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Sarah Ward

How to Open a Winery: 3 Key Steps to the Wine Business

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For the true wine lovers out there, sometimes only drinking wine and learning about the history and depth of this fermented delight isn’t enough. Maybe you’ve learned all you can from watching wine movies, and you want more. Maybe you're even thinking about taking some sommelier classes.

Maybe you’re looking to combine your passion for wine with a thriving business opportunity with some wine marketing. Learning the process of buying a winery and opening a winery to make some wine sales and sell wine by the glass could be your next step.

Whatever your motivation is, opening a winery is a great, albeit daunting task for any wine lover and entrepreneur. There are several paths you can take when learning about running a winery. The first thing you should do is learn the answer to, what is a winery? From there, you can move into the intricacies of a winery business.

Learning how to start a winery, and then actually opening up your doors, is a long process. There are college degrees you can obtain, experts you can talk to (like someone from the court of master sommeliers), hands-on experience you need, and so much more. If this is a path you’re interested in, prepare yourself for years of hard work.

That said, try not to be too daunted by the process of owning and operating a winery. Yes, it’s something that will take a lot of time, work, knowledge, and commitment. You could say the same for any dream and goal of this caliber, though Let’s see what it’s all about!

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Starting a Winery

When it comes to starting a winery, there are a few different ways to go about it. Your options include:

  • Starting from the ground up with a new site
  • Buying and recycling an old piece of property
  • Purchasing and revamping an existing winery

Of those options, the third may be the easiest. If you want to go through the entire process of, the first two are great choices.

That said, no matter which option you choose, there are some things you’ll need to take into account. Even if you take over a current winery, you’ll need to know what you’re getting into. You'll also still need your own business plan (similar to a restaurant business plan) and a lot of industry knowledge. 

"Key Takeaway: Learning how to start a winery, and then actually opening up your doors, is a long process. There are college degrees you can obtain, experts you can talk to, hands-on experience you need

The list of things you’ll need to know and prepare for includes:

  • Checking out potential locations
  • Creating your business plan
  • Analyzing your climate 
  • Checking out your property
  • Optimizing your soil
  • Choosing your vine count
  • Deciding on your wine varietals
  • Purchasing and planting your vines (the process to buy grape vines takes a hefty amount of research)
  • Setting up your marketing plan (including a wholesale marketing plan) to sell cases of wine
  • Getting familiar with all laws and regulations (including ones about selling alcoholic beverages and online wine sales)
  • Finding your distribution plan
  • Designing your winery space
  • Preparing your wine storage
  • Setting up for social events, tastings, and more
  • Choosing a POS system

Yes, that is a long list. If you want to go all the way to opening a winery, there’s a lot you’ll need to do. Rest assured, however, that the final product is worth it.

Cost to Open a Winery

Similar to learning how to open a bar or restaurant, opening a winery isn’t cheap. In most instances, you can expect to spend a minimum of $600,000 for all your startup costs.

Of course, you may be able to get away with spending less if you really work your budget and you open a small winery. That said, you should go into this project expecting to spend quite a bit. Even for a small business model, opening and operating a winery isn't cheap. You'll most likely want investors, and a credit card with a high limit.

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What Equipment Do I Need to Start a Winery?

The list of equipment you’ll need to start a winery is, well, a long list. Of course, if you’re buying an existing winery, there will be less you’ll need to get started.

That said, we’ll give you the full list, or at least a general overview to get you started. There will be other things that come up along the way, such as learning how to clean a wine decanter. This list will be as extensive as a bar supplies list often is. It's everything you need to produce the wine you want to sell.

