With the arrival of Andrew Cuomo as governor, and his appointment of people to various key advisory and regulatory positions, the matter of wine sales in supermarkets quickly has come up once again. Given that it got a lengthy walk in the spotlight from the State Legislature last summer before once again disappearing under an avalanche of hysteria, you can expect the matter to be kept at the top of the agenda for many people.
Among the “signs” he cites:
• The election of ex-Rochester mayor and police chief Bob Duffy as lieutenant governor. He has long been exposed to the business power and potential of the ever-growing Finger Lakes wine community.
• The appointment of Danny Wegman, of the Wegmans grocery store empire, to an Upstate Business Council that Cuomo has promised to create. His stores in other states already sell wines.
• The fact that the governor’s girlfriend, Sandra Lee of Food Network fame, is a big wine fan and would seem to have the ear of the man in charge.
“An emphasis on growing the wineries is a great idea. Where’s some tourism dollars? Where’s the funding that wineries in Maryland and Virginia, and other states are getting to promote their wine industries and tourism? Now, I’ve played many games on the playground, and I know the old rubric ‘Money talks, bullshit walks,’ but this is too much. Name which wineries will actually score big. I can tell you who: The five largest wineries in the state, one of which will be Canadaigua. Then it will be California, Australia, Chile, and Argentina.
“I used to live next to a Wegmans. They sold four or five NY state wines, and then the rest were everything else — from Cakebread and rare French Bordeaux’s and Burgundies to Yellow Tail and Franzia. I’ve had someone tell me from one of these larger wineries that with my own winery I could probably sell a couple of delis that I couldn’t get in before. Gee, thanks! Where’s the revenue boost? Wegmans will get a sweetheart deal on taxes and pay into the coffers, and a number of smaller, ill equipped wine stores will bite the dust. When the small stores falter, the small wineries will falter as well. It’s only the big store chains that will make something happen.
“The reason the wineries haven’t helped make this deal happen yet is pure and simple. In the main, it won’t help the NY wineries, or they would already have gotten it done. Out of the more than 300 wineries in NY State, Wegmans has only ever carried five or six. What happens to the other 294? … I say to Duffy and Cuomo, let’s have a meeting. Let’s have a discussion. Ask a few dozen winery owners to the state capital. Let’s see what they say. I say to the wineries, better get off your hands, or someone will chop them off for you.”
And so, Let the debate go on from here.
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