In last weekend's New York Times, columnist Howard Goldberg penned a piece "More Trouble for Vintners" that paints an uneccessarily bleak picture for New York wineries in 2009. In the story, he points to Governor Paterson's proposed budget, the possible elimination of the New York Wine & Grape Foundation (NYWGF), and the closing of both Vintage NY wine shops (which only sold NY wines) as the reasons for "more trouble."
All three could potentially be detrimental to Long Island and other New York wineries, but they are only a part of the story. A small sliver in fact.
The closing of both Vintage NY locations is sad. Despite some inconsistency in wine service, the stores were great ways for Manhattanites to learn about local wines. And, they were relatively easy ways for New York wineries to get their wines into NYC. They will be missed. But will the closing of two wine shops have a significant impact in the grand scheme of Manhattan wine sales or New York wine sales in Manhattan? Some impact, yes. Significant? I think that's open to debate.
It's important to realize that even with the loss of Vintage NY, New York City is far from a lost cause for New York wineries. The wineries that have put the hard work in have gotten themselves on lists at top restaurants and in top shops. And they are doing it on their own -- a model that will likely become more necessary and over the next couple of years. Is self-sufficiency ever a bad thing?
Everyone has an opinion about the NYWGF, but one thing in Howard's column struck me as odd to mention:
I honestly don't know a single person who thinks that site is useful. It's rarely updated, is a design and usability nightmare and isn't nearly as useful as some of the other trail and tourism sites. I know that I personally get frustrated when I try to use the site. To single the loss of that website out as important in the grand scheme of what is going on in the wine industry and the economy strikes me as odd.
We all know that 2009 is going to be tough financially... for almost everyone. But there is reason to be optimistic.
I've heard from several Long Island winery owners that sales have been strong, even from Labor Day (the end of the summer season) through the end of the year. Some are even seeing near-record sales figures. Why? "Staycationers" on Long Island and in the tri-state area are flocking to the East End, a fact that has been supported by conversations I've had with local B&B and hotel owners.
Even those who once complained that Long Island wines are over-priced are coming to realize just how many great wine values there are. Theya re coming to wine country, enjoying the wines and buying the wines like never before.
It is also a mistake to forget about the "drink local" movement and it's strength and importance going forward. Regular people who enjoy wine are really starting to see value in supporting their local wineries. This is a growing group and one that is becoming much more important.
There are, of course, people in the industry who stand to gain by convincing people that the New York wine industry is in serious trouble. I expect a bit more balance from Howard Goldberg and the New York Times, however.
Talking to even a few winery owners reveals a very different story, despite their cautious nature of their optimism.
I guess pessimism sells more papers though, right?