Get pointers on how to start a winery from those who have done it

Prospective winery owners can learn from the experiences of established winery operators as part of the Michigan Winery Development pre-conference on Feb. 13.

Being part of Michigan’s growing winery industry is an exciting and romantic goal to many, but starting a winery is a great deal of work. Taking into account financial, legal, marketing, and product development considerations, a winery is a fairly complex business. The winery owner has some key decisions to make: where to locate, to buy or grow grapes, what kind of tasting room to have and more.

Fortunately, the industry has evolved with healthy levels of collaboration such as in the formation and maintenance of the state’s promotional wine trails. Many a winery entrepreneur has been mentored by a colleague or helped someone get started. Of those who participated in the 2009 Michigan State University Extension Winery Development Conference, 86 percent indicated that networking with successful winery owners had met one of their objectives in learning about the business.

Doug Oberst, a partner in one of Michigan’s newest wineries, 12 Corners Vineyards, is one of three panelists who will give tips and share experiences as part of the Michigan Winery Development pre-conference on Feb. 13 held in association with the 2013 Michigan Grape and Wine Conference. “I’ve got a list of things to talk about,” says Doug. “Starting this winery has really been a process!” Oberst will be joined by Linda Utter of Flying Otter Winery and Heather Price of Sandhill Crane Vineyards.

The pre-conference will be held 9:30 AM to 3:30 PM at the Kellogg Hotel and Conference Center; Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI 48824. Sponsors are the Michigan Grape and Wine Industry Council, Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, and Michigan State University Extension, Michigan State University Product Center, Michigan State University Institute of Agricultural Technology, and Viticulture and Enology Science and Technology Alliance (VESTA) will provide basic information about starting a winery in Michigan.

For more information or to register for the session, go to: The pre-conference registration fee is $100 per person. The full conference Feb. 14-15 is open to those who wish to learn more.

Did you find this article useful?