How to Start a Winery

start a winery

Starting a winery can be very profitable. With proper planning, execution and hard work, you can enjoy great success. Below you will learn the keys to launching a successful winery.

Importantly, a critical step in starting a winery is to complete your business plan. To help you out, you should download Growthink’s Ultimate Business Plan Template here.

14 Steps To Start a Winery:

  1. Choose the Name for Your Winery
  2. Develop Your Winery Business Plan
  3. Choose the Legal Structure for Your Winery
  4. Secure Startup Funding for Your Winery (If Needed)
  5. Secure a Location for Your Business
  6. Register Your Winery with the IRS
  7. Open a Business Bank Account
  8. Get a Business Credit Card
  9. Get the Required Business Licenses and Permits
  10. Get Business Insurance for Your Winery
  11. Buy or Lease the Right Winery Equipment
  12. Develop Your Winery Marketing Materials
  13. Purchase and Setup the Software Needed to Run Your Winery
  14. Open for Business


1. Choose the Name for Your Winery

The first step to starting a winery is to choose your business’ name.  

This is a very important choice since your company name is your brand and will last for the lifetime of your business. Ideally you choose a name that is meaningful and memorable. Here are some tips for choosing a name for your winery:

  1. Make sure the name is available. Check your desired name against trademark databases and your state’s list of registered business names to see if it’s available. Also check to see if a suitable domain name is available.
  2. Keep it simple. The best names are usually ones that are easy to remember, pronounce and spell.
  3. Think about marketing. Come up with a name that reflects the desired brand and/or focus of your new wine business.


2. Develop Your Winery Business Plan

One of the most important steps in starting a winery is to develop your business plan. The process of creating your plan ensures that you fully understand your market and your business strategy. The plan also provides you with a roadmap to follow and if needed, to present to funding sources to raise capital for your business.

Your business plan should include the following sections:

  1. Executive Summary – this section should summarize your entire business plan so readers can quickly understand the key details of your winery.
  2. Company Overview – this section tells the reader about the history of your winery and what type of winery you operate. For example, are you an estate winery, farmstead winery, or a custom crush winery?
  3. Industry Analysis – here you will document key information about the winery industry. Conduct market research and document how big the industry is and what trends are affecting it.
  4. Customer Analysis – in this section, you will document who your ideal or target audience are and their demographics. For example, how old are they? Where do they live? What do they find important when purchasing products like the ones you will offer?
  5. Competitive Analysis – here you will document the key direct and indirect competitors you will face and how you will build competitive advantage.
  6. Marketing Plan – your marketing plan should address the 4Ps: Product, Price, Promotions and Place.
    • Product: Determine and document what products/services you will offer 
    • Prices: Document the prices of your products/services
    • Place: Where will your business be located and how will that location help you increase sales?
    • Promotions: What promotional methods will you use to attract customers to your winery? For example, you might decide to use pay-per-click advertising, public relations, search engine optimization and/or social media marketing.
  1. Operations Plan – here you will determine the key processes you will need to run your day-to-day operations. You will also determine your staffing needs. Finally, in this section of your plan, you will create a projected growth timeline showing the milestones you hope to achieve in the coming years.
  2. Management Team – this section details the background of your company’s management team.
  3. Financial Plan – finally, the financial plan answers questions including the following:
    • What startup costs will you incur?
    • How will your winery make money?
    • What are your projected sales and expenses for the next five years?
    • Do you need to raise funding to launch your business?


3. Choose the Legal Structure for Your Winery

Next you need to choose a legal structure for your own wine industry and register it and your business name with the Secretary of State in each state where you operate your business.

Below are the five most common legal structures:

1) Sole proprietorship

A sole proprietorship is a business entity in which the vineyard owner and the business are the same legal person. The owner of a sole proprietorship is responsible for all debts and obligations of the business. There are no formalities required to establish a sole proprietorship, and it is easy to set up and operate. The main advantage of a sole proprietorship is that it is simple and inexpensive to establish. The main disadvantage is that the owner is liable for all debts and obligations of the business.

2) Partnerships

A partnership is a legal structure that is popular among small business owners. It is an agreement between two or more people who want to start a winery together. The partners share in the profits and losses of the business. 

