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Winery-cooperage could bring 35 jobs to Brooksville

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Published:   |   Updated: January 9, 2014 at 06:12 PM

BROOKSVILLE - More details are coming in about the winery-cooperage proposed for Brooksville, including the scope of the project and number of employees.

Anna Kallai, one of the partners with ZemplÚn Barrels Wineries Inc., said she will need about 10 people to start up the winery and education facility portion of the operation, which represents the first phase.

The second phase, which is the building of the facility to manufacture wine barrels, or cooperage, will employ 20-25 people, Kallai said.

That phase will probably start in about 18 months, she said.

"We will be hiring as we go along," she said.

The Kallais will ask planning and zoning commissioners Monday for a special exception use permit to operate the dual facility. Staffers are recommending approval.

Kallai said Wednesday she and her partners, which include husband Sandor and daughter Krisztina and two others, had been considering Pasco County and Virginia to locate their operation.

But Kallai said they were dissuaded from going there after talking with Economic Development Supervisor Valerie Pianta, County Commissioner Diane Rowden and County Administrator Len Sossamon.

Pianta said initial talks with the Kallais focused only on the cooperage, where workers would use imported Hungarian oak to build the ZemplÚn family wine barrels. The operation eventually expanded to include a winery, vineyard and educational facility where tourists could come and view the entire site.

The cooperage fits in with the county's mission to expand its manufacturing base, Pianta said. The Kallais, she said, plan to bring people here from Hungary to train workers.

The other side of the operation satisfies the county's focus on agricultural tourism.

"In the end, it is manufacturing," Pianta said. "It's just a different type."

This is a chance to bring more jobs to Hernando County, Pianta said.

"I'm anxious to see them move forward," she said. "This is a big tourism opportunity for us."

Kallai said she envisions people coming to the winery, taking a tour and spending money at local restaurants and shops. It's a win for local tourism, she said.

"It just doesn't benefit us," she said. "It benefits the county as well."

Kallai said the company will spend about $1 million to build the facility. If they get the necessary permits, construction would start in February and a May or June opening is planned for the winery, she said.

Rowden said Wednesday it wasn't hard to "sell" Hernando County to the Kallais, especially when they found the 13-acre parcel at 7029 Cedar Lane, just south of Cortez Boulevard.

The Kallais will make the barrels using a mix of Hungarian and American wood, Rowden said. And the employees will be trained by Hungarian coopers who will make the trip here to Brooksville.

The barrels, which must undergo rigorous construction and heating specifications, will be sold throughout the United States and Europe, Rowden said.

"Wine barrels are a big industry but there are only three cooperages in the United States and they're all on the west coast of the United States," Rowden said.

There are plenty of whisky cooperages in this country, especially in Kentucky, but not so many geared to wine production, she said.

"It's a real art," she said.

The planning and zoning meeting will begin at 9 a.m. Monday at the Hernando County Government Center, 20 North Main St. in downtown Brooksville.

To view the entire agenda and staff reports, visit http://hernandocountyfl.iqm2.com/citizens/

mbates@hernandotoday.com

(352) 544-5290

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