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.”
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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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