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January 06, 2009

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Good points--those don't sound like particularly key indicators of impending doom.
...I suppose a wine shop that only carried CA wines in LA might have an easier time than a shop that only carries NY wine in NYC but, in general, I'd think that kind of biz model would be the first to go in this kind of economy no matter what region the store focused on.

Lenn,

In the "odd" column, you will notice on the the Albany Times Union Blogs, William Dowd writes an article that seems inspired by the same feed, attributed also to the NYW&GF.

If so isn't it odd that an organization that is supposed to be the most positive about our industry is leading this negative drumbeat?

As usual there is no consultation with the industry, to my knowledge, as to what message this organization should be putting out but a continuation of an attitude that it knows best.

Regardless of how the funding issue comes out this has precipitated in my mind the need to reform NY state's efforts at promoting its wine industry.

I suspect this is a case of some in media shilling for their friends who work in these government sponsored entities. As if crying doom and gloom will save them from the budget ax?

You are rightly skeptical.

While I don't doubt that NYWGF would be happy to see these kinds of reports, I can't say from experience that they're pushing the story. My producers at channel 13 in Rochester were hoping to at least run a soundbite with Jim Trezise about the funding issue, so I called him last week in his office. They told me he was working from home in Penn Yan and would be available by email, but he was not reachable by phone. (!)

I emailed him that morning, asking for a brief interview about the funding issue. I have not heard back from him or anyone else at NYWGF.

It's never made any sense to me the primary assumption that centralized, government-funded entities are the glue that holds the New York wine industry together. All advances that I've ever seen, if you'd like to call them that, have been privately induced through the efforts of good winemakers and eager entreprenuers.

While I do believe that losing the NYWGF would be a set back for NY's wine industry, it surely doesn't reflect that the wineries are struggling.

I think it's a stretch to even mention the Vintage NY closings in the story. For one the wines at these stores represented a tiny fraction of wines available from NY wineries. Secondly, the sales from these stores represent wholesale transactions for the wineries, reducing their profits on these bottles anyway.

As for the reaction up here in the Niagara Region, we definitely wouldn't like to lose the support of the NYWGF but the main problem I see with the handful of wineries I'm close to is keeping wine stocked on their tasting room shelves.

If this story helps to get the word out and motivate people to write their state reps, then that's a good thing. Linking it with the closing of specialty wine boutiques in trendy areas of NYC is bad.

We have a successful all NY wine boutique up here called Chateau Buffalo and I wouldn't link their fate with the NY wine industry.

While no gov't funded entity could ever really hold a successful industry together, NY Wine and Grape has done a lot for the industry. I will qualify my comments by stating upfront that I am one of the wineries that is a member of the NY Wine and Grape Foundation.

At the core, they are a group that does a few things I think are important:
1) Influences legislation in NY that helps the wine industry. Many changes have been made to wine law because they have listened to their membership and communicated effectively to the NY lawmakers
2) Assists with marketing and promotion of NY wines via grant programs and marketing opportunities (export, trade shows, "uncork NY branded bags, etc). Every wine trail in the state has benefited from these programs and they help NY become cohesive in branding. Without these funds, wine trails would fully fund all marketing and prices would go up, which is OK if taxes went down....but I don't think they would.
3)They serve as a central information gateway to those interested in NY wines. Our winery is on the Niagara Escarpment and we were first listed on their old web site. That generated 1-2 calls per week to the winery, which is a lot considering we didn't advertise using any other method (because we were not open that year). Even more amazing because the site truly was amongst the most difficult to navigate. The new site is better and does serve a purpose, though it's just a small part of what they do and could always be improved.
4)They also provide some navigational assistance into the byzantine paperwork required to get a state license... That shouldn't be needed, but it is.

Good comments. I think that those prognosticators who are always seeing doom and gloom are having a field day these days. The closing of two Wine stores that sell only NY wines will hurt, but that's not the whole story.

As a North fork Bed and Breakfast and president of the North Fork bed & Breakfast Association we have seen steady business over the last few months and our members are expecting that the winter season will be as strong as ever. This is coming after the strongest summer we've had in years. So we know from the traffic out here and our members reports.
We are finding that our guests are coming from the tri=state area with the majority from NYC and Long island.

Wilfred,

Thanks for the info. I'm curious to know if you and your colleagues are seeing guests book more closer to their date-of-stay, or if they're still booking just as far in advance as ever.

Lenn - From an out of state journalist's perspective, Tresize and the NYWGF have been extremely beneficial in raising the profile of NY wines to media and consumers outside New York. The Web site (I bookmark uncorkny.com) is very useful as a reference for information and contacts.

