Saturday, April 18, 2009

NY pitches Beverage Trail by Hall of Fame

Couple of notes off the New York Wine & Grape Foundation's e-letter. Have to spend some time reporting whether any other state does one with more frequency or more infromation. The author is executive director Jim Trezise.

WINE BOOK has a new meaning with the simultaneous release of a book and a wine, in this case commemorating the 400th anniversary of Henry Hudson’s journey up the river that now bears his name. The Hudson River Valley Reader, edited by Edward Goodman and published by Cider Mill Press, is the perfect read with a glass of Hudson River Valley Red 2008, produced by the award-winning Hudson-Chatham Winery. This is the first time a wine has been licensed from a book, which combines the river’s history with excerpts from regional authors like Washington Irving and John Burroughs. The medium-bodied dry red wine is made from DeChaunac, Seyval Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes grown in the Hudson River Region. The book cover and wine label both feature the famous “Hudson River Scene” painting by John Bunyon Bristol, courtesy of the Hudson River Museum. Hudson-Chatham Winery, located in Ghent, is Columbia County’s first winery, nestled between the Catskill and Berkshire mountains. Owners Carlo and Dominique DeVito produce several different wines as well as natural maple syrups under their Sugarmaker’s Reserve label. Commemorative bood-and-wine sets are available for $30 from the winery (518-392-2598, email

COOPERSTOWN BEVERAGE TRAIL is open for business, with a winery, a cidery and two breweries within 20 minutes of the Baseball Hall of Fame. An offshoot of wine trails created by legislation from Assembly Agriculture Committee Chair Bill Magee, the Cooperstown Beverage Trail has just released its new magazine (titled “Quench”) and rack card complementing a nice web site ( The trail includes Bear Pond Winery, Fly Creek Cider Mill, Cooperstown Brewing Company, and Brewery Ommegang. Recently, “Mallow Wine” from Fly Creek Cider Mill got a lot of publicity on Utica TV and many NBC affiliate stations including the Morning Show in New York City. On its opening day for 2009 celebrating the mill’s 153rd season, they harvested the soft white crop from mallow trees, transferred part of it into fermenters for mallow ice wine and the rest into small oak barrels for toasted mallow wine. The TV program provided live proof that marshmallows do grow on trees, but can only be harvested on April 1.

DIRECT WINE SALES to consumers grew 7% to over $3 billion in 2008, according to a survey just released by VinterActive (, reflecting a mixture of positive and negative trends and a clear message that adapting to a changing market will be the key to survival. The survey involved more than 275 wineries from 36 states, and also showed some interesting variation in regional strengths and weaknesses. Within the overall 7% increase were 1% declines in both tasting room and winery event sales, 2% growth in phone orders, and major growth in other categories: direct mail 24%, online 26%, and wine club 28%. In other words, last year there was a noticeable shift from the face-to-face transactions at wineries to remote sales through the internet and other means. While this may very well have been attributable to record gas prices and the dismal economic outlook as the year went on, it’s also likely to become a long-term trend. The good news about tasting rooms last year is that while visitor counts declined, increased sales per visitor softened the negative impact. Of the wineries surveyed, average direct sales varied greatly from $99,000 for the smallest producers to over $7 million for the largest, with the relative importance of direct sales clearly linked to size: without them, smaller producers would not survive. While the economy was the major negative factor affecting tasting room sales, complex government regulations are by far still the major impediment to increased interstate shipment. (In other words, the strong growth is occurring despite burdensome government regulations, and could be increased by simplification—bringing the government more excise and sales taxes. You’d think that would be an incentive during this era of budget woes.) Over the years, an increasing number of wineries have come to use the internet for sales, with 92% having a web site, 70% a secure online store, 72% email marketing, 53% online wine club enrollment, and 14% with a computer kiosk in their tasting room. Direct sales to consumers represent only 10% of total U.S. wine sales (as opposed to those through the three-tier system), but is the most widely used sales method at wineries—with 99% selling directly, the average winery selling $1 million directly (55% of total case volume), and 59% expecting direct sales to be the fastest growth area this year. And despite lingering concerns about the economy, most wineries project continuing growth of 5% or more in direct sales.