever thought about selling it. I always tell them, to make them feel good, that it's priceless, and that's why I'm giving it to them. Now I have a decent budget for playing around with this hobby, so I always got something going - even stuff that I don't like (Moscato) because I know others DO. Even though I'm old, I still like impressing the ladies, and keeping them stocked with wine makes them very happy. Some good observations on this thread. Along with the difficulties of ramping up production and getting a pipeline going, I would worry about style and varietal 'creep'. Most of my favorite wines tend to be French, American, and Italian, from producers who do only a few things with only a few varietals. That's what I think of when I think of a traditional winemaker. When you start having to do kowtow to the marketplace you may find yourself having to do things you don't really want too. So your premium Red whatever still wine which used to sell for 60 bucks is not moving because the 'publics' taste has changed so maybe some consultant tells you to use that varietal and make a sparkling wine that maybe is outside your area of competence. I'd be inclined to say no thanks. I'll keep doing what I do to tastes come around again. Of course, you may not be able to stay solvent until that happens which is why I would suck at running a winery.
     
  3. May 29, 2019 #23

    KAndr97

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    To be honest, I wouldn't wanna buy any wine made under the table. Whenever someone suggests skirting those regulations, I'm reminded of the hot sauce guy whose house was raided by the feds. I can't find it at the moment but this guy was selling and giving away home made hot sauce on a sauce forum. His house got raided by the feds (unconnected to the sauce I think) and they found his house to be absolutely filthy. Not like clothes on the floor dirty, like infested with vermin and jars of moldy sauce all over his kitchen. That's why when my coworker offered to sell me some of her boyfriend's moonshine, I politely declined.
     
  4. May 29, 2019 #24

    dralarms

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    Dang. That’s just nasty.
     
  5. May 29, 2019 #25

    Scooter68

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    No one is advocating skirting regulations. Hobbyist wine makers like most of us on this board are highly unlikely to be making wine in unsanitary conditions. Wine can develop too many off-tastes too easily and most folks on here are extremely cautious in their entire wine making process. Suggest you read some more threads on here to get a better idea of how careful folks are about the wine making process.

    The point about any governmental regulation is that very often they require record keeping in great detail and re-occurring health checks of anyone involved. Licensing fees alone are the biggest reason for not becoming a legal seller of wine unless you are prepared to go all-in as a winery. A lot of folks give away their wine because they want to. We don't even suggest anyone paying us for the wine. Some people will offer us fruit or other supplies because they would like to try a wine and they don't want to do it themselves.

    And finally - Moonshine is a totally different story - that process does in fact involve some seriously dangerous by-products that can all too easily end up in that bottle plus making ANY amount without a license is illegal anywhere in the US. I know folks do it but on here - we don't discuss it for that same reason.

    As to that sauce guy, if the feds were on his tail... Most reasonable people should already have seen something strange about him if they are around him much at all.
     
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  6. May 29, 2019 #26

    KAndr97

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    I wasn't suggesting that y'all were, but everyone I know IRL thinks that I can just set up a booth at the local farmer's market and raise my finger to the authorities.
     
  7. May 29, 2019 #27

    cmason1957

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    I always ask those folks if they will front me the money for the funds and serve the time for me. After explaining the amount and lengths most will go away and shut up.
     
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  8. May 29, 2019 #28

    Scooter68

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    Yup - And folks suggesting a farmer's market booth are like my nephew who is always looking for and ready to talk about some 'get rich quick' scheme. He's tried several himself with no success. I just thank them for their idea (sometimes) and move on. Hard to enjoy the benefits of a successful scheme when you are behind bars of facing a big fine/lawsuit.
     
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  9. May 30, 2019 #29

    BernardSmith

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    Farmer's markets are a wonderful institution and the ones we have around here are really quite incredible but I don't see anyone making a real living selling what they grow/make at those markets. One of my colleagues has a small farm and she sells vegetables (and some meat) from her farm but her day job is as a member of faculty at the state university. The only way you can end up with a small fortune at a farmer's market is if you start with a large one.
     
