NY Wine & Culinary Center Picks Boss

CANANDAIGUA, N.Y. -- A tourism industry veteran has been selected to be the first executive director of the $7.5 million New York Wine & Culinary Center, for which ground was broken here in August.

Alexa Gifford spent more than five years with the Finger Lakes Tourism Alliance, most recently as president.

"The excitement is building for the opening of the New York Wine and Culinary Center, and naming an executive director is an important step," said Rob Sands, COO and president of Constellation Brands, and chairman of the NYWCC board. "Three months after breaking ground on the site, it is wonderful to begin to assemble a dedicated team of professionals to lead the center."

The center (shown in an artist's rendering above) is scheduled to open next summer on a plot of land next to Canandaigua Lake. Constellation Brands Inc., the Wegmans supermarket chain, Rochester Institute of Technology and the New York Wine & Grape Foundation partnered to establish the not-for-profit organization, which will be housed in the new 19,475 square-foot facility.

The project marks a major step in increasing the visibility of New York's wine industry to tourism and agribusiness interests. How significant the industry is to the state is shown in a just-released report from MKF Research, a consulting firm based in California but analyzing New York's situation.

With 31,000 acres of vineyards, 212 wineries and 1,384 grape farms, New York is the nation's second largest wine producer after California and the third biggest grape grower behind California and Washington.

Wineries, grape producers and related businesses in New York, from liquor stores to makers of bottles, glasses and labels, account for almost 36,000 jobs and a $1.3 billion payroll, the state-funded study reported.

In addition, it said that wine sales alone generate $420 million in sales, but the state industry's multiplier impact on the economy came to $3.4 billion in 2004.

A new state law that went into effect in August allows direct shipment of wines into and out of New York (click here for a wine trail connection) and is expected to provide a major boost in those numbers compared to what they were when New York's highly restrictive shipping laws were in force.

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