For the winemaking process, you’ll need:

  • Bag in box supplies
  • Automatic bottle washers
  • Bottle washer drain tables
  • Bottle washer tray growlers
  • Cleaning station key and carboy
  • Sinks
  • Chillers
  • Winemaking systems
  • Wine presses and destemmers
  • Stainless steel fustis
  • Filters
  • Winemaking accessories
  • Corker 
  • Capper
  • Bottle filler
  • Heat shrink tunnel
  • Aerator equipment
  • Labeler
  • Stainless steel tanks
  • Tank accessories
  • Pumps
  • Airlocks
  • Taps

You’ll have your work cut out for you simply getting all that equipment. A lot of your winery budget will come from making sure you have the best equipment.

In fact, your budget for equipment will cover even more than this list, because this is just for the winemaking process. You’ll still need to think about the design of your winery, and the items you’ll need for tastings (like wine aerators and wine decanters) and other events.

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Those customer-facing items you should look into include:

  • Glassware
  • Seating areas
  • Decor
  • Wine bottle displays
  • Serving area accessories

As you develop your winery, you’re sure to find even more equipment that will help you along.

Frequently Asked Questions About Opening a Winery

Owning and operating a winery is a process with a lot of moving parts. There are so many questions you’ll want to find answers to before you begin your winery journey. Reaching out to experts and current winery owners and workers will be helpful as you go along. For now, we’ll answer a few common questions to get you started.

Is Owning a Winery Profitable?

Wineries are profitable in the same way that bars and restaurants are profitable. The profits will come rolling in, but it can take time to get to that profitable mark. That said, between the sales of individual bottles and selling to major distributors, wineries have the potential to become hugely profitable over time. In recent years, virtual wine events have also become a way of increasing profits.

How Do I Start a Small Winery?

If you have winery goals, but you’re not looking to take over the wine world, a small winery ideal for friends and family might be right for you. To start a small winery, you’ll still need the equipment and planning outlined in this article. However, you can do it all on a smaller level. Start with your existing budget and scale to the winery you want. Starting a small winery is often a great step in the right direction for aspiring vintners who aren't quite looking to buy land in Napa Valley.

How is the Wine Industry Doing?

If you’re looking to make sure a winery will be a good investment as a business, you’ll want to do some more digging. To wet your whistle, we’ll let you know that in 2021, premium wine sales grew by 21%.

As 2022 moves along, those numbers are looking even better. This isn’t really a surprise; it’s common knowledge that many people love wine! 

How Much Money Do Vineyard Owners Make?

This is a question with a lot of variables leading to the answer. On average, “A 35-acre vineyard earning an annual return of $2,500 per acre will see a profit of approximately $88,000” (TRUiC). If you’re looking for an answer about how much you’ll be able to make, it’ll depend on the size of your winery or vineyard. 

How Much Is a Winery Worth?

This question is another one with an open ending. It depends on the size of the winery, the location, the wine produced there, and many other factors.

One example we can look at is the Delicato Family Wines acquisition of Francis Ford Coppola Winery property and business in 2021. It is estimated that Delicato paid over $500 million for the acquisition.

Of course, Coppola is a huge name in wine, so this number is higher than average. That said, it’s a nice one to start with to get a feel for winery worth.

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How to Open a Winery: Time for a Tasting

If you’re looking to open a winery, you’ve got a long, busy road ahead. Opening a winery is comparable to opening a bar or restaurant, a garden, and a farm–all in one. That doesn’t even include the prospect of working with wholesalers (including B2B wholesale options) and distributors to get your wine out to a wider audience. 

For more information about opening a business, BinWise has articles on restaurant operations and bar business profits to give you some backup information. While those sorts of articles won’t relate directly to a winery business, they do have similar helpful information. 

You should also keep an eye out for more articles on winery businesses coming up on the BinWise blog. When it comes time to open your winery, after you’ve got your wine bottle labels approved, and your location picked-see this NY Times article-come back to BinWise for inventory support. We'll help you with discussions around how wine tastes, setting up a tasting room, working with the alcohol and tobacco tax and trade bureau, and everything to do with opening a wine business.

With a barcode scanner app for inventory and other inventory support, BinWise can help you get your wine organization and sales up and running. If you’re ready to get started with BinWise, book a demo today to learn more.

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