The River Road area could become home to a vineyard and winery overlooking the Yahara watershed if a plan before the Westport and Waunakee plan commission is approved.
Cherokee Valley Pass resident David Korb presented the plan to the town and village’s Joint Plan Commission (JPC) last week. Korb and his friend and business associate Frank Peregrine envision Amante Winery LLC to be located on 7.55 acres on a River Road hilltop. The plans call for a facility where guests can taste artisan crafted wine and locally produced food, according to Korb.
If approved, it will include an events room to host banquets, wedding receptions, family reunions and corporate meetings for 200 or more, according to plans submitted to local officials.
The two-story building would house manufacturing space, an office, gift shop, tasting room and events room, and 126 parking spaces would be located on site.
Some neighbors and plan commissioner expressed concern about traffic and hours of use, said Westport Town Administrator Tom Wilson. Wilson, who is also the town’s attorney and clerk-treasurer, said some details such as deliveries and parking locations would need to be worked out.
“The use sounds like it would be great, but we will have to watch ourselves and what we will allow,” Wilson said. “We’re not going to allow a restaurant out there on River Road.”
Korb began making wine from the fruit trees on his property in 1991 after moving to the River Road area, he said. He began planting vines but during one particularly cold winter, they died. He then replanted 300 vines, and with grapes purchased from other vineyards, he produces 10 varieties.
In 2009, he first conceived of the winery, and while it received support, the economic downturn discouraged him, Korb said.
“At this point, I have a good friend who’s a master gardener... who would like this to happen,” Korb said about Peregrine.
Korb acknowledged that neighbors are concerned about a late night operation, but he said his property is closest to the site.
“We’re not going to let it get out of hand,” Korb said.
Korb said people who have never visited a winery are not familiar with the “romanticism” in most tasting rooms.
The winery name, Amante, connotes love and attraction. Korb said most wineries are romantic.
“People are always so pleasant,” he said. “They enjoy themselves.”
Korb said he is modeling the winery and vineyard after Cedar Ridge winery in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, but more upscale.
Korb’s winemaking was passed on from his grandfather, who produced wine from grapes grown on his rental property in Madison, he said. It’s been said that the grapes were from Italy, grown by a past resident who brought the plants to the E. Gorham Street site, but Korb added he could never confirm that.
A friend of his grandfather’s taught Korb the winemaking techniques, he said.
Korb noted that the winery would offer a destination and offer agri-tourism to the area. He hopes to offer tastings from neighboring farms, as well, he added.
The project timeline anticipates that the necessary approvals will be complete this spring, with construction beginning in May and a grand opening this fall.