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Hobby becomes successful business for local couple

Kelly and Don Guay opened Sunset Point Winery in 2015, which now offers 30 kinds of wine – all made onsite

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May 13, 2024

STEVENS POINT – Kelly Guay said she had been a wine hobbyist for some time before starting Sunset Point Winery – making wine for her personal use, as well as for her family and friends.

Then one day, she said, “Lady Luck” came knocking at her door.

The owners of Stevens Point-based Great Northern Distilling needed wine to make a special blend of brandy.

Hearing about her wine hobby from others in the community, Guay said they reached out, and before she knew it, a deal was made where she began making wine exclusively for them to use in their Wisconsin Brandy 80-proof liquor.

Winery manager Jill Krawczyk said in the beginning Guay had a lot of help from her parents because, at the time, she still worked full-time in the paper industry, as was her husband, Don.

“It grew from there,” she said. 

Krawczyk said Kelly and Don began putting together a business plan and looking for a place to set up shop – eventually settling in at the former Point Bakery building. 

Purchasing the building in fall 2014, Krawczyk said they immediately began renovating, which included installing an elevator. 

“Otherwise, it would have not been accessible at all to customers,” she said. 

Krawczyk said Sunset Point Winery officially opened July 3, 2015.

The winery’s name, she said, combines two locations special to the Guays – Sunset Lake in Amherst where the Guays were married and the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point where they met and each got their degrees in paper sciences.

Krawczyk said the winery’s sun logo also has special significance to the Guays as a blended family of seven – with a ray of the setting sun representing each family member.  

A team effort

Between their full-time work duties and home life, the Guays work as vintners making wine at the winery.

Sunset Point also has an assistant vintner. 

Krawczyk, who has been at the winery a little more than five years, said she started working there as a server – which she said was supposed to be a part-time, temporary thing.

The server job eventually transitioned into a full-time management position – a role she said she thoroughly enjoys. 

Unique as far as wineries go

Since Sunset Point is a small winery, Krawczyk said they don’t widely distribute products. 

“We have wine at a few Central Wisconsin area locations listed on our website,” she said.

Unlike a lot of wineries in Wisconsin, Krawczyk said Sunset Point is open year-round and usually seven days a week.

“A lot of the wineries in Wisconsin have limited seasons or short hours, but we are open year-round, and we are most often open seven days a week,” she said. “There are times in winter when we may decide Mondays aren’t worth it, but for the most part, we’re open seven days a week all year.” 

Krawczyk said the winery’s busiest times are weekends, but it also hosts many events throughout the week year-round.

“We have Wine Bingo (which is free to play),” she said. “We have artists who come in and teach classes, we have trivia nights, live music or other entertainment Saturday nights.”

Because the winery is open throughout the week, Krawczyk said clientele consists of tourists and locals. 

“(Locals) know we’re open, so they come in on some random (day of the week),” she said. “Wine Bingo is so popular that people have to arrive an hour early to get a seat.”  

Winery tours, tasting room

Krawczyk said Sunset Point tours are offered every Saturday starting at 3:30 p.m. – usually lasting about an hour.

“Tours also include a wine tasting flight where people get to choose six wines to try and they get a souvenir glass to take home,” she said.

Tours, Krawczyk said, not only include information about the winery, but also a bit of history about the building it’s located in.

“It used to be the Point Bakery and was built in the 1930s, so there are some interesting features here,” she said. “They’ll also take tours down into our production area and talk about the basic steps of winemaking – nothing too deep.”

Though tour reservations are recommended, Krawczyk said they welcome walk-in signups as space allows.

Krawczyk said Sunset Point’s tasting room is unique.

The space, she said, has some hammock-type chairs folks are welcome to sit in as they enjoy their wine if they so choose.

The experience, Krawczyk said, is complemented by cheese and crackers, relaxing music and cozy lighting provided by wine bottle chandeliers.

“We want people to feel welcome to hang out and relax,” she said. “We will serve wine by the glass, by the bottle and we also have tasting flights.”

Sunset Point’s main tasting room is open to the public every day.

The smaller room downstairs, which seats 16 people, has a small bar and can be rented out for birthday parties, small weddings (or baby) showers and small meetings.

Krawczyk said they occasionally rent out the main testing room for private gatherings but not during normal business hours. 

Only Sunset Point wines

Sunset Point Winery, Krawczyk said, has approximately 30-some wines available – including white, red, fruit and dessert wines.

Every wine offered, she said, is made on-site. 

“Sometimes we’re mistaken for a wine store, so people will come in and ask for a particular brand,” she said. “But everything we serve and sell here is made here.”

Krawczyk said some of their wines are also small batch and/or seasonal and some sell out before the next batch is ready.

Two of their most popular wines, Krawczyk said, are Polka Stomp and Blazin’ Brianna. 

“Both of those are made with grapes grown locally in Portage County,” she said. “Polka Stomp is a medium sweet white wine and Blazin’ Brianna is a little sweeter than that, but we sell out of those two every year. We make one big batch in the spring, and it comes from the previous fall’s harvest. By the time we get to about October or November, we usually sell out of the batch we have.”

Krawczyk said the winery’s overall best seller year-round is called Blackberry Midnight – which is a blackberry fruit wine and on the sweeter end of what they make, but not syrupy sweet. 

“We also make a wine called Vortex,” she said. “It’s an ice wine, so it’s a sweet dessert wine. It has to be made with a particular type of grape and under certain harvest conditions. With ice wine, the grapes have to be picked after the first frost, so it’s a later harvest than most wines. During COVID-19, it was impossible to get what we needed to make that wine.”

Krawczyk said Sunset Point gets many of its grapes from Rock Ridge Vineyard in Portage County, as well as other areas of Wisconsin.   

“But not everything grows in Wisconsin, so we get grapes and fruit concentrate from California, Italy, Argentina, Spain and occasionally Canada,” she said. “And we locally source other fruits when we can. We make a blueberry wine and those blueberries come from Chet’s Blueberry Farm, just outside of Stevens Point. We also make an apple wine, and the apples for that wine are grown at Helene’s Hilltop Orchard in Merrill. And we get cranberries from the Wisconsin Rapids area.” 

Walk-up window

Conveniently located at 1201 Water St. in the downtown area, Krawczyk said Sunset Point Winery even has a walk-up window that’s open during some of the area’s larger events.

“People can walk up to the side of our building, get their wine to go and keep walking,” she said.

Krawczyk said the walk-up window was something the winery started doing during the pandemic.

“It gave people an option to come get our wine, without having to come in,” she said.

Sunset Point Winery hours are noon to 8 p.m. Monday and Tuesday, noon to 9 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday and noon to 4 p.m. Sunday. 

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