Home > Uncategorized > Wine Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous: The Truth About Owning a Winery

Wine Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous: The Truth About Owning a Winery

The Glamorous Life of a Vintner: Don Scrubs the Toilet

Thanks once again Don Phelps of Hard Row to Hoe in Chelan WA for joining me for another guest blog post in my “Ask a Vintner” series. This one’s a good one folks. Pour yourself a glass of wine.

Seattle Wine Gal:

“So Don, What is it like to own a winery? It seems so glamorous! Out in the vineyards with the sun shining on your face, lavish wine dinners and parties, 1,000 bottle cellars, midnight candle-lite barrel tastings”…

Don Phelps: I was thinking today about the nice aspects of owning a winery which includes meeting great people, living in a beautiful area, being your own boss, etc. That got me to thinking about all of the folks that come to the winery and say how much they admire the place and wish they could take the plunge to do it themselves. And that is about where reality came into the picture..

We spend the lion’s share of each day:

Paying bills

Handling payroll

Doing the taxes

Ordering wine glasses so everyone has something to drink out of

Getting change from the bank for the till

Ordering toilet paper and paper towels for the bathroom

Buying bags and boxes

Getting ice for the white wines

Taking out the empty bottles

Restocking the shelves

Cleaning the bathroom and tasting room

Picking up garbage outside

Working with vineyards to grow next years grapes

Worrying about freezing weather, insect infestations, bird damage, too much water, too little water

Ordering barrels

Spending entire days in the truck hauling grapes from up to 5 hours away

Working 7 days a week from daylight to 10 at night during Sept and Oct

Worrying about things like:

Equipment breakdowns

Enough help

Enough bins to ferment the red grapes in

Enough stainless steel tanks to hold all of the white wines

Inoculation with the right yeast

The fermentation process itself

Punch downs


Secondary fermentation…

along with a million other things that have to be done in the right manner and at the right time to make it all work; finally going to bed at night thinking about what needs to be done, and waking up in the morning still thinking about it.

And if that was not enough you still have to figure out how you can sell your product and have enough money left over to pay the mortgage. That means back on the road promoting the sale of the wine, trying to get restaurants and stores to carry it, negotiating with distributors, dealing with frozen shipments in the winter months and over heated ones in the summer, and then staying open that last 45 minutes for the straggler that just could not come back tomorrow and loves your wine but leaves with a single 15 dollar bottle.

One more thing before I forget it – you need a second job to live on.

No question about it – this is the memorable life!!

Yep, if it was not for the pure gold customers that become your friends over the years we would probably sell the place and let one of you enjoy the life of Riley – owning your very own winery.


Seattle Wine Gal: “Oh, I see”.

  1. Divatink
    January 13, 2010 at 10:50 am

    Thank goodness for you Don, otherwise we would not have your amazing wine!

  2. January 13, 2010 at 12:14 pm

    How sweet it is!!

  3. January 13, 2010 at 12:28 pm

    Don, looks like you still have time to open a tasting room here in Spokane πŸ˜€ j/j – we’ll be back in May. We’ll help you with the paying the bills by buying some wine!


  4. January 13, 2010 at 1:43 pm

    Don’t let him kid you…he loves it!!

  5. January 13, 2010 at 1:56 pm

    perhaps if he gets the toilet clean enough, he can ferment a lil wine in there? πŸ™‚

  6. January 13, 2010 at 2:00 pm

    Great couple with great winery. Their efforts are paying off in the wines they produce.

    “Thanks once again Dan Phelps ”
    His name is Don and he is scrubbing a what?

  7. markmye
    January 13, 2010 at 2:04 pm

    Nice post!! what it sounds like is he needs an ‘office’ help..
    that would do the taxes, payroll, toilet cleaning, order paper/glasses/toilet paper, etc

    Hire someone and you’d be left to:

    1. making wine
    2. drinking wine
    With more time, presumably you can put more attention to wine making. thus increase quality of wine, thus increase prices, thus able to hire even more people.


  8. January 13, 2010 at 8:36 pm

    He’s got a full-time winemaker….

  9. January 15, 2010 at 4:54 am

    As a winery owner in New York State this article rang so true it made me smile. Owning a winery is great but there is an entirley different side that is not so romantic. Hush, you’re giving away trade secrets

    Randy Biehl
    Eveningside Vineyards

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