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July 30, 2013

Distillery purchases land, plans expansion

By Bera Dunau Staff Writer
The Daily Star

---- — KyMar Farm Distillery has purchased the Story House Book Bindery building in Charlotteville, and plans on moving most of its winery and distillery operations there, with management hoping to double production by this time next year.

“It just made a lot more sense for us to purchase and rehab as opposed to build new,” said Ken Wortz, who along with his wife Lori and partners Christie Dahms and Bill Martz, runs KyMar Farm Distillery.

The Wortz family moved to Schoharie County in 2001 from Connecticut, and began planning the distillery in 2007.

“This whole area, central New York, is just absolutely beautiful,” said Ken Wortz, when asked why they’d decided to move.

Today, Wortz commutes between Charlotteville and Manhattan, where he has a job at a telecommunications company, while his wife works at the distillery full time.

Currently located on Wortz and his wife’s apple and grape farm, less than a mile away from the Story House building, KyMar Farm Distillery began selling products in December of 2011. KyMar Farm is named after the two Wortz children: Kyle, who is in the Army; and Marissa, who is in college.

Wortz grew up on an apple farm in Pennsylvania, but didn’t expect that he’d take up the farming life himself.

“I didn’t think I would ever set foot on a farm again.”

KyMar Farm Distillery produces two products: Schoharie Mapple Jack, an apple brandy with a hint of maple, and Schoharie Shine, an unaged whiskey made from Sorghum.

“Everything that goes into our products is grown in New York state,” said Wortz, noting that the cider for the Mapple Jack comes from their farm and nearby cideries, while the Sorghum for the Schoharie Shine is grown by Tony VanGlad in Jefferson.

The distillery produces between 60-120 cases of alcohol a month. Wortz says that while Mapple Jack is more popular in the winter and Schoharie Shine is more popular in the summer, they generally produce an equal amount of each over the course of a year.

The distillery’s products are currently distributed in over 175 locations in New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts, according to Wortz. The Wortzes and their partners distribute their products themselves in New York, while the Berkshire Brewing Company serves as their distributor in the other three states.

“The expansion has far exceeded our expectations,” said Wortz, saying that they are currently trying to keep up with the demand from their present distributors.

Because of this, they are no longer actively seeking distributors, although Wortz added that they never turn anyone away.

He also said the distillery has received support from the local community.

“If people know I’m planting, they just show up and help.”

Wortz said that they plan to convert the Story House building into a production and retail facility, where visitors can take tours, enjoy tastings, and purchase liquor, wine and beer from KyMar Farm and other New York alcohol producers.

“We’re only going to carry products where the majority of ... (ingredients) are from New York state,” said Wortz. “You won’t find Jack Daniels or Absolut there.”

Wortz expects to move most of the production side of the business to the Story House building by late fall/early winter, and hopes to open the retail side by Memorial Day weekend next year.

As for the demand for such a destination, Wortz said that even though their current operation is production only, they still get calls about it every weekend.

“I’m assuming if we build it, they will come.”

He said he expects to hire the distillery’s first employee within the next five to six months, and to have a half-dozen employees by this time next year.

“Our expectation over the next 12 months will be doubling our current production,” said Wortz.

As for new products, Wortz says that they will be coming.

“We just don’t have the additional space to work on new products,” said Wortz, saying that the expansion should allow them to work on developing them.

Some of the products that Wortz expects to bring out are wines and flavored whiskies. KyMar is currently working on a rye whiskey, made from rye from Jefferson and malted barley from Binghamton, which won’t be available until it has aged for a few years.

“It’s been an amazing year and a half since we sold our first bottle,” said Wortz.