As we get them, we're adding comments from industry members regarding the ideas put forward by Carlo DeVito regarding the creation of a New York Wine Council.
From Jim Trezise of the New York Wine and Grape Foundation:
"I’m aware of Carlo’s concept, and we’d all like to have more money to do more things, but I don’t see the point in reinventing the wheel, especially at a time of a state budget crisis. I doubt this will be a year when new organizations are funded."
Responding to comments made by members of the New York wine industry on Twitter that his proposal is backed by the Last Store on Main Street group, DeVito said this:
"I have always been transparent about everything I'm doing. Tom Edwards of Last Store on Main Street helped pave the way for me to meet with several people in Albany. I have no pull to get those meetings myself, and I know Tom, and he likes this idea. There's no quid pro quo. I've never hidden the fact that I don't think wine in grocery stores is a good idea for New York wine.But there's nothing in this whole concept that has to do with wine in grocery stores, period. I've put everything out there on the record. If the Wine Council board had seven members, I'd like to have nothing to do with it at that point - I don't need to be on the board and there certainly wouldn't be any exclusion of people who support wine in grocery stores. So that's it. No conspiracy here. I'm doing this because New York is ill-equipped to compete with other regions out there, not because Last Store on Main Street wants it."
Responding to some private comments that he should have been more public about his ideas before taking them to Albany, DeVito said:
"I respect and understand that feeling. I've consulted with a number of people. But if you have to consult with everyone before the train takes off, it'll never leave the station. I truly wish I had time to meet with everyone individually across the state, but I don't, and I'm not so presumptuous to think they'd want to take time to meet with me. So my goal was to put my ideas out there and start the conversation. My goal is to get the money this wine industry deserves and needs. I care about it deeply. This effort is about moving the conversation along, trying to figure out what we can do to succeed. We want new ideas. I welcome suggestions to change this, because I'm not the smartest guy in the state. If there are better ideas, we want to make it better."
Morgen McLaughlin of Finger Lakes Wine Country will make a statement by the end of the day.
From David Whiting of Red Newt Cellars on Seneca Lake:
"On the surface this looks like a reasonable ambition to build New York wine brands. Getting more support from the state is a worthy goal. I don't know that forming a separate organization is a good idea, though. Taking a look at strengths and weaknesses, I think there's a way to optimize the way we market New York wine. If we remove duplication of efforts we might be able to improve. I have never met Mr. DeVito and I would have expected him to interact with the industry in a meaningful way before making this proposal."
From Kareem Massoud, winemaker at Paumanok on Long Island and former chair of the New York Wine Grape Task Force:
"It's true that the state is in fiscal crisis, but is this bad timing? It's always a good time to talk about new ways to promote New York wine. And we need to be more successful in doing that. I wasn't aware of these proposals, but I'm open to learning more. Can a separate organization exist alongside the New York Wine and Grape Foundation? I think so. Think about what the Foundation does. They have to represent concord growers and vinifera growers equally. That's almost impossible. There's a real opportunity to improve the way we market our strongest wines."
Peter Carroll, owner of Lenz Winery on Long Island had this to say about the proposal:
"My response to the call for yet another industry group that will suck on the giant teat of state government is negative. I would scrap all state subsidies for industry. All of them. I'm a non-Ron-Paul libertarian. I want small government. I do not want to give the parasites also known as politicians any more Monopoly Money to play with, and in order to be logically consistent that means not asking for Monopoly Money from them either."
Peconic Bay Winery's general manager, Jim Silver said:
"Whatever one may think of Carlo’s proposal, it is a timely clarion call for unity in the industry. Unity not just of our strongest wines and producers, but of all producers who share similar problems, and similar needs. Lots of people will chime in about the obvious differences between the wine regions, but who will list all of the things that tie us together, and urge a united message? I’m glad it is someone with integrity and experience like Carlo DeVito.”
From Ted Marks, owner of Atwater Estate Vineyards:
"The new wine group that is trying to form a NY Wine Council is a slap in the face to the wineries and taxpayers in every wine district of our great state. The already-formed NY Wine Industry Association has endorsed last year’s Budget proposal in NY that would allow wine in grocery stores and has not asked the state for any additional funding in a year where the rest of the state is going to have to face serious cuts. Incredible that the Last Store On Main Street group would ask for funding when educational funding throughout the state and NY state employees are being are being laid off everywhere. As a winery owner I am embarrassed by this self serving program. Do not even think they represent me or anywhere near the majority of winery owners, employees and grape farmers within our state. I really question if they even represent any liquor stores beside themselves?
What is needed is for these liquor store owners and their 8 misguided wineries is to get behind marketing and allowing our NY citizens to buy wine in food stores; as all the surveys say they want. That alone will produce over $200,000,000.00 dollars in state funds, will not cost anybody anything and create jobs throughout our wine regions."
Several winery owners, including Scott Osborn of Fox Run Vineyards and John Martini of Anthony Road Wine Company, are traveling and unavailable for comment.