Thursday, April 27, 2017

Imbibeable Cartoonery

A gallery of artwork honoring those who draw conclusions. 

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Tuesday, April 25, 2017

A proposal for a true 'Upper Hudson Valley Beverage Trail'

A rough outline of a proposed beverage trail
When do efforts to capitalize on local pride and promotion fall short of what could be achieved by broadening one's scope? We may find out if two state lawmakers from the Greater Capital Region are successful in getting state help to promote craft beverage production in a small slice of the area.

The Adirondack Regional Chamber of Commerce is working with State Sen. Elizabeth Little (R-Queensbury) and Assemblywoman Carrie Woerner (D-Round Lake) on just such an initiative. They would like to designate a regional craft beverage and winemaking trail for Warren and Washington counties under a state Department of Transportation (DOT) program. What it would entail is placing signs along state roadways directing motorists to craft breweries, wineries and distilleries, as well as including such a trail in the state's advertising and marketing of the craft beverage industry.

The effort is being buoyed by Travelocity and The American Distilling Institute recently putting the Glens Falls Metropolitan Statistical Area in its new index of top 10 small U.S. metro areas for craft spirits tourism.

All of which looks fine at first glance. But, at second glance the plan could be considered myopic.

The area already is covered by the Upper Hudson Valley Wine Trail, a collection of  more than a dozen wineries and tasting rooms plus affiliate businesses in Warren, Washington, Saratoga and Rensselaer counties. That existing cooperative venture could become so much more with the right vision and support.

New York State has long labored under the financially redundant and often conflicting burden of having too many school districts, stand-alone fire and police departments, hamlets-within-villages-within-towns, and on and on. Perpetuating such a failed organizational model by championing such cumbersome constructs in an alcoholic beverage industry that is undergoing a boom in all categories seems quite unwise.

Consider, around the state we already have beverage trails that bump up against each other, sometimes creating some confusion when promoting cooperative events. Do we need more of that? I suggest the lawmakers might expand the scope of their current intent. Rather than simply adding another entity to the mix, they could seek DOT and state marketing assistance to go beyond the small area now being targeted and helping the Upper Hudson Wine Trail become the Upper Hudson Beverage Trail and attracting as many wineries, breweries, distillers and cideries as  possible in the true "Upper Hudson" area.

The idea is not far-fetched. Whereas New York once had just a handful of wine trails, today it has 21 -- 15 that are wineries-only, 6 that include brewers and distillers under the "beverage trail" rubrick.

Most beverage trails have partnerships with a variety of hotels, motels, resorts, restaurants, tour vehicle companies, and craft food artisans that offer enticements to tourists. Imagine the promotional clout available to a well-formed beverage trail that stretches a manageable 60-plus miles from Albany and Rensselaer counties to the south to Lake George to the north.

So, Senator Little and Assemblywoman Woerner, care to discuss?

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Monday, April 24, 2017

25th Cayuga 'Wine & Herb Festival' covers 2 weekend

Except for opening day, all 16 members of the Cayuga Wine Trail will be participating in the next two weekends' 25th annual "Wine & Herb Festival."

Each weekend, the event will open on Friday from 1 to 5 p.m. at four member wineries -- Treleaven, Long Point Winery, Montezuma Winery, and Six Mile Creek Vineyard. Then on both Saturday and Sunday they will be joined by Americana Vineyards, Bellwether Hard Cider & Wine Cellars, Buttonwood Grove Winery, Cayuga Ridge Estate Winery, Goose Watch Winery, Hosmer Winery, Knapp Winery, Lucas Vineyards, Swedish Hill Winery, Thirsty Owl Wine Company, Toro Run Winery, and Varick Winery & Vineyard.

The tour will allow home gardeners to get started on their own plots by purchasing potted herbs and vegetables that will be featured in all 16 food samples, along with the matching recipe collection. Visitors will be offered wine samples that complement that dish, and will be offered three additional wine tastings. Herbs and vegetables will include jalapeno peppers, marjoram, iceberg lettuce, cilantro, parsley, Sweet 100s tomatoes, oregano, celery, dill, sage, Roma tomatoes, lavender, sweet banana peppers, meatball eggplants, basil and chives.

Potential visitors can reserve tickets and their preferred starting point online. Prices vary depending on the package selected. For those unfamiliar with the Cayuga Lake-centric trail, the organization recently release a downloadable app.
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Thursday, April 20, 2017

Long Island Wine Press spring edition now available

Randee Daddona photo,Moka Graphics layout
The spring edition of the Long Island Wine Press is hitting the newsstands this week.

The publication, produced by the northforker, features a photo history of the early days of Long Island Wine Country. Some of the region’s oldest vineyards, including Pindar Vineyards, Paumanok Vineyards, Palmer Vineyards and Bedell Cellars, submitted old pictures for the photo essay.

Other features include an interview with 1943 Pizza Bar owner Matt Michel; a profile on Kontokosta Winery, an East End facility; the story behind Channing Daughters Winery’s VerVino vermouth; an interview with Jacqueline Malenda of Madiran the Wine Bar in East Setauket; and a letter from Long Island Wine Council president Roman Roth.

Copies are available at wineries, restaurants, newsstands and other businesses around the region. Some of the material will be posted on the northforker website.
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Brooklyn Crush's spring edition is in the works

The Brooklyn Crush Wine & Artisanal Food Festival is becoming a major player in the state's pantheon of such events. The "spring edition" of the biannual event is set for Saturday, May 13, at Industry City in the borough's Sunset Park.

The tasting will feature more than 175 wines, ciders and other adult drinks, as well as light fare and hors d’oeuvres, plus numerous artisan food tables offering samples of charcuterie, baked goods, olive oils, vegan selections, cheeses, non-alcoholic beverages, salsas and spreads, chocolates, and other specialty foods. Providers will offer full-sized items for patrons to purchase.

Old, new and emerging wine regions will be showcased, including varietals from the U.S. -- with several New York State wineries to be featured, Brazil, France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, and South America. Vendor and winery lineups will be regularly updated on the festival website.

