Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Watch Out, Baby! New York Wine, Beers, Spirits, and Ciders, Is Back!

Now is the winter of our discontent
Made glorious summer by this son of New York
-          William Shakespeare 

With apologies to William Shakespeare the line has never been more apropos. It has been a long and ugly winter, both metaphorically and realistically. In recent memory, this was one of the worst winters of recent memory, and a seeming nightmare for vintners throughout the north east. From Michigan to Niagara to New England, cold weather has wreaked havoc with vineyards, as the thermometer plunged ever southward.
And metaphorically speaking, New York’s booming beverage industry has endured a long, cold winter, while watching states like Oregon, Washington, and closer to home, Virginia, forge ahead in reputation, with the help of their states’ governments, to be ever more competitive in the wine industry, while New York’s winter of neglect stretched for the last five or six, as the state legislature gutted spending programs, and disregarded a home grown industry valuable to its own survival.
New York craft beverage producers, especially long suffering wineries owners, have awoken from a long nightmare.
But now, compelled by a force it cannot ignore, state government has finally risen to the challenge, and agreed to enable our booming wine, beers, spirits, and cider industries to truly compete, both nationally and internationally.
The “son of New York” is refer to is none other than Governor Andrew Cuomo, and his administration. In two quick blows, one struck in October of 2013 and one recently struck just a week ago, Andrew Cuomo has done more for any other governor in this state since his father back in the mid-1980s. It was very clear that he and Lt. Gov. Duffy clearly see the value of the industry and finally get that other states governments are doing everything they can to help these industries compete.
There is no question that the wine industry has benefitted completely from the recent booms in craft beers, distilling, and cider industries. The distillers and cider makers deserve much of the credit for rocking the cradle of government, and pounding on the door, asking for changes to antiquated laws. People like Elizabeth Ryan and Sarah Grady, people like Ralph Erenzo and others in distilling, even Tom Edwards of the Tom Edwards, President of the New York State Liquor Store Association, pushed and pushed the government. And kudos to Jim Trezise, president of the New York Wine and Grape Foundation for taking advantage of the situation, and helping force changes in the wine industry as well.
Governor Cuomo and his team, by changing archaic laws invented to inhibit bootleggers back in the thirties, will allow thriving businesses to grow stronger and faster, which intern makes for more taxable revenues for the state, more agritourism, and for more jobs.
Some of the shocking statistics that came out of the summit? New York is America’s No. 3 producer of wine in the country. We are No. 2 in distilling. That the New York wine industry was valued at $4.8 billion dollars to the state. How fast in the business growing. The cider business grow by more than 300%! The distilling and beer business almost more than doubled in the last four or five years. In the small community like Columbia County, for example, where there was one business in 2007, there are now eight, and there are more businesses planned to open in the next two years.
What other industry in New York is offering that kind of expansion? That kind of growth?
Now, with the Governor’s help, this craft beverage industry, across the board, can explode in a way that only New York can do. With our massive number of tourists, and our fast growing industries,

To his credit, Governor Cuomo has not just thrown money at the problem, but instead has turned around the industry through institutional change. The moribund and byzantine NYSLA has transformed into a dynamic force, looking to partner with an industry it seemed it sometimes wanted to strangle only three or four short years ago. Even the fiefdom known as the Department of Transportation, long Kafka-esque in bizarre and wilful disregard of mandated issuances, seems to have gotten more friendly (let’s not go too far in our effusiveness – but a change is palpable.
And he’s offered disaster relief to winemakers in the Finger Lakes and Niagara and Lake Erie to help get through the losses many will incur this year to to buss loss and winter damage caued by this year’s devastating winter.
And yes, he had promised more money to promote the regions and the business of those regions through promotion and advertising.
“Agriculture and tourism have the potential for tremendous growth in New York, and over the past few years we have seen that our investments in the farm-based beverage industry are resulting in new opportunities for small business owners throughout the State,” Governor Cuomo said. “The proposals and actions announced today will make it easier than ever before to start a farm-based beverage business, raise the profile of producers across the State, and open up new markets where our entrepreneurs can succeed. Today’s summit was all about creating jobs and stimulating the economy, and I am confident that by working alongside our partners in the private sector our producers will be able to thrive and compete anywhere in the world.”
To the Governor’s credit, it’s become so obvious that the craft beverage industry is one of the better bets in New York state, that the legislature, who have long ignored us after they gutted Jim Trezise’s budgets over the years, are suddenly even trying to get into the act. Even Sheldon Silver, who has not mentioned the wine industry in as long as I have been a watcher of New York state government these last seven years, for the first time held a news conference to promote the industry. Cuomo gets my vote the next election regardless, just for that.
Now, I have complained bitterly in the past, that the New York wine industry was falling behind many of its peers. But let me say emphatically, that it is with love and passion that I did so. I can complain about my Mother, but YOU can’t! Let me say now, with the hackles of antiquated laws lifted from our hands, unchained, New York can rise to the occasion.

It's not all strawberries and cream just yet. There's a lot of work still to be done. We need innovative marketing for our industry, we still need to band together better than before, and there's lots of good wine, beer, spirits, and ciders to be made. But....
We have some of the best winemakers on the east coast. We’ve got cider and distillery industries second to none. And we’ve got an ocean of terrific craft beer that helps lead the national industry! New York is poised to take it’s spot. To reach and to grow.
So, to this Glorious summer, made possible by the son of New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo, I salute you!
And to you, Virginia and Pennsylvania, you are on the move. But watch out, New York is back! 
Read the governor's press release - worth reading: