Guest Blog: So You Want to Start a Winery in Texas
The following exchange appeared on the Yahoo Texas Winegrowers Mailing List at:
I have asked permission from Caris and Jim to post their comments to benefit those considering getting involved or starting up a Texas winery or vineyard that are not currently on the Yahoo list. It called….
How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, or Not !
Guest Blog by Caris Turpin – LightCatcher Winery (http://www.lightcatcher.com)
When Terry and I were pondering the possibility of starting a small winery (and not being wealthy people and having to bootstrap everything) we did long and serious research. This included talking with every winery we could find that was about the size we wanted to be and finding out what worked for them and what didn’t (over a two year period we visited with about 50 winery owners).
We learned the most from failed wineries, and then did a our own considered evaluations about why they failed. In no particular order, this is what we saw:
1. Did not evaluate their marketplace potential or sales niche – didn’t have any understanding of to whom they would be selling, esp. in relationship to their physical location.
2. Did not make the quality of wine necessary to fit a targeted price point and market niche.
3. Did not have the understanding that a commercial winery, by definition, depends on SELLING their wines and that the process of making them is nearly the smallest part of the business equation.
4. Had a romantic vision of being a winery proprietor, without any business plan or acumen.
5. Thought people would beat a path to their door to buy their wines, instead of understanding that you have to make your wines desirable to strangers by virtue of the combination of quality, price and reputation and possibly story, atmosphere and personality. The effort comes FROM you, not TO you.
6. Made only wines the winemaker liked, rather than wines that the local wine buying public would like and value above what they could find at wine shops or even the supermarket.
7. Thought because they were successful in their first career that they’d automatically be successful as a winery proprietor, despite the fact they had no experience in sales or hospitality.
8. Had no idea how to work with and sell to the public. (Wine sales to friends only lasts about 2 minutes into your winery career.) Were awful salespeople, either arrogant or distant.
9. Did nothing to establish, maintain or enhance their reputation, either in community involvement, outside event participation, competitions or trade associations.
10. Location, location, location.
This is my short list, my two cents.
Caris, LightCatcher Winery, Fort Worth, Texas
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Additional comments from Jim Johnson,
Alamosa Wine Cellars (http://www.alamosawinecellars.com)
The only omission that I noticed was that failed marriages tend to lead to failed wineries. I can think of at least two Texas examples and numerous well-publicized California examples. I might also add that a winery owner has to understand that a winery open to the public is a whole lot more about the hospitality business than the wine business. A lot of what Caris talks about could be lumped under an all-inclusive term, “failure to prepare”.
While winemaking is not rocket science, brain surgery or orbital mechanics there are a lot of things that you just have to know, and reading a book or taking a few extension courses is seldom enough to get the job done.
Jim Johnson, Alamosa Wine Cellars Bend, Texas