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Starting a Winery in California

Prospective clients often ask, what do I need to do to start a winery?

A threshold question you must ask is whether you can actually operate a winery under the local laws/regulations where the proposed winery is going to be located.  Some counties are very restrictive, such as Napa and even Riverside County, other counties are extemely permissive and easy to work with, as long as the zoning and public safety requirements are met.  Assuming your property meets the local requirements and is within a zone that permits the operation of a winery you should do the following.

Step 1: Write up a business plan.

Step 2: Form a corporation.  Generally, forming an LLC is a bad idea for wineries on multiple grounds in that successful wineries can pay substantially more in taxes under the LLC form.  You also want to make sure that certain powers are granted to the officers in the corporate documents, thus, its important to have an experienced lawyer assist you.  Do not use the "do-it-yourself" services or accountants, unless you want to "do-it-over."

Step 3: Obtain your TTB Permit.  The following application forms and related information must be submitted to TTB’s National Revenue Center:

  • Application to Establish and Operate Wine Premises Form 5120.25
  • Application for Basic Permit Under the FAA Act Form 5100.24
  • Wine Bond Form 5120.36
  • Environmental Information Form 5000.29
  • Supplemental Information on Water Quality Considerations Form 5000.30
  • Signature Authority:
    • Power of Attorney Form 5000.8, or
    • Signing Authority for Corporate and LLC Officials Form 5100.1, or
    • Signing Authority in Organizational Documents
  • Special Tax Registration Form 5630.5 (Registration only – No Tax Due)
  • Trade Name Registration for the company’s Operating Trade Name and any additional Bottling Trade Names
  • Diagram of bonded wine premises from all alternating proprietor hosts and tenants. A diagram is not required from non-alternating applicants, but it is quite helpful during TTB’s processing of your application.
  • Alternating Proprietor agreement or contract, if alternating
  • Lease agreement, if any
  • Organizational documents (articles of incorporation, partnership agreement, etc), as applicable

Step 4: Obatin your State License. The following application forms and related information must be submitted to the appropriate ABC Office: