New York state is the fourth largest wine producer in the US after California, Oregon and Washington, but city vinophiles are hard-pressed to find a homegrown brand on liquor stores shelves.
Published: 2022-10-02 12:43 pm
NY one of US’s major wine producers — but good luck finding home-grown brands in Big Apple
nypost.com

Even a good thing for New York is turning to sour grapes.

The state is the fourth largest wine producer in the US after California, Oregon and Washington, but city vinophiles are hard-pressed to find a homegrown brand on liquor stores shelves stacked with bottles from Europe, Australia and the West Coast, a Post inspection found.

“We don’t get [many] calls for it [NY wine],” Soho Spirits & Wine owner Vito Massulo said.

“You only have a limited amount of space so you have to have what the people want… New York wines while they’re good — some of them are very good — they don’t have the cache or the history of wines from Europe, California even,” the 44-year veteran wine seller added.

Park Avenue Liquor Shop owner Eric Goldstein, who stocks a few regional wines like Wollfer Estate from Long Island’s East End, confessed he feels “like there might be — I don’t want to say a stigma on New York wine — it’s just not top of mind. It’s not thought of, period.” 

He and other wine sellers said it’s mostly tourists who buy New York wine.

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New York-created wines being sold at Astor Wine & Spirits.
Matthew McDermott
(image)
City vinophiles are hard-pressed to find a homegrown brand on liquor stores shelves stacked with bottles from Europe, Australia and the West Coast.
Matthew McDermott

New York’s more than 400 wineries are typically smaller than those from European or California powerhouses, and the products tend to be more pricey — and in many cases, aren’t promoted or sold by distributors, local sellers said.

Though the quality of New York wines, particularly from the Finger Lakes region, has improved in recent decades — particularly Riesling and other white wines, and reds like Cabernet Franc from grapes grown in cooler eastern Europe climates — the reputation hasn’t caught up with buyers.

One Finger Lakes vitner said his wines are more appreciated in Europe.

“I’ve gotten more interest in our wine in New York City because we’re exporting to London. In London, people think our wine is super hip,” said Kelby Russell, owner of the Red Newt winery upstate Hector along Seneca Lake.

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New York wines are typically stocked only in specialty stores, like the massive Astor Wine & Spirits in Manhattan’s East Village.
Matthew McDermott

Meaghan Frank, vice president of Konstantine Frank Winery in scenic Hammondsport along Keuka Lake, called it unfortunate “our region gets overlooked. There is a perception issue we have to contend with.” She said wines are easier to sell in closer upstate markets of Rochester, Ithaca, Syracuse and Buffalo than in the Big Apple.

Meanwhile, New York regulators have blocked efforts to market and sell regionally grown wine, one wine bar owner complained.

Ollie Sakhno, owner of the Keuka Kafe, a wine bar and restaurant in Forest Hills, Queens, said about 40% of the wine he offers is from the Fingers Lake region.

Yet the state Liquor Authority rejected his application to open a nearby shop to sell more regional wines because of opposition from nearby liquor stores that carry few local brands.

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Astor has 22 different NY wineries in stock from upstate and Long Island.
Matthew McDermott

“It’s a very rigged system. I was shot down. I thought there would be more enthusiasm for selling New York wines,” Sakhno said.

The New York State Wine and Grape Foundation — the trade group for the industry — gets about $1 million in state agricultural funding a year, with roughly $700,000 earmarked for promotion and the remainder dedicated to research, a spokesperson said.

New York wines are typically stocked only in specialty stores, like the massive Astor Wine & Spirits in Manhattan’s East Village, where there’s a rare full section of regional labels, and a few restaurants like Gramercy Tavern.

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The state budget provides $6 million in Taste NY funding.
Matthew McDermott

Astor has 22 different NY wineries in stock from upstate and Long Island, with white, red and rose varieties from Channing Daughters and Wolffer on Long Island’s East End, Constantine Frank in Hammondsport/Keuka Lake, Keuka Lake Vineyards, and Red Newt in Hector/Seneca Lake, among others.

Yet Astor Wines buyer Lorena Ascencios said mostly tourists buy the state wines. 

Long Island Rep. Lee Zeldin, the GOP candidate for governor who represents the wine-making East End, said policy makers have to “totally reimagine” how to promote local wine and other beverages by providing tax incentives to market the products. 

“From the east end of Long Island to the Finger Lakes and beyond, vineyards and craft breweries are producing some of the very best wines and beers in America, but you can’t tell that by looking at which products are being stocked up on shelves in New York stores,” Zeldin told The Post.

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A Florida resident picks up a bottle of Wolffer Estate wine from the vineyards at Sagaponack, NY, at Astor Wine & Spirits.
Matthew McDermott

Zeldin proposed “providing a tax break to small business owners who dedicate a certain percentage of their inventory to selling New York beer and wine.”

Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul defended the state’s role in promoting local wineries.

“Governor Hochul has invested millions to promote and market wineries, cut red tape to help wine producers open and expand, and continues to work to bolster the innovation and grape success of New York’s wine industry,” said Hochul spokeswoman Hazel Crampton-Hays.

The state budget provides $6 million in Taste NY funding — $1.075 million for the NY Wine & Grape Foundation and $252,000 for concord grape research, her office said.

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Astor Wines buyer Lorena Ascencios said mostly tourists buy the state wines. 
Matthew McDermott

The state’s I LOVE NY tourism campaign also promotes wineries and craft beverage producers, the spokesperson added.

She also signed a law providing temporary retail permits allowing wine sellers such as restaurants, hotels and other retailers and, made to-go-drinks permanent and increased the SLA’s budget by $2 million for additional licensing staff to reduce a backlog and cut red tape.

Former Gov. Andrew Cuomo hosted a wine and beer summit for local producers a decade ago, though it didn’t uncork a surge in demand.

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