Saturday, April 11, 2009

NY's next wine hot spot: Champlain region

Director Jim Trezise of the New York Wine & Grape Foundation reported in his weekly e-letter that the next area is his state to develop as a wine producer is the Champlain region — near Lake Champlain which separates New York and Vermont. He wrote that it already has three wineries, with more to come. He added that last week the foundation got notice that Eminence Road Farm Winery in Long Eddy is officially open and will be selling at area farmers’ markets and local wine shops. Owned by Jennifer Clark and Andrew Scott, the winery is located in a mountain valley in southern Delaware County (no wineries there before!) and is making unfined and unfiltered Cabernet Franc, Chardonnay, Gewurztraminer, Dry Apple Wine and others (visit He said: "When I first came to this industry 27 years ago, there were wineries in about 7 counties — compared with 45 now (of 62), which is just wonderful politically. Frankly, the industry is growing so fast it’s hard to keep up with it. As far as I know there are now 262 fully licensed (federal and state) wine producers (not including satellite stores), with many licenses still pending at the State Liquor Authority. Last week, a representative from the federal Tax and Trade Bureau said New York now has 294 TTB-approved licenses, which means we’ll probably top 300 in the near future. Now I ask you: What other industry in New York State is growing that fast?

Also in his newsletter:

CORNELL UNIVERSITY has been a major partner in the renaissance, reputation and growth of the New York wine industry, exemplified most recently by the unveiling of a new Teaching Winery on April 1, the first day of the Wine Industry Workshop in Ithaca. The event began with the cutting of a grapevine by Susan Henry, Dean of the College of Agriculture & Life Sciences, who has been the driving force behind several key initiatives that promise a bright future for both Cornell and the New York wine industry. Several years ago at a strategic planning retreat of the New York Wine & Grape Foundation, Art Hunt of Hunt Country Vineyards strongly suggested that Cornell become more involved with the industry beyond the traditional research. While some were initially resistant, Dean Henry was receptive to the concept and started by creating a new four-year undergraduate program in viticulture and enology. Art’s son Jonathan was the first to enroll, and is now deeply involved in the family business. In the past, students had no good place to make wines, making the teaching winery a key addition to the education and training process. It’s the first such facility in the eastern United States, and one of the finest in the country. The $900,000 winery at Cornell Orchards includes all the equipment needed to make and analyze wines—fermentation tanks, barrels, a sophisticated lab—as well as grapes grown by Cornell on that site and another. In addition to creating the V&E curriculum and teaching winery, Cornell has recruited several superb young extension agents and faculty members—Chris Gerhling, Anna Katharine Mansfield, Ramon Mira de Orduna, Hans Walter-Peterson, Gavin Sacks, Justine Van den Heuvel, Miguel Gomez, Brad Rickard—who bring diverse talents and new energy to the research and extension programs. A decade ago, the relatively small size of New York’s wine industry may not have justified this type of investment and commitment, forcing New Yorkers to train elsewhere and creating a brain drain. That has now changed, with world-class research facilities and faculty luring tomorrow’s leaders into the heart of New York wine country.

SUSTAINABILITY is a pervasive topic these days, and Cornell Cooperative Extension is one of the nation’s leaders in defining and refining it for New York grape growers and others. In fact, its comprehensive program (VineBalance Sustainable Viticulture) is being transplanted in Michigan and Washington State by Welch’s, which is owned by National Grape Cooperative headquartered in Westfield, NY. VineBalance was created by statewide CCE director Tim Martinson and his colleagues Alice Wise (Long Island), Hans Walter-Peterson (Finger Lakes), and Tim Weigle (Lake Erie), and now involves over 100 wine and juice grape growers throughout the state. The program includes a comprehensive workbook, and practices reflecting the grape growing conditions in the northeastern United States, although much could also apply to juice grapes in other regions. Since Welch’s sources grapes from all three states, uniformity of sustainable viticultural practices is important, especially as an increasing number of major retailers like WalMart are demanding products reflecting sustainable practices. There are similar programs in other states like California (Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance), Washington (Vinewise, for wine grapes) and Oregon (LIVE), and over time a challenge will be creating an integrated system which is both broadly applicable yet also responsive to local conditions.

FIGHT THE RECESSION: BUY LOCAL WINE is the theme of a terrific new poster created by artist Joanna Purdy for Fox Run Vineyards that may be adapted to any part of the country. The poster is reminiscent of those during World War II appealing to self-help and community spirit, and may be seen at The first 500 printed copies of the poster have been funded by Finger Lakes Wine Country Tourism Marketing Association. For more information on adapting the poster locally, contact Leslie Kroeger at Fox Run (, 800-636-9786).

YATES COUNTY (where I live in the heart of the Finger Lakes) is bucking the statewide decline in farms and acreage (-2.3%, -6.3%) with big increases in farms (142 new ones, 20% more) and acreage (11,000 new, up 10%) from 2002 to 2007. It’s also one of the state’s major sources of organic products, with 49 farms on 5,500 acres generating sales over $2.7 million. The key is diversity. When I moved here 27 years ago, the region was an ugly mosaic of abandoned vineyards, ramshackle barns, and rundown farmhouses. The transformation has largely been brought about by an odd combination of the wine industry renaissance and a growing community of horse-and-buggy Mennonites who are excellent farmers and stewards of the earth. As in other areas, dairy is the largest sector (262 farms, 12,150 cows—1 for every 2 humans) and livestock farms have also increased (363 farms, 19,000 cattle), but the grape and wine industry (with 26 wineries) is a major economic engine for agriculture, tourism, and manufacturing. In fact, the 750 agri-tourism jobs represent a major “industry,” and wine is largely the catalyst.

No comments: