December 8, 2012
Great Harvest, Winning Wines, New Wineries, "New York Drinks New York", New York Farm Day, Governor's Summit...
2012: "It Was A very Good Year"
Frank Sinatra's classic song certainly describes 2012 for the New York wine industry. While there are still three weeks before we break out the bubbly on New Year's Eve, it's not too soon to celebrate one of the best overall years in recent memory:
o The wine grape harvest was one of the earliest ever, with average quanity and superb quality across virtually all grape varieties and regions.
o New York wines won a record number of top medals in major international competitions, along with rave reviews in major consumer publications.
o 17 new wine producer licenses were issued so far this year, bringing New York's total to 328, with at least 9 still pending.
o "New York Drinks New York" has been an extraoridinarily successful promotion of New York wines in New York City.
o "New York Farm Day" hosted by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand in September was bigger and better than ever.
o Governor Andrew Cuomo dramatically conveyed his support of the wine industry with a late October Summit in Albany.
While Hurricane Sandy had a lot of grape growers and wine makers biting their nails, New York's winegrowing regions suffered virtually no damage, especially compared with the City. Unfortunately, the Concord grape crop in the Lake Erie region (used for grape juice), which represents about two-thirds of New York's total grape acreage and tonnage, suffered a significant reduction due to a combination of the unusually warm winter followed by a late spring frost. But the wine grapes in that region, and in all others, fared very well in terms of quantity and especially quality.
The warm weather throughout the year, especially in the summer and early fall, resulted in a harvest that was two to three weeks early in most places, minimizing the normal risk of a killing frost in October that could stop the ripening process and the harvest. While many winemakers were challenged by a compressed crush--with many varieties ripening at once rather than in sequence--the inconvenience was worth it in the end when they could put up their feet and celebrate with a beer a few weeks early.
The 2012 harvest was similar in many respects to 2010, one of New York's best ever, so we eagerly await the wines as they start being released early next spring. Cheers!
Awards and Accolades
New York wines continued to wow wine competition judges and wine magazine reviewers with increasing recognition in 2012. In international wine competitions, New York wines received 88 "Best" designations, from "Best of Show" (of all wines in a competition) to "Best White Wine" (or red, rose, sparkling or dessert) and "Best Varietal" (chardonnay, riesling, merlot, etc.). Add to that 80 Double Gold medals (requiring unanimity among judges) along with 565 Gold medals, and it was a very good year indeed.
The top awards (Best of Show) went to Chateau Frank 2006 Blanc de Noirs (Atlantic Seaboard Wine Competition), Chateau LaFayette Reneau 2010 Dry Riesling (New World International Wine Competition), and Swedish Hill Winery (Winery of the Year, Riverside International Wine Competition).
The Best of Category designations from various competitions went to 21 Brix 2011 Ella's House White; Arrowhead Spring Vineyards 2009 Late Harvest Vidal Blanc; Casa Larga Vineyards 2009 Fiori Riesling Ice Wine; Chateau Franc 2006 Blanc de Noir; Dr. Frank 2010 Gewurztramner Reserve, and 2008 Late Harvest Riesling, Bunch Select; and Swedish Hill 2010 Late Harvest Vignoles.
Dr. Konstantin Frank Vinifera Wine Cellars, which celebrated its 50th anniversary this year, fittingly had a particularly strong showing of awards throughout the country, including the Governor's Cup and Winery of the Year awards at our New York Wine & Food Classic.
Complementing the wine competitions winnings are dozens of New York wines rated 90 or above by the three major wine consumer magazines: Wine Enthusiast, Wine Spectator, and Wine & Spirits. Of the 48 wines, 40 were Finger Lakes Rieslings, with scores reaching 93 points for Lamoreaux Landing 2011 Dry Riesling, Sheldrake Point 2010 Riesling, and Anthony Road 2009 Riesling, Martini-Reinhardt Selection (in both Wine Spectator and Wine & Spirits).
Finally, while not as tangible as medals or scores, the attention focused on New York wines by other major publications--the New York Times, Wall St. Journal, Washington Post, and others--is further evidence of the quality and increasingly widespread reputation of our fine wines.
The award-winning wines are listed on our web site (www.newyorkwines.org) under "New York Gold"--the perfect shopping list for the holidays.
328 and Counting...
So far during 2012, 17 new winery licenses were issued by the New York State Liquor Authority, with nine others pending, and these numbers don't include the 10 satellite stores and 46 branch offices which are essentially remote tasting rooms for wineries. It is well worth noting that the New York State Liquor Authority has significantly expedited the license approval process, so some of the "pending" licenses may in fact be active by the end of this month.
