Saturday, February 14, 2009

Director laments lack of wines in NY eateries

This, from Jim Trezise, director of the New York Wine & Grape Foundation, in this week's e-letter. It's a complaint I hear from a number of winery proprietors in Pennsylvania and Maryland. Instead they'll carry a list that include a mix primarily from Europe and the West Coast. Not that they aren't feeling th economic pinch out there. Daniel Donohue, of TEIRA Wines in Sonoma County, Calif., worte in an e-mail that "everyone has inventory piled high in the warehouses because of the meltdown and a much slower holiday season. It’s not pretty. Everyone is working harder and selling less – and on the road doing so!"

Anyway, here's Trezise's rant:

WHY DON’T NEW YORK RESTAURANTS FEATURE MORE NEW YORK WINES? Frankly, it’s pitiful, as I witnessed in a fine seafood restaurant this week in our state capitol of Albany. The menu is great, as is the wine list, with one exception: there is NOT ONE New York wine on it, despite the compatibility of many of our wines with the menu. So after ordering a glass of superb Chateau Ste. Michelle Riesling from Washington, I asked to speak to the manager and gave her my business card. I asked: Is it a matter of quality? No, she said, New York wines these days are great, and have improved tremendously. Price? No, many are within the price range we serve. Promotion? No, we always participate in your “New York Wine Month” promotion, and we don’t know of promotions by other states or countries that drive customers to our door like that. (Note: I ate at this same restaurant in October, and they did in fact feature New York wines at that time.) Recommendations? No, the New York State Restaurant Association strongly encourages our participation in the promotion, and to feature New York wines beyond that. Wine Magazine Ratings? No, in a restaurant setting they don’t matter. So what drives your decision to buy, and to have ZERO New York wines on an extensive wine list in our state capitol? Wholesalers, she said. They’re the ones who come in with the specials and offer to print up our lists. It makes my life easier. So there your have it—New York businesses and New York jobs losing out because it makes someone’s life easier. I told her we (NYWGF) work with several good and supportive wholesalers—Elmira, Empire North, Opici, and Southern—who do a great job recruiting retailers and restaurants for New York Wine Month, and asked if she would consider adding New York wines if they called on her. She said yes. Meanwhile, every time I’m in Albany (which right now is more than I want), I’ll to go that restaurant and ask for the wine list before they seat me. If there are no New York wines, I’ll go someplace else and let the manager know why. I’m a big proponent of consumer choice—letting people have the option of wines from around the world—but I’m also a big proponent of the New York economy, and this situation is outrageous. Unfortunately, it’s also the rule rather than the exception: New Yorkers hurting other New Yorkers just at a time when we need to help each other.

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