Tickets now are on sale, priced from $59 to $120, depending upon ticket level and time of purchase. Additional details of the event and ticket purchasing are available online.
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Winery shares step-by-step guide to care of a vineyard

Photo courtesy of Upper Hudson Valley Wine Trail
As you might imagine, the care and nurturing of wine grapes is a tedious task that requires  year-round care even though one might think growers can take the winter off.

The Upper Hudson Valley Wine Trail has just shared a great guide provided by The Fossil Stone Vineyards on just what steps are a "must" for anyone hoping for a great harvest, favorable weather permitting. Click here to view it.

Fossil Stone is located in Greenfield Center about five miles north of Saratoga Springs on a farm dating to 1802.
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Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Hobby winemakers conference set for Cornell University

Reservations now are being accepted for the annual WineMaker Magazine Conference, set for  June 1-4 at Cornell University in Ithaca.

The four-day event targeting hobby winemakers will include dozens of seminars and other events. Organizers are cautioning anyone contemplating attending that the last time the conference was held in the Finger Lakes it sold out several months early.

Among scheduled speakers are Kathy Arnink, who teaches enology courses in Cornell's enology and viticulture program in the Food Science Department; Peter Brehm, owner of Brehm Vineyards in California where he has been helping amateur winemakers for more than 45 years, and Meaghan Frank, fourth generation of the Frank family to manage Dr. Konstantin Frank's Winery in the Finger Lakes.

A downloadable conference brochure and registration information are available online.
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Friday, April 14, 2017

Pennsylvania a step closer to broadening wine sales

• From the Meadville, PA, Tribune
HARRISBURG, PA -- A plan proposed by House Speaker Mike Turzai, R-Allegheny County, would allow shoppers to buy their wine where they get their pasta and sauce -- in the normal grocery aisles instead of a segregated café area of the store.

The measure is part of a series of new privatization bills House Republicans have rolled out to further dismantle Pennsylvania’s government-run liquor system. Other measures would allow grocers to sell spirits as well as beer and wine, and a separate bill to allow privately-run liquor stores.

There are about 220 grocery and convenience stores in Pennsylvania selling wine and beer in cafe settings. Pennsylvania has about 600 state-run liquor stores. Turzai’s bill would allow any grocery store to sell wine in the main store area by paying the state a $250,000 application fee per store. The House Liquor Control Committee has scheduled a vote on the measure for next Tuesday April 18).

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Thursday, April 13, 2017

Bill would allow out-of-state wine shipments to New Yorkers

From The Business Wire

ALBANY -- With the introduction of Assembly Bill 5991, New York State is poised to open the door for the state's wine consumers to enter the 21st Century.

The bill, sponsored by Assembly Member Amy Paulin of Westchester County -- a graduate of UAlbany -- would give New York wine consumers the right to receive wine shipments from out-of-state wine stores, internet retailers, wine-of-the-month clubs and wine auction houses.

The National Association of Wine Retailers (NAWR) today announced its support for her bill. In addition, a number of the state's major wine retailers endorsed the legislation along with its commitment to free and fair trade.

NAWR also has established a new website that provides New Yorkers with access to a variety of tools for supporting the change to the laws governing how the state’s consumers access the wines they want.

“Consumers of fine wine in New York State are slowly learning that it is currently illegal for them to receive shipments from out-of-state wine stores. They cannot fathom why these shipments would be illegal, while out of state wineries, New York state wineries, and New York state retailers are legally able to ship them wine.” said Tom Wark, NAWR executive director. “A5991 would give New Yorkers access to nearly every wine available in the American marketplace and that is a privilege that they should have had years ago.”

The bill also would increase tax revenue by requiring that out-of-state retailers remit sales tax to New York. Protections against minors obtaining the wine are also in the bill and mimic the same requirements for adult signatures at the time of deliver that are required of wineries that ship wine into the state.
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Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Update 2: Cuomo moviehouse drinks plan bites the dust

Beer and wine are sold in this California theater where clip-on trays also holds food items.
UPDATE 2 (4/12/17): Governor Andrew Cuomo's push to allow all movie houses in the state to sell alcoholic drinks failed to get enough support in the Legislature to become reality. Neither the Republican-led Senate nor the Democrat-led Assembly included it in their budget proposals, and the final budget passed over the weekend did not include any provisions for the measure. Current state law prevents movie theaters from selling such beverages unless the venue also serves restaurant-style food and has tables to go with every seat.

UPDATE (1/20/17): In one of his budget speeches this week, Governor Andrew Cuomo said he would propose granting approval for movie theaters to serve wine and beer, as well as incentives to encourage them to be sure those are New York State products. The catch -- and isn't there always a catch with government? -- is that Cuomo's actual paperwork reveals that such service would NOT be restricted to wine and beer, and there is no provision for incentives for using state products.

(Originally published 1/18/17)

In New York State you can sip a beer or a glass of wine while watching a standup comic perform live, listen to a lounge singer-pianist or a jazz quintet, or even stroll through a gallery to see an art collection or hear a speaker. If alcohol-friendly Governor Andrew Cuomo has his way, you'll be able to enjoy the same beverages while taking in a movie.

There is a small handful of movie houses in the state allowed to sell such beverages now, a result of a succesful 2011 lawsuit filed by Nitehawk Cinemas seeking such a privilege, but they must have table seating and offer a full restaurant menu. Hardly the same as sitting in your neighborhood moviehouse and sloching back into a comfy overstuffed seat while you take in the latest version of the "Hunger Games" franchise, and hardly a sufficient-sized venue to handle crowds for first-run films.

During his budget address delivered publicly on Tuesday, Cuomo said that in addition to dozens of revenue and regulation recommendations, "We also had a proposal that would allow alcohol and beer to be sold in movie theaters. And, it would be joined with an incentive program, to incentivize the movie theaters to sell New York wine and beer."

