West

Business Plan

Zoll Cellars Winery a homegrown enterprise

Frank Zoll uses local grapes at his Shrewsbury winery.
Josh Reynolds for The Boston Globe
Frank Zoll uses local grapes at his Shrewsbury winery.

The Zoll Cellars Winery is based at the Shrewsbury residence of Frank Zoll, a graduate of Johnson & Wales University who worked as a high-end hotel pastry chef until being downsized in 2005. Zoll, who was already experimenting with making wine at home, then honed his customer service skills during a four-year stint as a Toyota salesman. Established in 2009, Zoll Cellars offers private-label wines, harvest crush courses, wine-making sessions, food and wine pairings, and tastings.

Q. Are customers surprised to see a winery in a residential neighborhood?

A. Yes, especially since I have neighbors on either side. I operate like a speak-easy, where you knock on the cellar door. It’s only 44 inches tall, so people have trouble finding it, which is why I have them call so I can go out to greet them.

Q. Where do your grapes come from?

A. My house sits on a half-acre property with 70 vines out back that I planted in 2008 and 2009. I also lease 2 acres with over 700 vines in Lancaster.

Q. What wine varieties do you offer?

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A. There’s chardonnay, vidal blanc, pinot noir, cabernet franc, a dry riesling, and I’ve added more fruit wines and sweet wines in response to customer requests. My meads are new — I’m doing a wildflower and pumpkin — and those have been really popular. Also, the demand for hard cider has been blowing up. I didn’t think I’d be a cider house or a meadery, but customers will shape your business.

Q. Are any other changes on the horizon?

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A. I’ve been doing farmers markets and I sell wholesale, but given my culinary background, I want to do more with food. It’s amazing that wine tastes different by itself, and then how your mouth sings and dances when it’s paired with just the right food. I’m hoping to find a 4,000-square-foot commercial property to lease this winter.

Q. Do you have any advice for would-be winemakers?

A. I do it because I love seeing people happy, but it’s not an easy business. You have to be smart with your money. Customers aren’t buying a label. They’re buying you, so you have to keep proving yourself year after year.

Zoll Cellars Winery, at 110 Old Mill Road in Shrewsbury, offers wine tastings on Saturdays and Sundays, noon to 5 p.m., and by appointment. For more information, call 857-498-1665 or visit www.zollwine.com.

Cindy Cantrell may be contacted at cindycantrell20@gmail.com.