Winery planning distillery

The Morrow business recently launched its own craft beer line.

MORROW — Valley Vineyards, which two months ago unveiled its new line of Cellar Dwellers craft beers brewed at the winery, has applied for a state license to add a microdistillery.

Joe Schuchter, director of sales and marketing a third-generation member of the family that founded Valley Vineyards at 2276 E. U.S. 22 & 3, said plans for a distillery are still in the early stages and call for production of grappa, vodka and a bourbon-style whiskey. The first bottles could be rolled out “within a year,” Schuchter said.

A new state law that took effect March 22 relaxed state regulations and allows microbreweries and small distillers to offer samples of their products in a tasting room and to offer limited sales from tasting rooms. The new law already has triggered substantial interest among Dayton-area entrepreneurs who are developing small distilleries and microbreweries.

Donniella Winchell, executive director of the Ohio Wine Producers Association, said she is not aware of any other winery-brewery-distillery combination in the state. Debonne Vineyards in Madison, east of Cleveland, last year was the first Ohio winery to begin producing a line of beers from its Cellar Rats Brewery. And Woodstone Creek in northern Cincinnati has produced an extensive line of both wines and spirits for several years since its founding in 1999.

The addition of a distillery has a “green” component, as it will allow Valley Vineyards to use some of the natural by-products of fermenting wine — the leftover “must” of grape skins, seeds and solids from which grappa is made — and the grains and other solids left over from brewing beer from which alcohol can be distilled. The winery will be getting additional use out of what was essentially a waste product and boosting the local economy, Schuchter said.

“We’ve already hired three new people,” Schuchter said. “We were stuck at 15 to 18 employees for about 15 years, and we now have 21 employees,” with tentative plans for additional hiring as the distillery nears completion.

Valley Vineyards’ venture into the beer market has been warmly received by its customers, who consumed 275 gallons of Cellar Dwellers brews at a Feb. 21 unveiling at the winery, according to Steve Shaw, the winery’s brewmaster who is also Schuchter’s uncle. Beer sales in the first two months have tripled projections, Shaw said last week.

Contact this reporter at (937) 225-2258 or mfisher@DaytonDaily