If successful, the proposal would be just another step in a long series of moves by the governor to aid the state's wine/spirits/brewing industry by simplifying regulations, expanding tax credits, creating promotional programs, and speeding up licensing.

“It is a very big industry for us," Cuomo said. "We have developed it, it’s going gangbusters, anything we can do to encourage it. It’s especially successful in Upstate New York."

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Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Beak & Skiff emerging as an Upstate multi-spirits producer

Kombucha is ever-so-slowly staking a claim to a small slice of the adult beverage market in New York State. The latest company hoping to make the fermented tea product a substantial part of its business is the Beak & Skiff Apple Orchards and its spirits line called 1911 Establishment.

The Lafayette, Onondaga County, operation is in the midst of a push that potentially will make it a major player in the overall spirits industry. It is constructing a $3.5 million, 20,000-square-foot juice facility adjacent to its apple-pressing building on the south side of Route 20, just east of Route 80.

Across Route 20, a 2,000-square-foot rickhouse will be built next to the 1911 Distillery, which opened in 2009. Eventually, the  barrel-aging facility will hold as many as 600 barrels. As part of the local emphasis, the barrels are made by Adirondack Cooperage of Remsen, just north of Utica.

While the various spirits will need to spend some time being barrel aged before going to market, Beak & Skiff will gain revenue from products of the new juice facility. It expects fresh apple cider this fall, and natural drinks such as kombucha ready for market in 2018. In an interview with, Beak & Skiff general manager Ed Brennan said the kombucha likely will be produced at Beak & Skiff for another company, using that company's brand name.

"We don't want to rush things," Brennan said. "We want to differentiate ourselves, have something that stands out." Joe Bergan, 1911 distiller, concurs. "We're not going to hustle something out just to get it out," he said.

Beak & Skiff is anything but a newcomer to Upstate New York. It began, according to the company's official history, in 1911 "when George Skiff, an onion farmer on the North Side of Syracuse, and Andrew Beak, a dairy farmer, met at the farmers market and decided it would be fruitful to join forces and enter the emerging apple business. They found that the hillside area along Route 20 provided the perfect conditions for growing apples and began planting that very year."

The company is located at 2708 Lords Hill Road, Lafayette. Phone: (315) - 696-6085.

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Monday, April 10, 2017

Clinton Vineyards tasting room reopening with tax-free days

Clinton Vineyards' intimate, attractive tasting room is always a warm-weather treat, so it's good news that owner Phyllis Feder today announced it will open for the season on Saturday.

To mark the occasion, as well as the winery's 40th vintage anniversary which will introduce the latest version of its signature seyval blanc, Feder notes: "The celebration begins with our tasting room opening  on April 15. That's the day people usually pay their taxes. However, not for friends of Clinton Vineyards. We are offering tax free shopping this Saturday and Sunday between 1 and 5 p.m. So, no worries about the tax on your wine purchase. We'll pick up that part of the bill."

Clinton Vineyards is located at 450 Schultzville Road in Clinton Corners, Dutchess County. Phone: (845) 266-5372.

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Friday, April 7, 2017

Mio Posto to remerge in new city, in place of Lark + Lily

Danny Urschel
Sylvia Lilly
This a tale of two restaurants with a definite twist. Or two.

Mio Posto, which Danny Urschel had owned for about two years before it was destroyed by a fire last Thanksgiving that also wreaked havoc on several adjoining restaurants in Saratoga Springs, will be reopening, although not in Saratoga.

The Lark + Lily Wine Bar & Kitchen on Albany's Lark Street, which Silvia Lilly created after purchasing what had been The Wine Bar and Bistro On Lark, will disappear before it even reaches its second anniversary.

Here's the deal, as reported by the Times Union's Table Hopping blog:

Danny Urschel, who has said he would reopen Mio Posto but wasn't sure where, says he has reached an agreement with Lily to take over her restaurant and rename it Mio Posto. With 44

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Villa Bellangelo unveils a new 'bench' series of wines

"I'm obsessed with texture," winemaker Chris Missick said as he poured the latest wine in the series of wines by Villa Bellangelo called "Bench" at a tasting in the winery's new library tasting room. The title, short for "bench trial," refers to a limited run series that allows the Bellangelo winemaking team to seek out experimental, textural expressions of the wines it crafts each vintage. The newest wine in the lineup is a 2015 Riesling.

Bench emerged from a collection of barrel projects that started at the winery some years ago. The lineup of current releases includes the 2013 Fifty 50, a hal- white Pinot Noir and half-Chardonnay blend aged in neutral oak for two years, and three separate 2014 skin fermented white wines from Riesling, Gewurztraminer, and Seyval Blanc grapes. 

The new release, to be made this month, will be a very different take on Riesling. The 2015 Bench Riesling was uninoculated for its primary fermentation, aged in neutral barrels, and permitted to go through malolactic fermentation. The results, says winemaker Chris Missick, "are a striking change for the person familiar with Finger Lakes Rieslings. Combining citrus with a softer acidity than is typical for the region, and perhaps closer in line with a cold climate Chardonnay than a typical cold climate Riesling, the 2015 Bench Riesling offers an exciting curiosity to the 2015 line-up of Rieslings produced from Bellangelo."

The 2016 Bench wine, still in the barrel and that will not be availablr until 2018, is composed of Gewurztraminer that underwent a carbonic maceration and a late harvest cluster select Gewurztraminer fermented to dryness.

Friday, March 31, 2017

New Long Island cider tasting room goes beyond the norm

A look at the main tasting and dining area. (photos provided)
Cideries may briefly have been a poor cousin to wineries and breweries that were more in the mainstream mind and adept at marketing through well-appointed tasting rooms, but that is changing.

Now that cider, which in colonial times and beyond was the go-to adult beverage here and in the UK, has made a tremendous comeback, more and more cideries -- sometimes offshoots of wine- and beer-making operations -- are paying attention to their public face via tasting rooms.

An example of go-big-or-go-home is the Riverhead Ciderhouse, an 8,000-square-foot tasting room that just opened in the Long Island community regarded as the gateway to the East End wine region.