In addition, the new wineries are scattered throughout the $tate in 12 different counties, with four new wineries each in the Finger Lakes, Hudson River and Long Island regions, two in North Country, and the others in different areas. From being a largely regional industry not long ago, the wine industry has become virtually statewide--with 55 of New York's 62 counties now boasting wine producers (including Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens). (A "Wineries by County" map is available at www.newyorkwines.org.)
One of the services we provide at the New York Wine & Grape Foundation is essentially serving as an "incubator" for new wineries, with web-based information on licensing, business plans, grape varieties, and much more, supplemented with personal help as needed. The growth in new wineries has been accelerating, which we expect to continue in the future, and each new one means new investment, new jobs, new tourism, and new taxes for the State of New York. In 2008, the grape, grape juice and wine industry generated $3.76 billion in economic benefits for the State of New York--and with industry growth that number has clearly increased, probably to over $4 billion (see the "What's in a Bottle of Wine?" mini-poster on our web site. Wine: The Economic Engine.
"New York Drinks New York"
That's the name of a major New York wine tasting for media, trade and consumers last March, but in a broader sense describes a major new initiative we have undertaken to promote New York wines in New York City.
Thanks to a grant from the Genesee Valley Regional Market Authority supported by the New York State Department of Agriculture & Markets, we have been able to work with a superb, small Manhattan agency, First Press Public Relations, on a very creative "exchange program" introducing New York City to New York State, and vice versa. Basically, we bring New York City wine writers, sommeliers, and wine store managers to the various wine regions to get a first-hand understanding of their geography, people and wines. Then we bring representatives of the participating wineries into New York City for a thorough market orientation as well as networking opportunities.
There were other aspects of the program as well, starting with fascinating and illuminating market research ("What does New York City think of New York wines?"); media relations; targeted advertising; and a mid-March wine tasting at Astor Center which drew an unprecedented throng of media, trade, and enthusiastic consumers.
When the initial grant was depleted, I applied for a second of the same amount. Due to the incredible success of the program, I was given more than I asked for. (That never happens.)
The first part of the second phase program (bringing City folks to the country) was completed about a month ago, with the New York City part scheduled for mid-March, including another blowout tasting. New York City is the most competitive wine market in the world, and we get no breaks as New Yorkers: we've got to earn our place in the sun just like everyone else. Ya gotta be there, and now we are.
"New York Farm Day" Rocks
It may be an annual event (since 2002), but somehow New York Farm Day gets bigger and better every year.
Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, who thankfully is a very active member of the Senate Agriculture Committee and a great advocate for our industry, is the host of the event and clearly has the respect of her Senate colleagues as well as members of the House, who enjoy the great food and beverages produced in New York. The food ranges from Long Island oysters to Chobani yogurt, New York apples and Mercer's Wine Ice Cream; and the beverages include wine, spirits, beer, cider, grape juice, apple juice and, of course, milk.
The purpose of New York Farm Day is to tastefully educate official Washington that New York is a major farm state whose needs should be considered when shaping agricultural legislation like the (now-stalled) Farm Bill. There are many receptions on Capitol Hill, but Farm Day is one of the hottest tickets for a very simple reason: It's not just great food and great wine, but it's served by the people who actually produce these products (not some caterer).
We (especially Jennifer Cooper) orchestrate Farm Day in close coordination with Senator Gillibrand's staff, which is absolutely top notch in all respects. We also know that the 600 or so people who show up are the ones we want (involved with policy) because it's an invitation-only event and they RSVP to us at the New York Wine & Grape Foundation.
We look forward to Farm Day 2013 in September.
The Summit: A New Day in New York
On October 24, Governor Andrew Cuomo hosted a New York Wine, Beer & Spirits Summit in Albany, which also included hard cider as an emerging beverage category in the State. It was the start of a new era in New York for what I call the "farm-based beverage industry".
Several hundred invitees gathered in the Albany Convention Center, where the Governor sat with his top Administration officials at a head table, flanked on each side by several leaders from the various beverage groups. Several of us were invited so convey the perspectives and issues affecting our sectors, and how the State could help create a better business climate for future growth.
After two hours of dialogue and a one-hour recess for lunch, the Governor reconvened the Summit and, based on the morning's input, announced several significant legal or regulatory changes which would be implemented immediately (in fact, the next day the New York State Liquor Authority issued an advisory confirming that). He also announced the immediate availability of new funding to promote the farm-based beverages, including up to $2 million in matching funds if the industries could raise the equivalent amount in private sector dollars.
Nearly 30 years ago, in 1984, a former Governor essentially saved New York's grape and wine industry by listening, then acting. His name was Mario M. Cuomo. Governor Andrew Cuomo's 2012 Summit is the beginning of a process that almost surely will propel our industry and others to a whole new level. It's called "entrepreneurial government", and it works.
It's a new day in New York. Cheers!
Happy New Year!