In December 2008, the New York State Wine Grape Task Force asked the then Commissioner of the Department of Agriculture and Markets for relief of regulatory burdens imposed by the State Liquor Authority. Last week, Governor Cuomo signed legislation enacting some of those recommendations.
"With wine being one of the fastest growing sectors of that industry," says Agriculture Commissioner Darrel Aubertine, "this legislation offers numerous benefits to farm wineries that will have a ripple effect throughout the countryside." In brief, here are some of the changes that'll help boost the Empire State's wine industry:
Branch store capability: Farm wineries will be able to operate up to five branch stores – as extensions of the winery, not as separate entities requiring separate licenses.
Custom crush capabilities: Farm wineries can provide and/or utilize custom crush services for purchasers of New York grapes. That'll encourage smaller vineyards to enter in the industry.
Direct shipper reporting: Now New York wineries only have to maintain direct shopper reports on site and provide them to SLA only upon request, instead of automatically sending them to SLA.
License consolidation: State wineries manufacturing less than 1,500 gallons of wine annually do not need to apply for a separate micro-winery license. All farm wineries will have the same license, with micro-winery licenses continuing to cost $50 annually.
Charitable events filing: Wineries seeking to participate in charitable events are no longer restricted to five per year. Now, wineries will need to obtain an annual permit and notify SLA of the event.
The New York wine and grape industry is the third largest wine producing state, behind California and Washington with 1,400 vineyards statewide. Since 1996, farm wineries has increased from less than 20 to nearly 306.
Today, more than 5 million tourists visit New York' wineries in 51 of the state's 62 counties every year. The five major wine producing regions in the State are the Finger Lakes, Long Island, the Hudson Valley, Lake Erie and the Niagara Escarpment.