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Winery woes can make your dream a nightmare

LongCliffVineyardOwning a vineyard and winery sounds like a dream: working the fields, crushing the grapes, tasting the product.

But winemakers from the Niagara Wine Trail, brainstorming with U.S. Rep. Kathleen Hochul Monday, aired some of the concerns that make it a bit less romantic to operate in the industry. Things like marketing difficulties and sky-high duties that keep Canadian wine tasters from buying their wine.


The New York State Society of CPAs, in a back issue of its monthly newspaper The Trusted Professional, talked about how CPAs can cater to the winery community. In doing so, it sheds even more light on the difficulties vineyard owners face.

Perhaps the most unpredictable and potentially damaging event for a winery is a crop failure. John Savash wrote:

When vineyard owners . . . suffer subzero temperatures that unexpectedly injure their vines, CPAs have to step up to financial forecasting in an unpredictable, storm-ridden business climate.

There are plenty of other pitfalls as well:

HoneymoonSince vineyards and wineries are among the most important industries in New York state, many CPAs, especially those upstate or on Long Island, are faced with questions about crop failure, internal theft or inconsistent cash flow due to seasonal production. Even when they can’t predict the weather, CPAs must predict the numbers . . . .

“Since production occurs in the winter and peak season occurs in the summer, cash flow issues can be a problem for many wineries,” said Krista Niles, a Rochester CPA.

To cover production costs, these wineries will often take out working capital or short-term loans in the winter, which they will then pay off in the summer, when cash flow is highest, according to Niles.

Since tourism is an important part of the winery business, a good or bad tourist season can, like the weather, significantly affect the success of the winery.

As with most industries, theft can be a big problem when there’s desirable merchandise available for the taking.

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