Massaschusetts wine industry branching out

From the Quincy (MA) Patriot-Ledger:

PLYMOUTH, MA -- Rising consumer demand for locally-grown products and a gradual relaxation of alcohol regulations are helping increase the ranks of Massachusetts wineries and launching second careers for a new generation of vintners.

There are now a record 36 wineries operating across the state, including seven that have opened since 2007. Wine production increased by 21% from 2007 to 2010, according to the state Department of Agriculture.

The industry ranges from 80-acre vineyards, such as Westport Rivers, to small "urban" wineries that buy grapes and fruit from farmers and manufacture just a few thousand bottles a year. The industry has continued to expand throughout the economic downturn as entrepreneurs used e-commerce sites, tasting rooms and farmers’ markets to introduce their products to the public.

"The interest in buying local products has been a big reason," said Scott Soares, commissioner of the state Department of Agriculture. "Another part of it is the quality. Once people try some of those local wines, they’re realize it’s some pretty good stuff."

Michael and Pam Carr of Boston acquired the 18-year-old Plymouth Bay Winery this summer from founder Tim Cherry. Fans of fruit wines in particular, the couple saw a niche product they could promote as a sweeter alternative to mainstream varieties such as merlots and cabernets.

The winery will introduce its ninth variety -- a blackberry wine -- this fall. Cranberry wine -- made with products bought from southeastern Massachusetts growers – is a perennial best-seller for the winery.

The winery has turned a profit for all of its 18 years, said Carr, a former salesman for an apparel company. Sales have increased in recent years thanks to shipments to 23 states.

[Go here for the full story.]

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