Proposed Legislation Could Help Wineries Grow

Wisconsin wineries could be expanding under a proposal being considered in the state Legislature.

In a couple of months, the grapes at Wollersheim Winery, near Sauk Prairie, will be used to make ice wine, and the owners hope that by then, new laws to help their business expand will have ripened on the legislative vine.

Currently, vineyards can only hold one retail license, so opening a restaurant or other sales locations isn’t an option.

“We haven?t really considered other stores because it wasn’t possible with the law,” said Julie Coquard, co-owner of Wollersheim Winery. “We have thought about having a restaurant on site. That would be very nice for people to not only be able to eat here when they come visit the winery, but also be able to enjoy wine.”

Under the bill, each winery could be granted up to six retail liquor licenses. Lawmakers behind the legislation said it’s an opportunity to help wineries increase their sales and employee more people.

State Sen. Frank Lasee represents Door County, where wineries are hoping to grow.

“I think that the wine industry in Wisconsin is expanding and looking to expand, and this will help them do that,” said Lasee.

The proposed update to the laws is a welcome change winemakers hope to enjoy one glass at a time.

“I think there are a lot of laws on the books that have been there for a long time in terms of wineries, and I don’t think they necessarily fit the current culture today,” said Coquard. “I think it would really benefit everyone if we were able to not be limited to only one store per winery but branch out a bit.”

Coquard said there are other laws that get in the way of expansion. For instance, if a large event purchases 200 bottles of wine, but only uses 150, the unused bottles cannot be returned. Because of that, people often purchase less wine and end up running out.

Coquard said she is happy to see the license issue finally being addressed. The proposed bill hasn’t hit the floor yet, but Lasee said he hopes when it does, it will help wineries around the state, not just those near his district.