Monday, December 12, 2016

About that winery 'distilling grant' -- it's sort of wrong

When it was announced last week that the Thousand Islands Winery had received a federal grant it would use to expand its distilling operation, many people in the state's wine industry were surprised, probably because it doesn't have a distilling component.

Yes, the winery does sell products produced by the Dark Island Spirits distillery, and in turn it sells Thousand Islands wines. (Both businesses are located in Alexandria Bay.) But, as it turns out, a $250,000 grant to the winery will be used solely to support its current business.

The confusion was caused by -- of all things -- a government error. In making the distribution announcement of nearly $2.3 million  from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Value-Added Producer Grant program, the purpose of the Thousand Islands grant was juxtaposed with a similar grant to Mazza Chautauqua Cellars / Five & 20 Spirits in Westfield, Chatauqua County. That combination distillery/brewery is the first such entity in the state.

The Mazza business itself is a study in growth. It began when two Italian immigrants founded a small winery in Pennsylvania, near the border with New York, then continually expanded over the years to today's multiple locations in the two states -- all in what is known as Lake Erie Wine Country -- and multiple alcoholic beverage enterprises. You can see an interesting online slideshow that describes the entire journey.

Meanwhile, Scott R. Collins, acting state director for USDA Rural Development, said the  Thousand Islands Winery’s grant will be used to expand the winery’s advertising and branding, as well as to help offset the costs of general operations.

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