Fawn Creek Winery downtown expansion would require state law change

Fawn Creek Winery downtown expansion would require state law change

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Business has been good for the Fawn Creek Winery but expansion beyond its wooded vineyard location 10 miles north of downtown Wisconsin Dells is a tough proposition.

A conglomeration of two families assumed business operations of the former Tourdot Winery in January 2011, creating Fawn Creek. Nestled among a grove of maple and pine trees, a three-acre vineyard lies adjacent to the wooded property that houses a deck, performance stage and the facility’s wine-making equipment.

Four years ago the winery was producing 18,000 bottles per year but is projecting more than 100,000 annually in 2015. That growth has prompted its owners to explore the possibility of opening an outlet store.

“We’re considering putting a retail outlet downtown on the strip,” said co-owner Dan Hanson.

However, state law says that a winery can only sell its product at one retail location. “Right now, if we put an outlet on the strip we can’t sell wine at our winery,” said Hanson. Two weeks ago 41st Assembly District Rep. Joan Ballweg, R-Markesan, toured the facility to discuss with its owners how the business can continue to expand.

“We have a lot of laws in Wisconsin regarding this type of thing and what we’re trying to do is even up the playing field for them as it compares to the craft brewers,” said Ballweg.

Hanson emphasized the old real estate adage “location, location, location.”

“Wisconsin Dells and most wineries that are in the state —a lot of us are out in the country where we make the wines,” Hanson said. “We love it and that’s what our customers like. But we’re missing out on a golden opportunity of being able to have a downtown facility where we can sell our wine and gifts to those moms and dads who have their kids with them.”

Ballweg said she is planning on introducing legislation to change state laws so that wineries can sell wine at more than one location.

Hanson noted there are no other wine retailers in downtown Wisconsin Dells and said a Fawn Creek outlet might be a perfect fit for how the city would like to shape the future feel of the downtown area.

“It sounds like the kind of thing they want to change downtown from all of the t-shirt shops to more upgraded stores,” he said.

Wisconsin Dells Mayor Brian Landers said he welcomes the idea. “What we’re trying to do downtown with the River Arts District, I think there would be an opportunity for some local wineries to get a little more exposure and allow people to come downtown for (that experience).”

The process for getting a second outlet for the winery may not be an easy one according to Hanson because of possible objections from the Tavern League of Wisconsin. “Our number one nemesis in this whole thing is the Tavern League,” he said. “They are a very powerful group because of all of the small bars and they shoot down all of the legislation we try to put through.”

Landers concurred with Hanson. “All they’re concerned about is league members,” he said. “They don’t consider other things that really don’t have a strong threat to their membership and have potential to increase business —which in theory would increase their business for their members. I think the Tavern League has shown historically that they’re very short-sighted.”

Representatives from the Tavern League did not return calls from the Events seeking comment.

Fawn Creek co-owner Dan Haberkorn compared the tavern versus winery issue to apples and oranges. “They are completely different. Most bars or taverns are (active) late at night, but we close at 5 o’clock. We don’t want the late-night crowds.”

Fawn Creek now keeps its 13th Avenue location open year-round from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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