Greg Gove, whose resume includes stints as a winemaker with Hargrave and Pindar vineyards, is the cider master for the operation that offers a wide variety of apple ciders and other apple products along with locally-made beers and wines. He is using New York-grown apples to

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Researchers seek genetic clues to help grapes survive cold

Al Kovaleski visiting the Anthony Road Winery in Penn Yan. (Chris Kitchen/University Photography)
From the Cornell Chronicle
Months before northern vineyards burst into their lush summer peak, the delicate grape buds holding the nascent fruit in its tiny core must first withstand the freezing onslaught of winter.

Understanding how grape buds respond to subzero temperatures is of paramount concern to vineyard managers in New York and other northerly grape-producing states. Some of the more popular varieties used in the wine and juice industries can survive temperatures far below the freezing point of water. By a process known as supercooling, cellular mechanisms within the bud maintain water in liquid state down to around minus 4 to minus 30 degrees Fahrenheit, depending on the species. Beyond a certain low-temperature threshold, ice forms inside the cells, cellular functions cease and the bud dies.

Horticulturists have long relied on traditional methods to study freezing in plants. Now a researcher in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences is using powerful technologies on campus to explore in new ways the cellular mechanics that allow grape buds to survive brutal cold. The research has implications for vineyard economics, especially as climate change opens more northerly land for cultivation and current growing regions experience more extreme weather.
Go here for the full story.
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Wine legislation roundup: 50 states, 50 sets of rules

From Wine Spectator
With all the recent drama in Washington, DC it can be easy to forget that hundreds of lawmakers in state capitols are busy drafting and debating bills that could impact their constituents -- that's you.

The 2017 legislative season is currently under way in most states. And ,because the 21st Amendment to the Constitution delegates much of the power to regulate alcohol to the states, there are plenty of proposals that could change the way you buy and consume wine and other alcoholic beverages.

From the endless direct shipping wars to changes in blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) limits for driving to excise tax increases and exemptions to diapers and wine ice cream, here's a guide to the proposed laws now under debate.

Go here for the state-by-state update.

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Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Minnesota wineries sue over grape-import restrictions

Depending upon its outcome, a lawsuit just filed in Minnesota could be good news for New York State grape growers.

A pair of farm wineries, aided by the Institute for Justice, have filed a federal lawsuit in Minneapolis that challenges the state's limitation on using out-of-state grapes to make wine. The owners of the Alexis Bailly Vineyard and Next Chapter Winery argue that the regulation circumvents their constitutional rights to engage in interstate and foreign commerce.

Minnesota requires wineries to use mostly Minnesota-grown grapes in making wine, but wineries point out that the state's climate makes it difficult to grow many varieties of grapes and, therefore, grapes grown in such heavy-producing states as New York, Missouri and elsewhere are needed to provide variety and volume.

They also call the ban discriminatory because Minnesota allows breweries to use out-of-state hops, mostly those grown in the Pacific Northwest, to make their beers. They argue that if Minnesota breweries were forced to mostly use hops grown in Minnesota, many of their popular products would become difficult, if not impossible, for them to offer.

“We’re fighting for our right to run a successful business,” said Nan Bailly, owner of Alexis Bailly Vineyard, which was founded by her father. “We have always carried the flag for Minnesota-grown and Minnesota-made wines, and always will. We have the oldest winery in

'NY State of Rosé' an international tasting event

Fans of rosé wines, and there seem to be more of them all the time judging by various competitions and news items, will have an opportunity to compare those from New York State with those from several other countries during the "NY State of Rosé" tasting event in Manhattan on Thursday, April 27.

The tasting, organized by New York Wine Events, will be held at the Union Square Ballroom from 7 to 10 p.m., with a premium 6 p.m. access reservation available. They promise a line of rosés from New York, France, Italy, Brazil and Slovenia, with several others to be announcd on the website closer to the date of the event.

Winemakers, wineries, and various importers and distributors will be on hand to pour samples and to discuss the wines with attendees.

For those unfamiliar with rosés (pronounced row/zays), that type of wine is created as the skins of red grapes touch the wine for just a brief time. While some red wines ferment for several weeks on their red grape skins, rosé wines are stained red in just hours. The winemaker has total control over the wine's color, removing the red grape skins when the wine reaches the desired shade.

New York's Bridge Lane Wine, Brotherhood Winery, Jamesport Vineyards, The Lenz Winery, Palmer Vineyards, Sannino Vineyard, and Wolffer Estate Vineyard with its rosé cider will participate; 13th & Third Wines will pour its California selection with New York roots; Maiden + Liberty will present a French-American rosé; Uncork Brazil will feature the country's Miolo Wine Group and Cave Geisse Winery, plus a bonus rosé from South Africa's DeBos Handpicked Vineyards; Laureate Imports will pour a Slovenian selection and XV Exclusives will sample rosés from France and Italy.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Amorici Vineyard's Messina creates an 'off-premises' label

The newcomer
Amorici Vineyard sits near the border between Washington and Rensselaer counties, but its newest wine says "North Fork of Long Island" on the label. Wassup?

Owner-winemaker-chef Joe Messina is having his new line, called Bacchus Trust Select, made by other wineries to his specifications. The first wine in the series is a 2014 gewürztraminer made from Long Island grapes.

The wine is available, like the dozen or so he produces under the Amorici name, for $25 a bottle at the vineyard, located at 637 Colonel Burch Road, Valley Falls. And, it also is available at shops that normally carry Amorici wines.
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Saturday, March 25, 2017

State-supplied alcohol at park sparks Long Island opposition

Under-development visitors center. (Drawing provided by NYS Parks Dept.)

Ever-expanding efforts by the Cuomo administration's Taste NY program that promotes foods and beverages produced in the state are running into some local opposition on Long Island.

The under-construction Hallock State Park visitors center on the North Fork's Sound Avenue will sell alcoholic beverages and visitors will be able to drink them on-site, according to a document just released by the  New York State Department of Parks, Recreation & Historic Preservation. The patio and picnic area adjacent to the center will designated by the department to allow alcohol consumption, the document says.