The advantages of a partnership are that it is easy to set up, and the partners share in the profits and losses of the business. The disadvantages of a partnership are that the partners are jointly liable for the debts of the business, and disagreements between partners can be difficult to resolve.

3) Limited Liability Company (LLC)

A limited liability company, or LLC, is a type of business entity that provides limited liability to its owners. This means that the owners of an LLC are not personally responsible for the debts and liabilities of the business. The advantages of an LLC for a winery include flexibility in management, pass-through taxation (avoids double taxation as explained below), and limited personal liability. The disadvantages of an LLC include lack of availability in some states and self-employment taxes.

4) C Corporation

A C Corporation is a business entity that is separate from its owners. It has its own tax ID and can have shareholders. The main advantage of a C Corporation for a winery is that it offers limited liability to its owners. This means that the owners are not personally responsible for the debts and liabilities of the business. The disadvantage is that C Corporations are subject to double taxation. This means that the corporation pays taxes on its profits, and the shareholders also pay taxes on their dividends.

5) S Corporation

An S Corporation is a type of corporation that provides its owners with limited liability protection and allows them to pass their business income through to their personal income tax returns, thus avoiding double taxation. There are several limitations on S Corporations including the number of shareholders they can have among others.

Once you register your winery, your state will send you your official “Articles of Incorporation.” You will need this among other documentation when establishing your banking account (see below). We recommend that you consult an attorney in determining which legal structure is best suited for your company.


4. Secure Startup Funding for Your Winery (If Needed)

In developing your winery business plan, you might have determined that you need to raise funding to launch your business. 

If so, the main sources of funding for a winery to consider are personal savings, family and friends, credit card financing, bank loans, crowdfunding and angel investors. Angel investors are individuals who provide capital to early-stage businesses. Angel investors typically will invest in a winery that they believe has high potential for growth.


5. Secure a Location for Your Business

There are a few things you need to take into account when finding a suitable location for your own winery. You’ll want to make sure the climate is right for growing grapes, that the area has enough rainfall, and that there is good soil quality. You should also look for an area with a lot of tourists, as this can help boost sales.


6. Register Your Winery with the IRS

Next, you need to register your business with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) which will result in the IRS issuing you an Employer Identification Number (EIN).

Most banks will require you to have an EIN in order to open up an account. In addition, in order to hire employees, you will need an EIN since that is how the IRS tracks your payroll tax payments.

Note that if you are a sole proprietor without employees, you generally do not need to get an EIN. Rather, you would use your social security number (instead of your EIN) as your taxpayer identification number.


7. Open a Business Bank Account

It is important to establish a bank account in your winery’s name. This process is fairly simple and involves the following steps:

  1. Identify and contact the bank you want to use
  2. Gather and present the required documents (generally include your company’s Articles of Incorporation, driver’s license or passport, and proof of address)
  3. Complete the bank’s application form and provide all relevant information
  4. Meet with a banker to discuss your business needs and establish a relationship with them
If you’d like to quickly and easily complete your business plan, download Growthink’s Ultimate Business Plan Template and complete your business plan and financial model in hours.

8. Get a Business Credit Card

You should get a business credit card for your winery to help you separate personal and business expenses.

You can either apply for a business credit card through your bank or apply for one through a credit card company.

When you’re applying for a business credit card, you’ll need to provide some information about your business. This includes the name of your business, the address of your business, and the type of business you’re running. You’ll also need to provide some information about yourself, including your name, Social Security number, and date of birth.

Once you’ve been approved for a business credit card, you’ll be able to use it to make purchases for your business. You can also use it to build your credit history which could be very important in securing loans and getting credit lines for your business in the future.


9. Get the Required Business Licenses and Permits

To start a winery, you will need a winery license from the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) to produce wine for sale. You will also need a permit from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to make wine.

There may be additional licenses and permits needed in your area. You can contact your local city or county government to find out other business licenses and permits that you will need.


10. Get Business Insurance for Your Winery

The type of insurance needed to operate a winery can vary depending on the size and scope of your business. 

Business insurance policies that you should consider for your winery include:

  • General liability insurance: This covers accidents and injuries that occur on your property. It also covers damages caused by your employees or products.
  • Auto insurance: If a vehicle is used in your business, this type of insurance will cover if a vehicle is damaged or stolen.
  • Workers’ compensation insurance: If you have employees, this type of policy works with your general liability policy to protect against workplace injuries and accidents. It also covers medical expenses and lost wages.
  • Commercial property insurance: This covers damage to your property caused by fire, theft, or vandalism.
  • Business interruption insurance: This covers lost income and expenses if your business is forced to close due to a covered event.
  • Professional liability insurance: This protects your business against claims of professional negligence.

