Starting a Winery Isn’t for Idiots

I've always wondered if the "Complete Idiot's" referred to in "The Complete Idiot's Guide" series referred to the people buying the guides or the people writing them.

However, having had the chance to look over the just published "Complete Idiot's Guide To Starting and Running a Winery" I can now say with some assurance that they don't necessarily refer to the authors.

This is niche publishing at its finest. Let's face it, how many people are really going to be serious enough to want to start their own winery to buy this book? Certainly a few. But, the cool thing is that Thomas Pellechia has written a book that will appeal to and work for those who already have a small winery or brand as well as those contemplating getting into the industry.

Like most of the "Idiot's Guides" I've seen, "Starting and Running a Winery" is incredibly dense and detailed, YET it is not academic or dry. The books author, Pellechia, is a long time author as well as the proprietor of the Vino Fictions" blog. He is also a former winery owner and retail owner. He knows the business inside and out.

The book is broken down in to six distinct parts, each with subsection and includes a great set of resources and forms in its appendix. As I was reading this book, it occurred to me that operations such as CrushPad really should be buying this book in bulk and giving it away to their clients for free. The book is filled with exactly the kind of information that every micro-vintner in America probably ends up scrounging around for or asking others about. Yet here it all is, from the basics of sourcing grapes and interaction with government entities to marketing, public relations and distributor relations.

One of the best things about "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Starting and Running a Winery" is that it will wear well over time. The micro-vintner trend, which this book seems particularly aimed at, isn't ending any time soon and much of the information small vintners need won't change either. And it's all here.

9 Responses

  1. Dale Cruse - December 1, 2008

    I’m waiting for “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Starting and Running a Wine Weblog.”

  2. Chicago Wine - December 1, 2008

    The Just Grapes Wine Blog has tons of info on holiday pairings, gift giving ideas, and when you are ready to buy just the right presents for the wine lovers on your list, head on over to and have it shipped to their door.
    The Just Grapes Wine Blog
    Online Store

  3. Thomas Pellechia - December 1, 2008

    Gee, imagine what a surprise it was for me to pop into Fermentation today.
    Thanks, Tom for your kind words. FYI, the author of this book was an idiot, which is why he made no money after 8 years with his small winery, and how he was able to come up with all that stuff for the book–that, and it helps to have friends in the biz…
    Hey Dale, that’s a great idea: in fact, writing the idiot guide for starting and running a weblog could be quite a collaborative effort! 😉

  4. JohnLopresti - December 1, 2008

    According to my former prof of enology, the work building a winery has morphed into a different world. Most of our textbook model was drawn from the effort he and his brother put forth, 20 ac estate grapes to start thirty+ years ago, now some cabernet sauvignon, cab blank, merlot vineyard blend, plus earlier plantings of riesling, chardonnay, >30ac now, according to their website; very different varieties from what I would expect to see in Canandaigua, NY, close to the winery founding book’s author’s enterprise, where French hybrids usually exhibit superior heartiness to survive much more snow than dusts the ridges of the Napa region. Though, apparently traditional v.vinifera are under cultivation in NY. I have known it is time for a refresher course; sounds like a worthwhile reference book to begin the process of modernizing concepts.

  5. Thomas Pellechia - December 1, 2008

    Things certainly have changed in 30 years, and Vitis vinifera thrives even in the Finger Lakes (I’m at Keuka Lake). The primary varieties here are: Riesling, Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir, and the upcoming Lemberger.
    I started my winery in 1984, using Maynard Amerine, Phillip Wagner, and a few others as my guides. The problem I had was a simple one: I didn’t listen to the guides well enough when they mentioned the part about capitalizing the business. If it was important then, it is extremely important now.
    Tom’s right about the custom crush world. In the book, I talk about that route for those who can’t raise the capital to go at it with full force. It is a good alternative, but it will never fully quench the thirst to be in the thick of things.

  6. susannah - December 1, 2008

    Thanks for the tip about this new book. I second the idea of the guide for wine bloggers.

  7. Dylan - December 2, 2008

    That really is a great niche concept for an “Idiot’s Guide” book. I know said literature helps to pay the bills as well, but I truly consider it to be the final test of someone’s craft. It’s only when you’ve weathered all parts of your passion, that you can pass on your knowledge, and if you can do that successfully, you’ve truly made your mark.

  8. Eliete Da Silva - December 4, 2008

    I´ve just returned from my trip in Mendoza, Argentina. We had an absolute blast at Andeluna Cellars in the Uco Valley, which is one of the most beautiful places I’d ever seen. I´d like to recomend travellers to visit Mendoza´s official website where you can find useful information. Other useful site is where I got most of the addresses to get to the wineries.I´ve recently moved to USA for business and I´m glad to see blogs like this one ! Congratulations for your blog and info on it.
    All the best

  9. Uzi - December 8, 2008

    Good GOD! I found the perfect Hanukkah gift! Now I really feel smart.
    I actualy have a better idiot’s guide. out all your savings.
    2. Buy a paper shredder
    3. insert one single dollar bill at the time in shredder, it is a lot easier with less bottle shock
    4. start a blog and write about it

Leave a Reply