The department's document said that while it prefers the Taste NY concession to be operated by the holder of a farm winery, brewery or cidery license, “there may be multiple liquor licensing options available to an interested party and all proposals are encouraged.” That nicety is because the Cuomo people have been encouraging "branch office" licenses, and touting the growing number that have been approved.

The concession will occupy a 600-square-foot room in the 3,800-square-foot visitors center structure now under construction in the winery-rich area. Hallock State Park Preserve, formerly

Friday, March 24, 2017

Expanded Hamptons Restaurant Week now called 'East End'

Anyone headed to Long Island in the next week may want to take in the "East End Restaurant Week," an eight-day restaurant promotion even that will run from this Sunday through the following Sunday, April 2.

This event is a renamed and expanded version of "Hamptons Restaurant Week," which was held the previous 14 years. Its original purpose was to generate additional business for restaurants in that winery-centric section of Long Island during a traditionally slow period and as a kick start to the spring season. What began as a South Fork promotion has grown to encompass all of the East End, including the North Fork.

"We've always received a tremendous amount of support from the North Fork," says LIRHG President Steve Haweeli, "so it's time we recognize that and show our appreciation for all restaurateurs involved."

Wölffer Estate Vineyard unveils renovated tasting room

Showing off a new look at Wölffer Estate. (photo provided)
Wölffer Estate Vineyard has unveiled its renovated tasting room just in time for Sunday's start to the East End Restaurant Week.

New wood floors, counter, hightop and banquette seating, a restocked wine shop and displays and dark wood ceiling accents punctuate the setting. Visitors will be able to sample wines as well as choose from items on an expanded light bites menu. Full meal service is available on the grounds from a new kitchen that was part of an overall spruce-up program.

Wölffer is located on Long Island's South Fork at 139 Sagg Road, Sagaponack, just off the Montauk Highway. Tasting room hours: Hours: Sunday-Thursday 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., Friday and Saturday 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Phone: (631)

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Thursday, March 23, 2017

Niagara Wine Trail plans 2-weekend tasting

Members of the Niagara Wine Trail are planning a two-weekend "Taste of the Trail" event for April to help celebrate its 15th anniversary.

Although not every member is involved in both the April 22-23 and 29-30 weekends, most are. The self-guided event allows visitors to start at any of the venues, then go on to others as they desire. Reservations, accepted through the Thursday before each weekend, are $25 for one weekend or $40 for two. At the wineries the days of the event, prices jump to $30 and $45 per person.

The suggested plan is to explore half the trail each weekend to maximize the variety of foods sampled with suggested wine pairings from each winery's collection.

A few examples of what will be served:

Keuka Lake Wine Trail greets spring with 'Tapas & Wine'

Once the leftover snow banks recede, most people are anxious to get out and travel a bit. Members of the Keuka Lake Wine Trail are counting on getting an early share of that traffic.

That will begin with a "Tapas & Wine Weekend" set for 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, April 8-9. It's a self-guided tour with visitors beginning at any point on the Trail, picking up a souvenir tasting glass and a food-and-wine sample before moving on to other venues.

Each winery will prepare savory and sweet bites with suggested pairings. Twenty-eight wine samples and more than a dozen food samples will be offered. A few examples:

Hunt Country Vineyards introduces a new winemaker

Craig Hosbach at work. (photo provided)
In spring, wineries usually are looking to new things. At Hunt Country Vineyards, the newest "thing" is a new winemaker.

Owners Art and Joyce Hunt today announced the appointment of Craig Hosbach to that role. He has been making wine for more than a decade, mostly in northern New York State, and is vice president of the Northern New York Grape Growers Association.

In 2008, Hosbach joined Thousand Islands Winery in Alexandria Bay where he refined his skills working with regional grapes as well as with classic vinifera varieties. Then, in 2012, he became head winemaker at Tug Hill Vineyards in Lowville. His wines have won more than 200 various awards.

Hosbach also is involved in the teaching of winemaking, having created an educational

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Bellangelo opening two 'branded' satellite tasting rooms

In the Bellangelo cellar. (photo provided)
The Seneca Lake winery Villa Bellangelo is planning a two-venue grand opening bash on March 31.

Both venues are branded satellite tasting rooms called Branch by Bellangelo. One is in the former clubhouse of the Seneca Lake Country Club in Geneva, the other opposite the Cheesecake Factory in Syracuse's Destiny USA shopping complex. Wine tastings, the release of 2016 rosés, live music and other entertainments are planned for the grand openings.

The Branch in Geneva, located at 226 Turk Road, has a full cafe offering wine tastings and pairings from the Bellangelo winery and other New York State producers, as well weekend brunches. The Branch in Syracuse offers a range of Bellangelo and other New York State wines as well as selling local farm-produced food, craft and fashion items, as well as tasting sessions.

Update: Senate OKs new wine ice cream size proposal

Home of New York's wine ice cream.
UPDATE (3/22/17): The State Senate today approved S4265, a bill introduced by Sen. Joseph Griffo (R-47), to allow a change in the portion size of wine ice cream. The current minimum container size is one pint. Griffo, the deputy senate majority whip, seeks to meet what he says is consumer demand for smaller containers of wine ice cream for weddings, fundraisers, recreational tours, etc. A companion bill that needs to be passed next is being introduced in the Assembly by William Magee (D-121), chairman of the Agriculture Committee. New York is the only state with minimum size requirements.

(Originally published 2/18/17)

From the Rome Sentinel
Legislation that would allow fans of wine ice creams to enjoy their treats in smaller containers has been introduced by State Senator Joseph A. Griffo.

Mercer’s Dairy, located on Route 12 in Boonville, Oneida County, is known for its wine-infused ice cream line, which includes cherry merlot, chocolate cabernet, lemon sparkling, peach white zinfandel and red raspberry chardonnay, among others.

