By Evan Dawson, Finger Lakes Editor
Today Constellation Brands confirmed that it will shut down production at the massive Widmer Wine Cellars facility in Naples in 2011. The facility cranks out 2.2 million cases of wine each year, including the Widmer, Brickstone, Taylor and Manischewitz brands. Constellation will continue to make the wine, moving all production to its Canandaigua facility.
"We expect the full 2.2 million cases to transfer to Canandaigua as part of the consolidation," says Constellation Director of Corporate Communications Angela Blackwell. The move will bring the Canandaigua facility's annual production to an even 10 million cases.
While a deal with the Rochester Institute of Technology is not complete, Blackwell says RIT is interested in taking over the facility and vineyards. "They're looking at multiple uses for that site, including wine courses, experiments, and a hospitality program," Blackwell says, noting that, "We have not finalized anything with RIT yet." That kind of deal would represent a significant expansion for RIT in the areas of wine and hospitality, potentially putting RIT in position to beging competing with Cornell.
Most neighbors I met in Naples were not happy with the news. "I think it sucks, to be honest," says longtime Widmer customer Vicki Van Buren. "I'm worried RIT would receive tax-exempt status. How would that help Naples?"
But neighbor Joel Lincoln spoke for many in town when he noted, "Widmer is a huge property. It's part of a gorgeous drive into Naples. If RIT can come in and fill it, at least there wouldn't be deteriorating property there."