‘Sour grapes’: New York ranked #4 in domestic wine production, but in-state sales are dismal

When you think of “wine country,” you don’t necessarily think of New York, but the state is actually the fourth largest producer of wine in the nation, trailing only its West Coast competition in California, Oregon, and Washington.

Unfortunately, New Yorkers are likely in for a disappointment if they want to try some home-grown bottles, because the liquor stores stock their shelves with offerings from Europe, Australia, and the trendier West Coast wineries.

As the New York Post reports, “Even a good thing for New York is turning to sour grapes.”

“We don’t get [many] calls for it [NY wine],” Soho Spirits & Wine owner Vito Massulo told The Post. “You only have a limited amount of space so you have to have what the people want… New York wines while they’re good — some of them are very good — they don’t have the cache or the history of wines from Europe, California even.”

Eric Goldstein carries a few regional wines in his Park Avenue Liquor Shop, but he admits “there might be — I don’t want to say a stigma on New York wine — it’s just not top of mind. It’s not thought of, period.”

In his store, it’s mostly tourists who pick up bottles such as Wolffer Estate, which hails from Long Island’s East End, and other wine sellers are finding the same to be true.

Part of the problem may stem from the pricey tags attached to New York’s wines.

Though the state boasts more than 400 wineries, they are, for the most part, far smaller than their California and European counterparts, which drives up the cost. Often, area sellers say, distributors don’t even promote or sell New York wines.

Ironically, while Big Apple buyers tend to prefer European wines, more interest in New York wines can be found across the pond in Europe.

Kelby Russell owns the Red Newt winery in upstate Hector and says NYC wine is a hit in London.

“I’ve gotten more interest in our wine in New York City because we’re exporting to London,” Russell said. “In London, people think our wine is super hip.”

While trends and perceptions may be playing a part in hampering the sale of New York wines, a bigger problem may be bureaucratic in nature.

New York regulators are actively blocking efforts to market and sell the state’s own wines.

Ollie Sakhno owns a wine bar and restaurant in Queens. His Keuka Kafe features locally produced wines, with about 40% of his offerings coming from the Finger Lake region. But when he attempted to open a nearby shop that would sell even more regional wines, the state Liquor Authority rejected his application.

Apparently other liquor stores in the area that carry mostly out-of-state wines objected.

“It’s a very rigged system. I was shot down,” Sakhno said. “I thought there would be more enthusiasm for selling New York wines.”

According to a spokesperson from the New York State Wine and Grape Foundation, the industry’s trade group receives roughly $1 million in state agricultural funding each year. Of that, approximately $700,000 is earmarked for promotion, with the rest going toward research.

But if you want to find a store promoting New York wines, you’ll probably have to head to a specialty store like Astor Wine & Spirits in Manhattan’s East Village. If you’re lucky, you’ll find a restaurant sommelier that will proffer a local bottle in one of NYC’s restaurants, such as Gramercy Tavern.

Long Island GOP Rep. Lee Zeldin represents the East End, known for its wine-making. As he faces off against democrat Kathy Hochul in his run for governor, he says policymakers need to offer tax incentives to help promote the beverages New York has to offer.

“From the east end of Long Island to the Finger Lakes and beyond, vineyards and craft breweries are producing some of the very best wines and beers in America, but you can’t tell that by looking at which products are being stocked up on shelves in New York stores,” he told The Post.

He reimagined the plan for promoting Empire State wine including “providing a tax break to small business owners who dedicate a certain percentage of their inventory to selling New York beer and wine.”

But to hear Hochul’s spokesperson, Hazel Crampton-Hays, tell it, the governor is doing a great job boosting local wine sales.

“Governor Hochul has invested millions to promote and market wineries, cut red tape to help wine producers open and expand, and continues to work to bolster the innovation and grape success of New York’s wine industry,” she said, adding that New York’s state budget has allotted $6 million for Taste NY funding. The NY Wine & Grape Foundation received $1.075 million and $252,000 went to concord grape research.

Additionally, the state’s I LOVE NY tourism campaign is promoting NY wineries and craft beverage producers.

“She also signed a law providing temporary retail permits allowing wine sellers such as restaurants, hotels and other retailers and, made to-go-drinks permanent and increased the SLA’s budget by $2 million for additional licensing staff to reduce a backlog and cut red tape,” The Post reports.

Meanwhile, a California winery owner has drawn national criticism for a comment she made about who is needed in the nation to “pick crops.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi owns Zinfandel Lane Vineyard in St. Helena, California.

According to her, we need illegal immigrants in America so they can pick the nation’s crops.

The shocking statement showcased the increasing need in the States for a parallel economy, so conservative shoppers for, say, a nice bottle of wine can buy them from people who don’t hate them.

As it turns out, we at Olympic Media, publishers of American Wire News, and its sister site, BizPac Review, can help out with that.

Ryan Coyne, head of Olympic Media, is also the CEO of  We The People, “an American brand dedicated to Conservative values,” that offers a selection of domestically grown wines and affordable wine clubs, with a portion of the profits going to causes that matter to those on the Right.

We The People isn’t shy about its support for the things that make America great.

Last year, the company took on censorship from the Left with a video that champions free speech.

(Video: YouTube)

The wildly popular wines from We The People were served to great acclaim at CPAC and at the Republican Business Network’s Reagan Dinner fundraiser.

Coyne created We The People “because we wanted to unify people, not only around the brand but around the values we stand for.”

“Again, free speech, free people, things that are being suppressed right now,” he stated. “And what better way to do that than to raise a glass kind of and to we the people. We think that food and drink is a unifying element of society and so that’s the way we went, and we encourage more brands to speak more loudly about the values that they stand for.”


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Melissa Fine


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