There are as many reasons to start a new winery as their are wineries! There is no simple answer to that question, but in this post I will talk about the reasons you might want to start one. For me it was my passion to do something with my hands and not sit behind a desk the rest of my life. I was fairly restless working at Microsoft back in the late 1990′s and I kept wondering if there was something else I could do with my life, then I had the epiphany when I took the grape growing class Bainbridge Island Vineyard in 1998. But before that I was already on a trajectory with alcoholic beverages and my passion about homebrewing. By that time, I had been brewing beer at home for about 8 years and I would not have met Becky if it weren’t for beer (we met on an organized pub crawl!). At first, like many that get into winemaking, I didn’t think long term about what I was going to do with this thing. I just knew that I was really, really into growing grapes and making wine. As with many, one thing leads to another and voila! I own a winery.
To me, there can be several key reasons to start a winery. The wine business, like other “arts” tends to attract a lot of people that are looking to get out of what they are currently doing (like I was, sitting in a cubicle all day long) and get into the “fun” of the wine business. There are many ways to quench that thirst rather than start a winery, but a few of us opt to go all the way and make wine as a business. As I started to mention, many start a small winery as an offshoot from a hobby gone crazy. This is basically how I started and I think a large percentage of people start small wineries this way. For me, I made the legal limit of wine (200 gallons) and was looking for a way to turn it into a business. Many people say to themselves, I’m making all this wine, why can’t I just sell it? It’s not hard to make the leap to 500 cases of wine if you already have the equipment to do 100 cases. Just fill out the required paperwork for the federal and state governments and you are in business! We’ll talk later about the hardest part of the wine business, which is selling it!
There are many hobby wineries that never have the intention of making money. A few people start wineries as a deliberate business plan to make money. This can work, especially if you get all the pieces in place and you know what you are doing before you get started. Many small wineries owners do not know the in’s and out’s of the wine business and make mistakes early on. I have seen many wineries fail from lack of funding and other missteps along the way. Making money in the wine business is a tough proposition and can take way more time than other businesses do. Plus the capital investment up front is huge and it is tied up in equipment and wine for many years before you see a profit.
Starting any small business can be tough on a relationship, especially if you are married so I highly recommend that you have your partner’s complete stamp of approval before you start a winery. Many couples get into together as a way to share a passion about something they both love. This is especially fun to do when the children are older and you have more spare time on your hands. Don’t do it the way I did and start a winery when you have babies running around the house. My timing could’ve been a little different and less stressful.
Sometimes people start wineries as a vanity project. Look here! I’ve made it in the world and now I own a winery! Probably not as common as other ways that people get into starting a winery, but it does happen quite frequently. Many times these projects are driven by money and an ego. Most of the time these projects are not necessarily meant to make money.
Well, I’ve covered several reasons why people start a small winery. It’s not always clear cut and many times people don’t set out to make money at it. Many times these wineries are a side business to their main job and are just a hobby gone crazy. It’s tough to make a living on a winery if you don’t make enough wine and work at it full time. Keep that in mind. Also, if you run a vineyard it eats away a lot of time selling wine. Just ask me about that! Either way you cut it, you must be very passionate about running a small winery and wine in general if you are to succeed!