Saturday, September 26, 2009

Birds helping themselves in NY; state expects to top 300 producers by sometime next year

Saw a few notes in the latest weekly e-letter from the New York Wine & Grape Foundation, courtesy of executive director Jim Trezise, that warrented passing along.

2009 GRAPE HARVEST is slowly getting under way, with both similarities and some differences among the various regions. Every region is late in terms of ripening, but recent decent weather has helped, and flavors seem to be developing well, a key component in wine quality.

Each region has unique challenges, and one of those for Long Island is birds, which migrate annually and feast off the great grapes. Many growers have responded by covering their vineyards with huge nets—but now the birds have figured out how to eat the grapes through the nets!

Keep up with the harvest through Cornell Cooperative Extension’s great “Veraison to Harvest” newsletter at

NEW WINERIES just keep popping up all over the state, confirming that the wine industry is about the only growth industry in New York State. Today there are 273 fully licensed wine producers, 33 satellite stores (linked to wineries but in other locations), and 15 pending winery licenses, meaning we’ll probably top 300 actual producers next year if not sooner.


While some of the pending licenses are in traditional wine regions, an increasing number are elsewhere, like The Saratoga Winery ( in that tony horse-racing and spa city north of Albany; and Elfs Farm (, a combination cider mill, farm stand, and now farm winery in the Lake Champlain region bordering Vermont, which has an increasing number of grape growers and wineries.


We commissioned the New York State Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) to conduct an updated New York Winery Survey using 2008 data (vs. 2003, the last survey), which should appear sometime in October. But even that will be outdated, given the way the industry keeps growing.


(Vigna note: A story on the site in February 2009 showed New York with 232 bonded wineries in operation, fourth highest in the country and the most outside the West Coast triumverate of California, Washington and Oregon. Virginia was sixth with 152, Pennsylvania was next with 127, and Maryland was tied with Arizona for 20th with 37).


RIESLING keeps growing in acreage, according to NASS, which every five years conducts a vineyards survey (different from the winery survey). In 2001, there were 461 bearing acres, and another 30 planned; in 2006 there were 683 bearing with 103 planned; and based on my own anecdotal evidence, I would estimate there are now about 1,000 acres of Riesling, with 90% in the Finger Lakes region.

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