How To Start Your Own Hunterdon County Winery
As the boutique wine business continues to be ever-popular, especially in Hunterdon County, more and more amateur winemakers and wine lovers are asking themselves: Can I start a successful winery?
The short answer is yes, as long as you’re willing to put in the work and time, and hope for a bit of luck. Here’s what to keep in mind if you’re thinking about turning your winemaking dream into a reality.
Stick to what works
The best way to learn how to operate a winery and make wine is to learn from someone who has been doing this for awhile – not just a consultant, but someone who actually works in the vineyards each day. They can help you learn what grape varieties to plant, where to plant them, how to vinify them, and how to sell them.
In some ways, we learned this the hard way when opening Mount Salem Vineyards. We ignored some experts and made our own mistakes in our early years, like not fencing our vineyard before planting vines and not always hiring the right people. We also learned not all experts are actually experts.
Sticking to what works also means if you’re looking to open your winery in Hunterdon County, your dream of creating a successful Cabernet Sauvignon isn’t going to happen. Instead, grow the tried-and-true grape varieties that we now know thrive in this region’s terroir. It’s a luxury we didn’t enjoy here just a few decades ago!
Be prepared to offer top-quality wine
These days, winery owners are tasked less with having to prove Hunterdon County wine is high-quality – the community already knows, which is a stark difference from the situation 20 years ago.
However, that also means that customers expect Hunterdon County wine to be good from the get-go. They won’t settle for a sub-par product.
You’ll encounter both support and resistance
On one hand, Hunterdon County now recognizes that wineries are an important part of the local food movement being embraced in the region, and it’s supporting tourism efforts with tools such as the 579 Trail.
However, on the other hand, there are more state and local regulations and laws for wineries to hurdle, and some communities choose to outright protest wineries due to impact on traffic, crowds, noise and bad behavior by some visitors.
It’s not as much work as you think – because it’s much harder
Often, we meet prospective winery owners who have yet to study and visit wine regions, research what’s involved or raised needed funds. This is a big problem because as we have learned firsthand, winemaking is even more work than you imagine it to be, without all of the fantasy romance.
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But if you’re dedicated to the business and you’re prepared to work hard and learn – each and every growing season – we can’t wait to see you out in the vineyard.
For more information about Mount Salem Vineyards, visit us at 54 Mt Salem Road, Pittstown or contact us at 908-735-9359 or mountsalemvineyards.com.