Starting a Commercial Winery

This section covers the basic steps you must take to start a commercial winery. In addition, you will also need to consider contracts for purchasing grapes or custom crushing, trademarks, wine label approval, getting land valued as farm use for tax purposes, local health department compliance, distributor relationships, and employer issues.

Before starting a winery:

Steps to Permitting a Winery

Approval will likely be given in the following order, but you will want to call the appropriate offices immediately to receive forms and instructions at the same time.

  1. Contact the federal Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) for forms.
    Darlene M. Brown
    P. O. Box 25641, Fayetteville, NC 28314
    Phone: (910) 878-1500, Fax: (910) 848-1541, Cell: (202) 997-7376

    Wayne Milstead
    Tax Audit Division
    North Carolina TTB Field Office
    1801 Stanley Road, Suite 210, Greensboro, NC 27407
    Phone: (336) 547-0837, Fax: (336) 852-9306, Cell: (202) 997-7363
    Product Compliance: (202) 927-8130/8140, Special Occupational Tax: (800) 937-8864, TTB National Revenue Center: (877) TTB-FAQS (882-3277)

    Call for instructions and forms to obtain:
  2. Corporations, Limited Liability companies, and Limited Partnerships must register with N.C. Secretary of State at (919) 807-2000. You must determine type of ownership and obtain appropriate Articles of Corporation, operating agreement, etc. For more information on registering your business, visit the Start Your Business area of our website
  3. Obtain licenses from the following:
    • City Wine License from your local city hall, if within city limits
    • County Wine License from your County Courthouse Tax Collector Division
    • State Wine Tax License from N.C. Department of Revenue: (919) 733-3641 
  4. Contact N.C. Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission (ABC) at (919) 779-0700 ext. 227 to obtain:
    • See ABC Permits for Wineries for a list of winery-related ABC permits.
    • Resident Unfortified Winery Permit ("on" or "off" premises) A Resident Limited Winery Permit is not necessary: ABC will allow you to sample wines at your winery without this even though the legislation doesn't specify this.
    • Winery Special Event Permit if you will hold tastings and sales by glass or bottle in approved public places that do not necessarily have "on-premise" permits.
    • Label approval applications and Distribution Agreement Forms
    • Submit to ABC:
      • Applications and supporting materials for applicable permits as listed above
      • Wine analysis for each label (each type wine, vintage additions or deletions, not changes)
      • Label approval form for each label (each type wine, vintage as above)
      • Distribution Agreement Filing Form (ask your attorney about franchise law in Article 12)
      • Vendor Representative Permit for each person physically selling or soliciting orders 
  5. Contact NC Department of Revenue at (919) 733-3641 for Revenue License and instructions for submitting monthly shipment reports (regardless of sales). Sales Tax Guide for Agricultural Products
  6. View or order copies of the following: Alcoholic Beverage Control Laws of N.C. (order form available from ABC), N.C. Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission Rules, and Code of Federal Regulations, 27 CFR Parts 1, 6, 8, 11, 9, and 240.
  7. See Winery Waste Disposal Permits for resources that will help you develop a winery wastewater management plan to ensure compliance with environmental legislation as well as with our state.
  8. See Legal Issues & Direct Shipping for information and resources about legal and shipping regulations affecting the winemaking industry.
  9. Register for UPC barcodes: Wineries selling wine in retail stores will most likely need UPC barcodes for their wines.  UPCs (Universal Product Codes) can be obtained through GS1 US, a nonprofit organization that regulates the codes.  Wineries must register with GS1 US to receive your own identification number for your UPCs.  An application fee and annual fee are required and vary depending on your business revenue and number of products.  For more information, contact GS1 US at 937-435-3870 or info@gs1us.org.

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