Local Winery – FINALLY!
Vern and Judy Harper are the owners of Towns End Winery in Hampton. There is some discussion about the name. Vern says it is Townsend Winery and Judy says it is Towns End. Townsend is a family name. And the actually winery in Hansell is on the towns end. Some day they talk about moving to the farm West of Geneva, build a house and move the winery there. It will still be towns end!
What possessed you to start a winery? Judy: Vern was possessed! Vern had some physical problems and couldn’t just sit around feeling bad! He could only walk about 50 feet or so – so he’d plant and then sit down a while. He also wanted something to do in retirement and not sit around and watch tv all along. So he started planting some grapes for exercise. That was about 6 years ago. He figured as long as he was planting grapes, he’d open a winery.
Vern: We started using our own products and would need a way to take care of the fruit trees and berries on the farm. We also wanted to use some land that we already had that was not being used. We will be buying products from local growers in the county eventually.
Tell me a little about the things you had to do to become legal and ready to open business. Vern: I took a lot of college classes to do this. I killed off the first crop of grapes and decided to take some online classes from SW Missouri State on how to make wine, how to be a vintner. The next step was to grow better grapes. Then we had to decide where we were going to put the winery. Where we going to build or refurnish a building? We decided to use the old barn, it was structurally sound and we’ve redone it. There is a silo attached and one day we will use it as well. We remodeled and had specifications to meet in the construction. We had to have water, electricity, restrooms, storage rooms, locked area to store the wine.
Judy: I started filling out forms. Lots and lots of forms. My son and I took a class at DMAAC called the 2007 TTB Compliance Seminar for Bonded Wine Premises. We have to be a bonded wine premises. We needed the basic permit from the federal government. The DNR required a water quality permit and a permit for how we will take care of disposal. The application to establish the wine premises eventually turned out to be about 139 pages! The federal government knows more about me than I know about myself! We had to get permits from the state, tax permits. By the time you start the paperwork most people give up! We had to register our name (after we formed the corpooration). I had started doing this by myself – and realized that I would need some legal help. Ken Grueniga from Eagle City Winery said he got some help from a lawyer. I worked with Elaine Cooney and she helped us with the filing. From the federal government we were officical August 29, 2008. They called in the morning on the 29th and did a personal interivew (part of the process). I asked her if this meant we would get the permits in time to pick our grapes that were ready to be harvested. Remember, this is the fideral government! She said she thought she could do that by the end of the day. I thought ‘yeah sure”. Don’t ya know, she called back in early afternoon and said we could pick our grapes -we got our permits.
We had to get bonded, insured. Jasperson Insurance bonded ups and Castle Dick and Kelch got the insurance to sell alocholoic beverages. It’s all new to Franklin County! No one had done this before in Franklin County.
Talk to me about the labels. Judy: there aren’t any.
Vern: actually Tyler our son is in charge of the labels. Each type of wine has to have an approved label (approved by the federal government and the state has to ok you as well). We are in the process of choosing labels. You can help us decide by visiting www.townsendwinery.com Go to logo choices, choose the one you like and then email your decision to email@example.com Vern likes #1 and Judy likes #4. But you can help decide! Cut off date is February 14. After the labels are chosen, we apply again for the proper permits.
What kind of wines are you going to have? Vern: Fruit and berry (apple, gooseberry and raspberry), red table wine, white table wine. Maybe a concord too. Maybe a frontenac (Judy’s favorite). Table wines are blends.
Judy:We would like to do some fall things: cranberry, pumpkin, mulberry, rhubarb. Part of the dilemma is getting the product. We want to get our products locally. We want to grow a lot of it too! So if you’re a farmer with extra berries -contact me! They have to be away from livestock (flies tend to cover the berries).
When can we buy wine from you? Vern: Some say July, some say November. As soon as we get the labels, we will have some wine available. We are targeting July to actually open. We’re looking at mostly being open Thursday through Saturday. The rest can be by appointment.
Judy: Just give us a call. You know we are retired! The kids will be also helping us. They are partners in the business.
What kind of activities would you like to do around the winery? Judy: It will be perfect for events. You can have your class reunion here. Church potluck. That sort of thing. We’d like to have some music too! We’ve talked about having special dinners catered in the winery – an adult prom for example! We’d like to have a book club, mother’s clubs – doesn’t that sound like fun? Legally, we can only sample five one ounce servings. So all those activities can have a wine tasting along with the activity!
Vern: We belong to several wine organizations and we will work with them. Our hope is to have a wine trail here before too long. Eagle Grove, Fredericksburg, Kanawha, Us – we all have winerys.
Are you taking pre-orders? Vern: No. Not at this time. This will be our first year selling wine. Let us get a better idea about how much we will make and what we will sell.
What’s taken you so long? You started six years ago. Judy: This is pay as you go by the way. We decided not to borrow. We’ve taken our time and have built this as we could afford to. We built bedrooms above the winery, maybe one day we will have a b and b. We might add on and have a restaurant out there. Our goal was not to overbuy – we will work our business as we are able to. If we run out of wine – that’s not a bad thing! It means we sold all of our wine!
Towns End Winery
2138 160th St