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  10. May 31, 2019 #30

    askins3097

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    I’ve had many people offer to buy wine from me. To the point I could probably sell 20-30 cases a year right now without even trying. My wife works in an office with like 900 people. Her office friends love wine lol. I just tell her no, it’s a federal offense, they can have a bottle if they’d like, just bring me the empties.

    As far as doing it legally, there’s a lot of small boutique wineries doing it out of their basement around my area. It’s completely 100% doable for the average person if they take the time to educate themselves on basic business principles. Are you going to get rich and quit your day job? Probably no chance. At least not in Western Pennsylvania. Could you take your hobby to the next level, at least break even and get some level of gratification for your efforts? Regardless of what the naysayers will tell you, Yes, or there wouldn’t be so many people doing it. Some day when I’m closer to retirement it’s an idea I might entertain. Right now I’m too busy with my regular career and plus I still have a lot to learn. I’d like to turn my 10 years of experience into 20-30 before I’d ever consider applying for a license.
     
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  11. May 31, 2019 #31

    CDrew

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    I so hate the idea of turning a hobby into a job. This is a good long term hobby, but if you need to turn a profit, selling to the public, it's a whole different thing.

    It's different if you're 25 and pursue an interest in enology and at 35 establish a winery. For that, I'd say good luck to you. But the idea of having to make a profit in wine starting at age 55 or 60 is pretty daunting.

    And the legal complications are endless.

    With alcohol related things, the feds take it very seriously, and it's not smart to try and slip around the law.
     
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  12. May 31, 2019 #32

    Scooter68

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    CDrew - add to that the different state laws and you have to be certain that you comply with their alcohol license / sales laws AND the Health department, State and Local.

    And then there is that thing about shipping across state lines. Most times when I find a wine or any alcohol drink on-line, I also find that they cannot ship to another state or at least the states I have lived in. (Arkansas and Virginia)

    So you are correct - at the serious commercial level there are methods and limits that would strangle a lot of mom & pop wineries or just make it very challenging. And after all, I retired to enjoy life, not to pick up the sword to do battle with Federal, State, and Local authorities to simply sell wine.
     
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  13. Jun 2, 2019 #33

    KevinL

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    I always told people that it was illegal and if they wanted a bottle just to bring me empties. I was at the point though where I would want to produce more, but really didn't have the money to sink into the hobby. So because I was giving bottles away, my batches would vanish less than a month after they were made. I've always loved sharing the wine with folks.

    Then I read from Wines to Vines, and then started doing serious digging into the regulation. I had a conversation with my wife who told me "good luck with that." I took that as permission to begin.

    I converted an old 100 square foot room off the side of my house into the winery. We opened last October. www.lfvwarrenville.com

    Each state and city varies. Red Tape has been the most frustrating part of it. In the end about 40% of my costs in getting established (To include planting the grapes) was spent satisfying red tape. The first few years were spent researching soil, trellises, grape varieties and winemaking. The next was spent entirely researching red tape.

    Having been through it all I'm thoroughly convinced that the TTB and ILCC do not need to exist. But since they do, it is nice that the people there are generally helpful. It was more time consuming and annoying that actually frustrating. Combine all of it together and that's where the frustration builds.

    For my operation I have about $3,000 annually in overhead (Licenses, Insurance, Website, phone etc.) Considering I make around 7-8$ a bottle profit, I've got to move around 35 cases of wine before I make a dollar. If I manage to cover expenses this year it'll be on the back of fruit wines while the vineyard matures. Once I have a good pipeline going I'll look into aging things a little longer. I think I calculated that even when things are going full speed and if I sell out each year I'll probably be making $2-3 an hour. So definitely not get rich quick. And yes, I still have my day job. I don't anticipate I'll be going full time with this any time in the next two decades.

    It helps that this business is as much my wife's now as it is mine. She runs all of the marketing, website, sales, label design and COLA approval. I have the added benefit of being in my hometown and fairly well connected to the community. I've had help from my family, friends, and the guys at my VFW post. Having started in 2016, this is the first year that we hope to turn a profit. We'll see how it all goes.

    Anyway, I guess my point is if you want to do it, it's possible. There will be some work that you probably won't enjoy. But at the end of the day I find that having a community that is excited about me opening as well as lots of people saying they enjoy the wine is really rewarding.
     
