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Newcomers Sessions 2011
Terry Sullivan

Interested in starting a winery or planting a vineyard? The Wineries Unlimited Newcomers Sessions gave some ideas to think about. Some of the audience in the sessions already have a winery, however the bulk of the audience have vineyards. There were a few attendees interested in starting a vineyard and/or winery.

The format of the Newcomers Sessions was a series of presentations averaging between 20 and 30 minutes. Most presenters used slides to accommodate their presentation. Dave Barber talked about the 400 years of East Coast wine history. There were successes and failures since the 1500s. Now, every state in the eastern part of the country has wineries.

John Levenberg discussed what newcomers should and shouldn’t do. His most important point was the importance of planning prior to spending a single dime. In addition to making wine, John also advises people interested in starting a winery. He pointed out that someone who wants to start a winery making premium red and white wines will need to commit a little under $325,000 not including a building, labor and bottling. John advises that if one does not have the upfront capital, it would be best to alter one's goals. For example one could trim start-up costs by almost $100,000 by beginning to produce only premium white wines. John strongly suggested that corners should not be cut by reducing the size and quality of equipment.

A group of speakers addressed alternatives to stand-alone wineries. These alternatives could be helpful for those who have a dream of beginning a winery but may not have the capital needed to do it right from the beginning. April Roof discussed legal compliance and guidelines. At times it seemed like she was pitching her law firm, however she nicely illustrated the similiarities and differences between custom crush and alternating proprieterships. In brief, at a custom crush facility the client discusses what type of wine to make and may or may not provide the grapes. The facility makes the wine and then turns it over to the client. The alternating proprietership process is different. The client provides the grapes, winemaker, yeasts, additives and barrels. The facility provides the building and equipment. After the wine has aged the client bottles and takes the wine.

The next several speakers gave examples of custom crush and alternating proprieterships. These sessions became repetitive and the four speakers could have covered the same material more efficiently in only two sessions.
Those interested in starting a winery need to do their research. Create goals and figure costs before spending any money. If sufficient funds are not available, consider custom crush and alternating proprietership options.

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