There are currently over 6,000 wineries, both real and virtual in the US. (You may be wondering just what is a virtual winery? More on that later.) There are currently four options available for getting into this growing industry for those who have the desire.
The first is the classic avenue that has been the most common one for most of our history, the bonded winery. This is for those who are actually going to build a physical “brick and mortar” structure to make the wine in and then sell that wine.
The second route is for those who have a desire to make and sell their own wines, but are not quite ready to make the financial investment into having one built or purchasing an existing one. In this case they become qualified with the TTB (federal government) as what is called an alternating proprietor and then enter into an agreement/contract with an existing bonded winery to share their space and make their wines there.
The third option for getting in is the one that has grown dramatically especially in the past 10 years. This is the category of the custom crush client, also sometimes known as wholesalers. They and the alternating proprietors are the “virtual” wineries I was referring to earlier. A custom crush client becomes qualified as a wholesaler with the TTB and enters into an agreement with a bonded winery to have their wines made, then takes the finished product and goes out and sells it.
The final option is a category that has also become more common in more recent times. This is the bonded wine cellar. A bonded wine cellar is not allowed to actually ferment wine on its site. Instead they store, blend and bottle finished wines. Many wineries have come upon space demand issues in the past decade as their business has grown and so they then had a need to send some of their wines to these bonded wine cellar sites for temporary storage.
There are a wider variety of avenues for getting started in the wine industry than many would possibly guess. It is essentially an open avenue to anyone with a desire to make or have made their own brand of wine. This does in large part explain the rapid increase in the numbers in just the past 5 years. For more information on the TTB’s requirements for getting in, go to: http://ttb.gov/wine