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September 12, 2007


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I respectfully disagree. If I was standing at a farm stand on the side of the road, and the apples they were selling weren't local - yes, I would feel misled.
But wineries are in the business of making wine, not selling local grapes. I view winemaking as an art, and if a winemaker has the talent to make great wine, he or she shouldn't be ashamed or not hang his/her shingle out because he/she doesn't own vineyard land.
As long as the tasting room's wine is produced locally, I feel it's honest call it a local wine and buy the best grapes possible to make it.
Several wineries in the Hudson Valley and the Thousand Islands Seaway Wine Trail use purchased grapes for their wines.
That's how all winemakers started, buying grapes and practicing their craft.

Albany, NY


Thanks for the comment...but my Finger Lakes writer, Jason wrote this.

But, since you mentioned it, while I'm not 100% on board with Jason, I understand his sentiment. And he didn't mention that many of the "merlots" made outside of Long Island are actually made here, but then sold in bulk to Hudson Valley an Finger Lakes wineries.

I'm torn on this issue, as I told Jason after I posted his piece. On the one hand, I'm passionate about "local"...so I'd disagree with your apple vs. wine argument.

On the other, I too think that it's the winemaker's job to make the best wine possible, and frankly it's hard to make good cab or merlot with grapes grown upstate most years.

At the end of the day, I think if wineries are honest about it and don't hide the origin, it's okay with me.

I figured this might be a bit controversial, and I think I qualified my comments to such a degree so as not to dismiss all wines that source grapes from different regions. I think it's fun when wineries with good winemakers try to stretch their limits a bit and create some wines that might be a bit uncharacteristic of the local climate, but I'm not necessarily impressed with wineries that seem dependent on the practice.

In a brief article, I can only make generalizations. On a case by case basis, I could point out how some wineries who source grapes for some wines are doing it the "right" way versus those who are not really taking advantage of their location and terroir to creat something special and unique.

Yes, winemakers in the Hudson Valley and the Thousand Islands source a lot of their grapes. While some of the winemakers there are undoubtedly talented and produce some very drinkable wines, I think that this sourcing fact handicaps the overall image of these as comprehensive wine regions.

At the end of the day, it's a distinction more than a condemnation.

Lenn, Jason,

The New York ABC law on farm wineries is very specific:
Article 6 Section 76a-
5. (a) Except as provided in paragraph (b) of this subdivision, no
licensed farm winery shall manufacture or sell any wine not produced
exclusively from grapes or other fruits or agricultural products grown
or produced in New York state.
(b) In the event that the commissioner of agriculture and markets,
after investigating and compiling information pursuant to subdivision
forty-two of section sixteen of the agriculture and markets law,
determines that a natural disaster, act of God, or continued adverse
weather condition has destroyed no less than forty percent of a specific
grape varietal grown or produced in New York state and used for
winemaking, the commissioner, in consultation with the chairman of the
state liquor authority, may give authorization to a duly licensed farm
winery to manufacture or sell wine produced from grapes grown outside
this state. No such authorization shall be granted to a farm winery
licensee unless such licensee certifies to the commissioner the quantity
of New York grown grapes unavailable to such licensee due to such
natural disaster, act of God or continuing adverse weather condition and
satisfies the commissioner that reasonable efforts were made to obtain
grapes from a New York state source for such wine making purpose. No
farm winery shall utilize an amount of out-of-state grown grapes or
juice exceeding the amount of New York grown grapes that such winery is
unable to obtain due to the destruction of New York grown grapes by a
natural disaster, act of God or continuing adverse weather condition as
determined by the commissioner of agriculture and markets pursuant to
this subdivision. For purposes of this subdivision, the department of
agriculture and markets and the state liquor authority are authorized to
adopt rules and regulations as they may deem necessary to carry out the
provisions of this subdivision which shall include ensuring that in
manufacturing wine farm wineries utilize grapes grown or produced in New
York state to the extent they are reasonably available, prior to
utilizing grapes or juice from an out-of-state source for such purpose.

>>> so, the law is there to encourage the type of behavior to benefit NY growers and exclude out-of-state fruit, unless the industry is totally threatened financially.

The law encourages investment in growing and using NY grapes, fruits, etc. It encourages new wineries to start and develop. The marketplace will determine who is viable into the future.

That law pertains to farm wineries but excludes commercial wineries which account for around 15% of total wineries and nearly 90% of production output.

So, the quality questions remain: what is the ideal sourcing scenario for farm wineries located in a certain region and what should commercial wineries strive for in terms of the NY-based products they produce?

My opinion is that wineries which bother to boast a certain location as part of their identity should strive to keep grapes as local as possible. This isn't an absolute, just a preference. Plenty of exceptions abound, but I'd like to see the trend go in that general direction.

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