Find an insurance agent, tell them about your business and its needs, and they will recommend policies that fit those needs. 


11. Buy or Lease the Right Winery Equipment

Some basic farming  equipment you will need to run a winery includes: 

  • a vat for fermenting the wine
  • a press for extracting the juice from the grapes 
  • tubing
  • hoses for transferring the wine 
  • oak barrels 
  • wine bottles
  • corks for bottling
  • grape crushers 
  • wine tanks 
  • pumps
  • filters


12. Develop Your Winery Marketing Materials

Marketing materials will be required to attract and retain customers to your winery.

The key marketing materials you will need are as follows:

  1. Logo: Spend some time developing a good logo for your winery. Your logo will be printed on company stationery, business cards, marketing materials and so forth. The right logo can increase customer trust and awareness of your brand.
  2. Website: Likewise, a professional winery website provides potential customers with information about the products you offer, your company’s history, and contact information. Importantly, remember that the look and feel of your website will affect how customers perceive you.
  3. Social Media Accounts: establish social media accounts in your company’s name. Accounts on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and/or other social media networks will help customers and others find and interact with your winery.


13. Purchase and Setup the Software Needed to Run Your Winery

To run a winery, you need software that can help you manage your inventory, track sales and shipments, and create wine labels and other marketing materials. There are many options available for this software, depending on your winery’s needs.

For a small winery that sells to a few retailers and restaurants or wine bars, a basic point of sale (POS) system may be sufficient. These systems can track sales, inventory, labor hours, and product costs. Because of the low monthly fee associated with these systems, they may also include invoicing and other basic marketing tools.

For medium to larger wineries, you may want a system that includes advanced inventory management. These systems can help your staff easily track what products are available for sale, where they are in the wine production process, and when they were bottled (to help meet required bottle aging information). Many of these systems are highly customizable, making it easier to manage the particulars of your winery.


14. Open for Business

You are now ready to open your winery. If you followed the steps above, you should be in a great position to build a successful business. Below are answers to frequently asked questions that might further help you.


Additional Resources

Winery Mavericks


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How to Start a Winery FAQs

It’s not hard to start a winery. There are few things to consider when opening a wine business, from the cost of materials and equipment to the location of your vineyard. You'll also need to have a strong marketing and sales plan in place to make your venture successful.

There are a few ways to start a winery with no experience. One way is to do some research on the winemaking process. There are many resources available online. You can also attend wine tastings and winemaking workshops to get a better understanding of the process. Additionally, you can speak with experienced winery owners for advice.

The most profitable type of winery is a boutique winery. A boutique winery produces a limited number of cases per year, typically between 500 and 5,000 cases. They focus on high-quality wine making, using only the best grapes. Because they produce such a small amount of wine, their wines are often in high demand and command a high price.

The cost of starting a winery can vary greatly depending on the size and scope of the business. However, on average, it costs around $75,000 to get a winery up and running. This includes the cost of land, equipment, licenses, and startup expenses.

The bulk of ongoing expenses for a winery are those related to the production of the wine. In order to produce wine, you will need to purchase grapes, oak barrels, and other ingredients. You will also need to pay for labor, packaging, and shipping.

A winery makes money by producing wine, selling wine, and hosting events. Wine is sold wholesale to restaurants, liquor stores, and other retailers. Wines can also be sold directly to consumers through the winery's tasting room, online store, or by mail order. Some wineries also offer food service, retail items, or lodging. Events such as weddings, parties, and corporate events are also popular at wineries and can be a source of income.

Yes, owning a winery can be profitable if you manage it well. There are a few things to keep in mind when running a winery, such as keeping track of your expenses and revenue, making sure you have a good marketing strategy, and maintaining your wine inventory. If you can stay on top of these things, your winery can be a successful business venture.

Most wineries fail because they do not have a solid business plan in place. They may not have the proper marketing and distribution strategies, or they may not produce a high-quality product. Many wineries also fail because they do not budget properly and end up going bankrupt.


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