BROOKSVILLE — A Hernando County company plans to offer a unique agritourism experience for people interested in the art of winemaking and wine barrel making.
Zemplen Barrels Wineries will seek a special exception use permit from the Hernando County Planning and Zoning Commission this month. The partners in the company are proposing what county planners say would be the county's first commercial winery.
In addition, the plan includes a cooperage, which is a business that crafts wine barrels, as well as an education center. Events proposed for the site include wine tastings, and training and seminars for both professional winemakers and home winemakers. In addition, the site would host national and international wine competitions and new product exhibits.
Three of the five managers listed in state corporate records for the company — Sandor, Aniko and Krisztina Kallai — are affiliated with the family-owned Zemplen Barrels in Hungary, which has been in the cooperage business for more than 50 years.
The other managers listed are William Mess and Robert Martin of Safety Harbor.
The proposed location is 13 acres on Cedar Lane south of Cortez Boulevard, east of Brooksville, the former site of the Pines Conference Center, affiliated with Brooksville Unitarian Universalist Church.
Zemplen Barrels Wineries purchased the site from UU in the Pines in August for $160,000. The site included three single-family homes, an educational center and a 5,082-square-foot building referred to in property records as a clubhouse. The current market value on the site is $488,031.
The buildings will be renovated and one demolished to make room for the cooperage.
The winery and tasting room will produce and mature small quantities of wine. It also will purchase and sell high-quality wines made by others in Zemplen oak barrels, as well as craft draft beers, according to their county permit application.
The winery will have a small on-site vineyard, but the partners also plan to import grapes for their wine operation. Wine and beer tasting will be on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and by appointment.
The cooperage will manufacture oak barrels ranging from 1 liter to 500 liters from American, Hungarian and hybrid American/Hungarian oak wood for national and international markets. In addition, the cooperage will be open for tours to teach barrel-making techniques.
A playground in a natural setting is also planned so children can play, supervised by their parents. Plans include opening the property for parties, weddings, corporate events, trade shows, festivals, fundraisers and animal adoption events.
The partners declined to comment about their plans until the Planning and Zoning Commission acts on their permit request. But, as they summarized in their application, "Zemplen Barrels Wineries' mission is to provide the highest-quality education, wines, beers and oak barrels to its customers and to create a unique, beloved animal and kid-friendly community/tourist/educational center with countless opportunities.''