A pioneer in this segment of the ice cream market, it developed the adult treat in 2006. It is sold in the U.S. and foreign countries. Griffo’s bill would do away with a New York State Agriculture and Markets Deprtment requirement that the dessert be sold in containers of at least one pint.

“Every event or venue we’ve had access to has been asking for smaller Dixie cups for people to eat wine ice cream out of, since many people don’t come to these venues looking to carry around pints of ice cream,” said Roxaina Hurlburt, Mercer’s director of marketing. “But, out of the 22 states we sell in, New York is the only state that has size restrictions on wine ice cream.”
Go here for the full story.

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Celebri-Quotes: Pope Francis

This occasional featured tidbit usually deals with things said by people in the drinks industry, the arts, entertainment, maybe even politics. But, Pope Francis keeps surprising people with his observations on a variety of topics not usually addressed by the head of the Roman Catholic Church. This week, in delivering his weekly Angelus address, he interpreted the passage in the Gospel of St. John describing the wedding feast of Cana at which it is written that Jesus turned water into wine.

• “How is it possible to celebrate the wedding and have a party if you lack what the prophets indicated was a typical element of the messianic banquet?”

• “Water is necessary to live, but wine expresses the abundance of the banquet and the joy of the feast.”

• “A wedding feast lacking wine embarrasses the newlyweds. Imagine finishing the wedding feast drinking tea! It would be shameful!”
He then concluded, “Wine is necessary for the celebration.” 
Click here to visit my archive of Celebri-Quotes on drinking.

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Sunday, March 19, 2017

Higher wine tax nixed, Montana governor widens his range

Never underestimate a politician when he or she wants to dig a little deeper into people's pockets. Take Steve Bullock as just the latest example.

He's the governor of Montana who last month experienced rejection by state Senate Taxation Committee members of his bid to increase the state's excise tax on wine. Undaunted, he came back on Friday with another such request -- but this time broadened it to cover beer and distilled spirits.

Chutzpah, yes, but here's the clever part. Consumers probably won't complain much if Bullock is successful because consumers don't directly pay such levies. While a state sales tax is collected from consumers as a percentage of the final purchase price of all qualifying sales, an excise tax is a flat per-unit tax paid directly to the government before the goods can be sold. Thus, it would be up to beverage producers to decide whether to pass along all or part of any  increase to their customers.

Save the date: Rip Van Winkle festival

The name has been broadened, but the organizers and venue remain the same for what now is the Rip Van Winkle Wine, Brew & Beverage Festival.

The sponsoring Fortnightly Club of Catskill, which renamed what had been the Rip Van Winkle Wine & Cheese Festival, will hold the 11th annual event from 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, May 13, at Historic Catskill Point, 1 Main Street in the village.

The indoor event goes on rain or shine. Tickets, priced at $25 each, are available online or at the door. In addition to samples of adult beverages, food vendors will offer tastes of cheeses, baked goods, chocolates and other specialty items.
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Discount tickets available for Adirondack Food & Wine Fest

The Adirondack Wine & Food Festival isn't until late June, but if you plan to attend you can save $10 on tasting tickets by buying them now.

The event will be held on the weekend of June 24-25 at the  Charles R. Wood Festival Commons in Lake George. Admission will be $35 at the gate, but online purchase is discounted by $10 through March 24.

The vendor lineup as of today includes 21 wineries, 18 artisanal food providers, four breweries, seven distilleries and cideries, seven food trucks and restaurants, and a variety of specialty vendors. More are expected to be added in every category by the time the festival rolls around.
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Saturday, March 18, 2017

Grape & Wine Initiative picks ex-Long Island wine exec

Donnell Brown
Donnell Brown, formerly head of the Long Island Merlot Alliance (LIMA), will begin a new industry role on April 3. That is when she becomes president of the National Grape & Wine Initiative (NGWI), succeeding Camron King, who has held the position for just under a year.

Brown has worked in the wine industry since 2009. On Long Island, she operated the private consulting firm Between the Vines LLC in Greenport, served as as senior marketing director for Wölffer Estate Vineyard in Sagaponack, and as event planner and board member of Harvest East End on Long Island. In California, she was marketing director for the Visit Temecula Valley organization.

Hazlitt's 2014 ice wine keeps racking up major awards

Last Saturday, I reported that Hazlitt 1852 Vineyards' 2014 Vidal Ice Wine won "Best of Show" honors at the International Eastern Wine Competition/East Meets West in Sonoma, CA.

This Saturday, I can report that the same wine just took "Best of Class" honors at the Great American International Wine Competition in Rochester.

This particular ice wine may be the all-time best produced by the Schuyler County winery in terms of awards. Earlier the same wine, bottled in September 2014, earned Double Gold in the New York State Fair Commercial Wine Competition; "Best of Show," "Best Late Harvest/Dessert Wine," "Best of Class" and Double Gold in the International Eastern test. It retails for $45 for the 375ml bottle.

The Rochester judges were very favorable overall to Hazlitt, awarding Double Gold to its Light Port and Gold to its Red Cat, Cider Tree, and 2013 Gewurztraminer.

Another "Best of Class" winner in Rochester was Wagner Vineyards' 2015 Semi-Dry Riesling, while its 2015 Dry Riesling won a Double Gold.

Other Double Gold winners: Merritt Estate's Bella Ice, and Silver Springs'  Merlot. Gold

Friday, March 17, 2017

Tennessee grocery stores say wine sales a success

From USA Today
Tennessee grocery stores have been able to sell wine for nearly nine months, with varying degrees of success.

Some stores have done better than others, but generally, allowing wine sales in state grocery stores has been a boon to the merchants and their customers, said Rob Ikard, president and CEO of the Tennessee Grocers and Convenience Store Association.

“Wine sales across Tennessee seem to be very strong, and in many cases have exceeded expectations,” he said.
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Wednesday, March 15, 2017

In praise of the wines of New York State

From Wine Enthusiast
If I proclaimed that the most exciting red wines in the United States come from New York State, would you believe me?