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  14. Jun 2, 2019 #34

    sour_grapes

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    I am just grateful that people don't say to me "You should BUY your wine!" :)
     
  15. Jun 2, 2019 #35

    Scooter68

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    WOW ! That would leave a mark. :s
     
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  16. Jun 3, 2019 #36

    Bkat

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    I think a lot of the obstacle is cultural. Used to be, in places like France, farmers regularly made and sold small batch wine as a side income to everything else they were doing. Since then, even French government has made that more complicated, but there are still a lot more micro-producers in EU than here in the US. Lots of reasons for that but I suspect a big one is, US government doesn't want small producers, so it becomes political.

    In Illinois, liquor distributors hold huge sway over state government and have lobbied hard to prevent craft producers of wine, beer, and spirits from getting any real traction, so cost to enter market is made onerous. Beer is the worst. A few years back, the Wirtz family (they own the Chicago Blackhawks) lobbied for, and got, major restrictions on micro brewers because (wait for it) they would cause the Wirtz family's liquor distribution company immense financial harm. Needless to say, Miller, Budweiser, etc. all supported the effort lest they lose market share to a couple guys making a few hundred gallons of actual beer.
     
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  17. Jun 3, 2019 #37

    Scooter68

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    And state by state the rules vary.

    Anyone from Alabama on here?

    You are legally limited to producing not more than 5 gallons per year.

    Yup for many of the folks on there that's one batch per year. Or five little batches or... You get the picture. Crazy restrictive. Of course who's going to monitor that. Well some states check shipping manifests so if you have a drum of wine base shipped via truck - they can easily track you down. (In Virginia we had a sofa made and shipped to our home there from out of state - in less than a year we got an official letter informing us we had to pay the sales taxes ASAP - States do track such things.)


    Here's the actual code quote:


    Ala. Code §28-4-3

    The laws against possession, transportation or delivery of prohibited liquors shall not apply to the possession of wine or cordial made from grapes or other fruit when the grapes or other fruit are grown by the person making the same for his own domestic use upon his own premises in this state and when such person keeps such wine or cordial for his own domestic use on his own premises in any quantity not exceeding five gallons for one family in 12 months.
     
  18. Jun 4, 2019 #38

    KevinL

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    I do think the culture is changing. A lot of people in my generation are in to the whole local thing. I see the appeal. There's something nice about being able to see where your products are produced for niceties like wine.

    On Illinois, the distributors are a big problem. When I was first started researching this in 2013 I almost wrote off my project. The Illinois General Assembly passed a self-distribution exemption back in 2014 (or 2015?) that allowed for self distribution of up to 5,000 gallons per year. As I operate out of my residence, I'm not worried about ever hitting that mark as far as production (I estimate I'll do 400 gallons in a good year.)

    I currently have the cheapest of Illinois Licenses: the Limited Wine Manufacturer license

    I've spent a lot of time reading the Illinois Liquor control act as I was doing this. The license isn't as restrictive as it originally reads. The limitation to use of Illinois Grown products actually comes in over time and maxes out at 40% of everything I produce after I've been operating for a while. This license was also eligible for a self-distribution exception, which I have. So I'm free to wholesale to any retailer and skip the distributor. I've only done direct to customer at this point though.

    That doesn't mean that the distributors like to be skipped. I've heard in some parts of the state that if Wirtz catches you with something on your shelf that they didn't sell you, then they (being the main game in town) will cut you off and put you out of business unless you keep your shelves stocked with their goods. With the explosion of craft brewing I don't know if that Chicago Mob-style way of doing things has persisted. I haven't tried to get into any grocery or liquor stores yet.

    The biggest limitation with my license is that it does not allow me to do events. That's not an issue now, as I can't seem to keep up with demand. The city park district has asked that I do a tent at events, and I'm already seriously considering upgrading my license to allow me a little more freedom. I probably won't ever do a wine tasting event, but I'm up for showing up at the Local Park District 4th of July and the City Art festival. I'm a bit nervous about upping my overhead at this point though.
     

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