The TTB application had been submitted, including the plat (line drawing of the planned facility) and the permit for Bonded Winery Number 15,000NYS had arrived just a few days earlier. All that remained to be accomplished was the New York State Liquor Authority inspection of the property and then the state license.
He was getting close.
It took only months to go from applying to receiving the federal permit to produce and distribute wine. But it was a matter of years from the day he dreamed of developing his 2,000-case winery to this point. In those years, he drank a lot of wine—as studies, of course—and he took a lot of courses in winemaking and related chemistry, not to mention business classes so that he would avoid the pitfalls of operating a small business.
It was excruciating to feel the dream tug at him over the years while he worked at building the capital, the knowledge, and finding the right location for what he had planned to produce to meet what he determined was the right market for his ideas. It was time for the American wine industry to stop this so-called varietal nonsense; at the least, it was time for individual wineries to do so.
He knew that his Cabernet Franc would be like no other Cabernet Franc, so why give it the same name? Why go up against every Cabernet Franc produced in the New World? The wine should speak for itself.
He realized that he would not be allowed to enter his wines into competitions or to send them to critics for free reviews under a varietal name. He also felt that so many people reviewing wines can’t tell what the varietal wine is unless they are told the category or shown the label so what’s the point of their reviews?
He wanted to challenge the notion that any wine must be seen as just one in an already established nomenclature instead of as a stand-alone. Even before he was ready to submit an application for a permit, he had decided on both the varieties he would grow and how he would develop the proprietary names for his wines. He would pick a trait or two from each variety’s characteristics and then settle on a name for the wine that reflected those characteristics as closely or as vaguely as he saw fit.
His market, he decided, included consumers willing to let his winemaking and his wines speak for themselves and not be judged against anyone else’s version. His hope was to simultaneously appeal to consumers and confuse the critics.
He was so close to fulfilling the dream of romantic notions; of a connection with the history of civilization; of the chance to be with the land; of using his hands as well as his head, to craft a product that is food for body and spirit. It was only a matter of a few hours before the New York State Liquor Authority inspector would come, make the rounds, and then sign off on the application. What could go wrong?
Later that day, he answered the front door bell.
Standing on the other side of the door a man in uniform, complete with a holster and a handgun, said, “Hello. I’m inspector McHugh from the New York State Liquor Authority’s Buffalo compliance office. I’m here to inspect your proposed winery location.”
Staring at the gun, he asked the inspector, without thinking, “If I fail the inspection, will you shoot me?”
And so, the romance of owning his winery had begun.
Or had it ended?
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Copyright Thomas Pellechia
April 2010. All rights reserved.