On Long Island, classic Bordeaux varieties like Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon have flourished since their first plantings in the early 1970s. And in the Finger Lakes, where Riesling was long considered the only viable Vitis vinifera variety, Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir and other reds are gaining momentum.

 Exemplifying a sense of balance often elusive elsewhere in the New World, the state’s best red wines marry ripeness and restraint, richness and acidity. They have a distinct, sometimes haunting transparency, says Finger Lakes winemaker August Diemel of Keuka Springs Vineyard. “They show everything you do to them,” he says. Unburdened by excessive alcohol or jammy, overripe flavors, they possess a purity of fruit that uniquely expresses New York’s climate, soils and vineyard conditions.
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Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Imbibeable Cartoonery

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2 wine trails hosting-wine-and-pasta weekend events

Wine and pasta are a classic complementary pair. So, it's no surprise that at least two New York State wine trail organizations are building special events around the two. And, neither will be postponed if the weather is bad.

First up is the Seneca Lake Wine Trail's long "Pasta & Wine Weekend," set for Friday-Sunday next week (March 24-26).

The self-guided tour can take visitors to as many as 27 participating wineries to sample a variety of pasta dishes and wines produced by the individual venues. Regular tickets purchased in advance are $40 per person. A list of wineries plus other details and ticketing information is available online.

Then, on the weekend of April 8-9, "Pasta Primo Vino" returns to the Shawangunk Wine Trail. Fifteen member wineries will participate in the annual event, which also is a self-guided tour beginning at any of the wineries where visitors will be able to taste a variety of dishes and wines.

Tickets are available for the full weekend, or for Sunday only. Reservations, participant list, and other details are available online.
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Monday, March 13, 2017

Syracuse hosting Eastern Winery Expo next week file photo
SYRACUSE -- The biggest winery and vineyard trade show in the East, and the second largest in the nation, is about ready to pop its cork in downtown Syracuse.

The Eastern Winery Exposition returns to the Oncenter on Wednesday through Friday, March 22-24. The event last was held in Syracuse in 2015.

The expo lures almost 2,000 visitors. Some are exhibitors, showing everything from vine trellis systems to bottle- and barrel-washers to fermentation tanks and chilling units. Others are experts who will conduct seminars on topics ranging from new containers (think cans and plastic pouches) to the next big red wine varietal for cool-climate wineries (Lemberger, perhaps). The rest are people who own or work in wineries, vineyards and related businesses from as far as Canada, the Atlantic Coast, the South and the Midwest. 
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Wine fest at Proctors set for this Saturday

After you shovel your way out of the Snowpocalypse being predicted for us, or you don 't get your fill of merriment on St. Patrick's Day this Friday, you may want to treat yourself. That's where the Capital Region Wine Festival comes in.

The ninth annual event -- a/k/a "Romancing the Grape" -- at the Proctors complex is set for 1 p.m. this Saturday, offering samples of  a wide variety of wines, along with restaurant samples, various vendors, and a live auction.

Three levels of admission, ranging from $25 for designated drivers to $100, are available online. Admission is limited to persons 21 and older.

Proctors is located at 432 State Street. Phone: (518) 346-6204.
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Saturday, March 11, 2017

Another reason to keep on reading

Mark Oldman (photo provided)
Too many blogs and websites have succumbed to the practice of using "click bait"  tactics. You see it all the time -- using  half-truths, deliberately misleading teases, and other tacky methods to get you to click on their links. While doing so often leads to disappointment for the user, it does lead to  more ad revenue for the offender and, after all, that is the main purpose, isn't it?

 Here is just one example of the many I saw today. It's from the site called Business Insider. It reads: "A sommelier explains why you should buy the cheapest bottle on the wine list."

Well, sommelier Mark Oldman, author of "How To Drink Like a Billionaire,"  did sort of say that although not in such a declarative and all-encompassing way. Here is the full quote; I've underlined the part Business Insider avoided because it might have made it a less enticing headline:

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Cuomo: Reforms saved alcohol industry $15M in five years

Cuomo at one of his beverage summits
Governor Andrew Cuomo's office has been mentioning advances in the state's alcoholic beverage industry in bits and pieces over a series of speeches and announcements in recent weeks (here, here and here, for example). On Wednesday, they put it all together.

An announcement from Cuomo's administration said New York's craft beer, wine, cider and liquor manufactures have saved nearly $15 million since a series of regulatory reforms and incentives were put in place since 2012 in an effort to boost the industry.

Cuomo said the savings during a five-year period followed the state's decision to expand a production tax credit and cut a labeling fee. Cuomo has championed craft alcohol makers as an example of a local, sustainable industry that can spur tourism and agriculture. He says he wants the state to continue to find ways to support local breweries, wineries, cideries and distilleries as the thirst for locally made alcoholic beverages continues to grow.
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Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Another state broadens wine sales in grocery stores

Another blow against restraint of trade is being struck. Not in sophisticated New York State, of course, but in folksy Arkansas.

A bill expanding the types of wine that Arkansas grocery stores can sell is on its way to the desk of Governor Asa Hutchinson after today's 18-14 vote in the state Senate to approve a measure changing the state law which currently only allows grocery stores to sell wines from small wineries.

More expansive selections of wine now are available only at liquor stores, so many have opposed the new legislation even though many consumer groups favor it.

The Senate, which approved an earlier version of the bill, also approved an amendment to the measure that would, among other things, allow liquor stores to sell "consumables and edible products" that complement beverages.
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Monday, March 6, 2017

Warm spell not worrying Seneca Lake winery owners for now

Tending vines at Catherine Valley Winery (Spectrum/TWC photo)
• From Spectrum News
BURDETT, NY -- Over the past few days people across the region have taken advantage of some unseasonable weather. The warm spell brought hundreds out to the Seneca Lake Wine Trails.

"Everybody wants to get out, a little cabin fever," said Don Kilcoyne, Catherine Valley Winery co-owner. "Everyone wants to see what's going on. We've had an increase in people. It's been nice."

