By Lenn Thompson, Executive Editor
The wait is over. Empire State Cellars, a new wine shop and tasting room dedicated solely to New York State-made wine and spirits, will open tomorrow morning at 10 a.m. at the Tanger Outlet Center in Riverhead.
"It has been pretty labor intensive to say the least, and mentally draining, but the end result is worth all of the late nights and long hours. This is good for everyone," said Jim Silver, General Manager of Peconic Bay Winery, who is opening Empire State Cellars as second of it s five permissible tasting rooms under its Farm Winery license.
Upon opening tomorrow, the store will have 400 different wines and spirits in stock, with the goal of expanding that to 600 in the very near future. "There are still dozens of wineries we want in the store but that haven't gotten back to us yet. Some have been too busy with their harvest to sell us their wines. Some are sold out of certain things we really wan to carry. But that said, we've got an absolutely astonishing selection from all over the state," said Silver.
Empire State Cellars will be open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. seven days a week, and will offer tastings of several wines every day.
I've joined Jim and the Empire State team -- specifically manager Polly Brown and assistant manager Evan Ducz -- as they taste several wines they were considering for the store, and I can tell you that their enthusiasm for finding delicious wines from every corner of the state is obvious, even inspiring. Representing every region and as many wineries as possible is a priority.
"We really see this as a way to bring all of the state's wine regions together, to showcase their wines and, of course, sell them. The response has been amazing. Just about every winery we got in touch with is working with us."
When I asked Silver what wines he was most excited about stocking, his answer was so long that I almost had to cut him off: "There are some items that just blew me away with their quality and three of them were from Arrowhead Spring Vineyards in Niagara. I'm also happy to have gotten the Bloomer Creek Vineyards wines, some items from Mazza Vineyards in Lake Erie, neat sparkling wines from Swedish Hill Winery, new vintages from Waters Crest Winery and Palmer Vineyards, and single-vineyard wines from Keuka Lake Vineyards, Red Newt Cellars and Lamoreaux Landing. There are way too many wines to list that are very cool."
Personally, I'm nearly as excited about the selection of New York spirits, which includes items from Tuthilltown Spirits, Finger Lakes Distilling and Breukelen Distilling.
A grand opening celebration is in the works, but has not been scheduled.
I'm also excited to report that my wine club, formerly known as the New York Cork Club, will be re-born on January 1 as the Empire State Cellars Wine Club. With the shop's devotion to New York wines, and willingness to allow me to continue picking the wines independently, it was an easy decision to make. I'll tell you more about the new club tomorrow!