I hate to impugn my character or the work ethic of any of my colleagues, but anything that makes our job easier is good! And having a central organization like NYWGF helps make journalists' jobs easier - otherwise some articles about NY wines may not have been written at all.

Will NYWGF's demise, should it happen, kill or maim the NY wine industry? No, of course not, and you have a good point about the benefits of increased self-reliance. But there is strength in unity, too.

Here in DC, we are beginning to see some NY wines appear on our local shelves. I can't prove cause and effect, but I know Tresize and the NYWGF have been active the past 7 years or so with his NY Farm Day event on Capitol Hill, sponsored by Sen. Clinton. He invites local somms and retailers as well as pols - and I'd wager that effort is paying off. I for one think it would be a shame to see it end.

Cheers, and keep up the good work! Go Regional Wine! WooHoo!

yea the website thing is not big. i only use it to link with the local wineries, so ill just save the links now. also, people really underestimate how important it is to update the website. constantly. i don't want to drag out the sad phrase, but i have to; this is web 2.o, so slapping together a web site with some pictures and information just isn't good enough. it almost has to be treated as a semi regular publication.

now as for the store. the idea is nice, but i think our goal should not be to have an exclusive store, but to just be in regular wine stores. i dont know how many wine shops there are in the greater NYC area, but if even 1/4 of them carried a decent selection of wines from NYS vineyards, the exposure and payback would be tremendous. i mean, does the Wine Library even have a good NYS or "local" section? I think what we need is a merciless canvasing campaign to every eatery in NY that claims any sort gourmet standard, anybody working the local angle. Every little town has some nice bakery or cafe or restaurant that has really good fresh artisnal local food but has a wine list dominated by Cali and Europe. Go in there brow beat them until some of that wine is NY wine, hell bring in a bottle and glass if you have to.

Thanks for all of the great comments, everyone.

What I don't want to get lost in the mix is that I'm not, in any way, suggesting that that NYWGF doesn't have value. The point is that if it were to go away, the NY wine industry isn't going to vanish. It might not expand into new markets as quickly though, that is true.

Another example of the negativity hit my virtual desk last night: http://timesunion.com/AspStories/story.asp?storyID=757306

I'd just like to add one important item to Duncan's list of benefits of the Wine & Grape Foundation; perhaps the most important in my mind, and that is the role they play in funding research that is directly applicable to NY state vineyards and wines.
The Research Committee of the NYW&GF allows industry to guide where state money is spent, and doubles the effectiveness of local fund raising by matching those private funds.
Cutting the entire Foundation budget will gut a lot of the new, progressive research being carried out by the new, young researchers at Cornell University the Dean so presciently provided to the NY industry.
Research done in New York, tailored to NY needs and conditions, is what will continue to push the ever increasing quality of NY wines. And we all know that good wine is what sells wine, more than any other aspect of promotion or marketing.

Lenn,
I believe the NYWGF has value but at some point industries need to grow up! The problem with NY is the gov't gets involved in everything then expects the taxpayers to pay for it. What they should do is cut the budget, cut taxes, cut regulation and let business move forward easily. If the wine industry believes the foundation to be a necessity they'll pick up the slack. Except they won't pay for plane charters from Penn Yan to Albany.......

It is high time for the wasted funding sent to the NYWGF be stopped. Those that say this group is essential for research for the industry, this group charges its research budget for plane charters to more places than Albany! NYS Dept Ag & Mkts could do the entire NYWGF job - and actually do it better, for less! As for this group helping gain local wine access on restaurant or store shelves - good luck if you're anywhere outside NYCs Top 10 restaurants, where it's trendy to hang out for promotion's sake. The rest of NY is left unserved of similar efforts...Utica, Syracuse, Buffalo, Saratoga, Binghampton, Rochester, etc., all have restaurants - how sad is it they only offer CA wines?!? Thanks to NYWGF for that! Giving them more or level funding is a mistake and a wasted effort. If Mr. Trezise ever checks his email, I'm sure he'd find a pile of correspondence begging his help in these non-NYC locations. I'm sure they're all on his list of cities to promote NY wine in, right after Paris, Napa Valley and the long list of other cities he is in when you try to reach him during the year.

Lenn,

This is a link to a letter I wrote to the NYT to offer a different point of view. It has been edited, but the main point was preserved. It is printed in today's Long Island section: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/11/nyregion/long-island/11letterli.html?ref=long-island

Since that article, and as you have documented, there has been a number of such articles/letters. I am impressed by the effectiveness of this campaign, and if the NYW&GF would promote our wines as well as it defends itself, it would have me as its strongest supporter.

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