Although most have enjoyed the warm weather, some question whether it will make a difference in this year's grape crop. Management at Catherine Valley Winery say they aren't worried just yet. Kilcoyne says the vines haven't acclimated to the warmth so far, which is a good thing.

"All of the vineyards and a lot of my local friends with vineyards around here, we've all kind of echoed the same sentiment," said Kilcoyne. "The vines are still very cold hearty. The buds are very dormant. Things have not broken free yet."

However, if the warm spell continues later into the season and then gets drastically cold, it could spell trouble.
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Saturday, February 25, 2017

Imbibeable Cartoonery

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New Michigan wine shipping restrictions open old wounds

What some governments might see as protectionism other entities see as restraint of trade. That is the case in Michigan where the state legislature passed a law last month that as of March would bar out-of-state retailers from shipping wine into the state.

That did not sit well with a group of Michigan residents and at least one wine retailer in neighboring Indiana who filed suit in federal court to challenge the law which lets in-state retailers buy a "specially designated merchant license" that will allow them to ship wines to in-state consumers. Out-of-staters are not permitted to buy such a license.

Baylen Linnekin, a lawyer specializing in food law-and-policy and an adjunct professor at George Mason University Law School where he teaches on that topic, wrote an interesting commentary on the situation for Here's how it begins:
"If you ... looked up at the date stamp on this column because you thought this might be a reprint of some classic article from 2005, you'd be forgiven. Wasn't Granholm v. Heald, decided by the U.S. Supreme Court a dozen years ago, a case about a Michigan law that barred out-of-state wineries from shipping wine into the state? And didn't the Supreme Court rule that Michigan's law was unconstitutional?

Yes and yes. And yet, here we are.

Indeed, the new Michigan law and lawsuit raise startlingly similar dormant Commerce Clause and 21st Amendment questions that many assume were settled by the U.S. Supreme Court in Granholm. Three years after Granholm, a federal court ruled against Michigan in another wine-shipment case that was even more on-point.

Just what the hell is Michigan doing?"
Go here to read what the hell he thinks is going on.

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Hazlitt's ice wine wins 'best of show' in California test

The "Best in Show"
The Northeast's current warm spell may be conducive to thinking "ice wine." That certainly is the case at the Hazlitt 1852 Vineyards.

The Schuyler County company's, 2014 Vidal Ice Wine just took "Best of Show" honors at the International Eastern Wine Competition/East Meets West in Sonoma, CA.

En route to that accolade, the wine won Double Gold (unanimous vote of the tasting panel), "Best of Class," and "Best Dessert Wine" awards.

Earlier awards for the same wine, bottled in September 2014, include Double Gold in the New York State Fair Commercial Wine Competition; "Best of Show," "Best Late Harvest/Dessert Wine," "Best of Class" and Double Gold in the International Eastern test. It retails for $45 for the 375ml bottle.

In addition, Hazlitt's Schooner White earned Double Gold, and its 2014 Homestead Riesling, 2014 Sauvignon Blanc, White Cat, and Light Port. each won a Gold medal.

Other major New York State entries: winners: Black Willow 2015 Diamond (Gold and Best of Class) and 2015 Trilogy Red (Gold); plus, Golds for Chateau Lafayette Reneau's 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon Owner's Reserve; Torrey Ridge's 2015 Baco Noir; Glenora's 2015 Vidal Ice Wine, 2015 Pinot Blanc, and 2015 Chardonnay; Hosmer 's2015 Pinot Gris; Lamoreaux Landing's 2015 Estate Riesling Round Rock Vineyard (Double Gold and Best of Class);

Also, Liberty Vineyards' Fredonia; Penguin Bay's 2015 Dry Riesling, 2012 Cabernet Franc Reserve, and 2015 Riesling; Swedish Hill's 2015 Dry Riesling, and 2015 Riesling; Thirsty Owl's 2015 Pinot Noir, and 2015 Riesling; Wagner's 2014 Riesling Ice (Double Gold and Best of Class), and 2015 Semi-Dry Riesling; and Whitecliff 's 2013 Petit Verdot.

Go here for the full list of award-winners in all categories.

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Friday, February 24, 2017

Hudson-Chatham Winery unveils renovated tasting room

(Photo provided)
The Hudson-Chatham Winery has unveiled the results of a spruce-up effort -- a new-look tasting room at the Ghent facility.

The tasting room originally opened in 2007. Says co-owner Dominique DeVito, "We thought we'd put in a large bar along the back wall. We were the first winery in the area, and we didn't really know what to expect. The response over the years has been so much greater than we thought, and we realized we needed more room -- and more light -- for people to enjoy our tasting experience."

The winery is located at 1900 State Route 66 in Columbia County, about midway between its two namesake communities. Tasting room hours are noon to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday. Phone: (518) 392-9463. It also has a Greene County satellite tasting room at 6036 Main Street in Tannersville, at the foot of Hunter Mountain.

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Villa Bellangelo continues its upgrading efforts

The deck at Vila Bellangelo
News about new wineries is commonplace in New York State, where the industry is continually expanding. But, not everything is about new companies. Sometimes  revitalizing old ones is newsworthy.

Take the Villa Bellangelo winery, located on the west side of Seneca Lake. A winery that had operated on the property for about two decades in the late 20th Century went belly up, and Michael Litterio purchased it around 2001. The business largely flew under the radar  until 2011 when Litterio sold it to the Missick family.

What they purchased was an existing, operational winery, but when it came to cellar equipment a lot of TLC was required to get it up to standard. That began very quickly, with acquisition of a new de-stemmer, crusher, must pump, tanks from Vance Metal Fabricators in Geneva, NY, and a used press were in place for the 2012 vintage. After that, a new chilling system and forklift were added.

Now, in anticipation of the 2017 vintage, the Missicks have made a series of additional  investments -- an additional forklift, an Armbruster Rotovib destemmer, a mechanized hopper, a new Willmes Merlin Press, and a new GAI bottling line, with other equipment and infrastructure improvements to be announced shortly.