Reneau's Dry Riesling a smashing winner

ONTARIO, CA -- A Finger Lakes winery's entry has been "Grand Champion" in the New World International Wine Competition (NWIWC).

Chateau LaFayette Reneau's 2010 Dry Riesling earned the honor after winning "Best New World White Wine," "Best New World Riesling," "Best of Varietal," "Best of Class" and a Double Gold.

Hats off to winemaker Tim Miller and owner Bob Reno for this sweep of categories.

Chateau Frank fared quite well, its 2006 Blanc de Noirs taking "Best New World Sparkling Wine," "Best of Varietal," "Best of Class" and Double Gold en route to topping that category.

Another particularly strong honor was taken by Hazlitt 1852 Vineyards' 2010 Chardonnay, rated "Best New World Chardonnay." In a state known for its Chardonnays and nearly all of the judges from California, it was quite a coup for the Finger Lakes winery.

Other strong New York finishes:
  • Dr. Frank 2010 Gruner Veltliner (Best of Class and Gold)
  • Hazlitt 1852 Vineyards Vidal Ice Wine (Best of Varietal, Best of Class, Double Gold)
  • Merritt Estate Bella Rosa (Best of Class, Gold)
  • Sparkling Pointe 2006 Blanc de Blancs (Best of Class, Double Gold)
  • Swedish Hill Winery 2010 Vignoles 25th Anniversary Reserve (Best of Varietal, Best of Class, Gold)
  • Riesling Cuvee (Best of Class, Double Gold)
  • Dr. Frank 2010 Pinot Gris (Double Gold)
In addition, Golds went to:
  • Belhurst Estate Winery 2010 Chardonnay
  • Dr. Frank 2011 Dry Riesling
  • Sparkling Pointe Cuvee Carnaval
  • Swedish Hill Winery 2010 Riesling
The complete results for all medals in all categories are available online.

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Wine-in-markets debate re-heats in New York

I posted a story back in mid-February on another of my blogs (one that covers New York's Capital Region beverage scene) concerning the resurrection of the debate over selling wine in grocery markets, something the state now prohibits. The quick responses, pro and con, from a batch of readers prompted me to re-post the story here to see what a broader cross-section of New York readers think. The original postings are included.

It may have failed in successive budget tries under Governor David Paterson and been ignored by Governor Andrew Cuomo who has been quoted as saying the potential benefits won't outweigh the potential costs, but the idea of allowing food markets to sell wine won't go away.

Rather than pushing Individually for such a change, the New York Wine Industry Association, New York State Wine Grape Growers Association, New York Farm Bureau, Business Council of New York State, Food Industry Alliance of New York State, New York State Restaurant Association and allied businesses are jointly calling on the governor to change his stance.

"New York Farm Bureau has long supported the sale of wine in grocery stores because of the enormous opportunities that it would provide to New York’s wineries and grape growers," said Dean Norton, bureau president.

"Studies have shown that making this common sense modification in state law would create more than 6,000 jobs in wineries and related industries and produce more than $70 million in new sales tax revenue. It’s long past time that we remove this barrier to consumer choice and job creation and become the 36th state to make this important change."

The alliance cites the marked change in the number of businesses allowed to sell wine in 1974 compared to today, as well as the marked increase in the number of wineries in the same period.

They use the 1974 benchmark because that is the year a push began to get then-Governor Hugh Carey to reformulate the state's winery license law to make it easier for farm wineries to operate more profitably. In 1976, he did so.

In 1974 there were 4,500 liquor stores in the state through which the then-existing 19 wineries could sell their farm product to consumers. Now, there are fewer than 2,500 liquor stores through which more than 378 New York wineries can sell their farm product to consumers. Thus, the alliance contends, wineries no longer have enough retail outlets to reach consumers.

Opponents continue to insist that mom and pop liquor stores would be severely harmed if other businesses are allowed to sell New York and other wines.

FIRST COMMENTS FROM READERS (feel free to add your own):

Skipjack: Since our Governor has such a great record for getting things done, its time for him to step up and get the law changed to allow wine to be sold in grocery stores like the vast majority of New Yorkers want.

Bill Dowd: Ed (# 15): Thanks for the two links to help people compare two vastly differing points of view. It is interesting, as you say.

What also is “interesting” is that you complain that the New York Wine Industry Association has only one agenda. The same can be said of the group you appear to support. It has as its sole agenda item blocking sales of wine in supermarkets.

Ed: I find it interesting that someone who is usually as knowledgeable as Dowd would cite the “New York Wine Industry Association.” A simple check of their website (http://nywia.com/web/) reveals that they are a group with 1 agenda item – putting wine in grocery stores. The true New York wine industry is solidly behind New York’s wine stores (for a list of wineries please see http://www.lastmainstreetstore.com/go.cfm?do=Page.Show&pid=4). Interesting.

Ann: It’s ridiculous that this state doesn’t allow the sale of wine in grocery stores. It would help out the local wineries tremendously.

Skipjack: I don’t understand why liquor stores get this kind of protectionism. It’s like telling Price Chopper that they can’t sell flowers because it hurts florists, or they can’t sell artisan bread or cakes because it hurts bakeries. The majority of citizens in NY want the ability to buy wine in grocery stores, but the liquor lobby don’t like it because they fear it will drive prices down (which it may). That’s why this issue has been coming up for the past ten years (at LEAST).

I also disagree that grocery stores will only sell crap wine. I travel to CA frequently and the selection there in grocery stores is BETTER than most liquor stores in NY (and the prices are WAY better). I agree that wine should be sold in grocery stores, but some of the restrictions placed on liquor stores should be lifted. Liquor stores should be able to have more than one location and they should be allowed to buy beer. When shopping for a party, I hate having to get spirits and wine in one store, and then go to a beverage or grocery store for beer. What’s up with that? And why can’t I pick up salt, limes, ice and NA margarita mix at a liquor store?

I also disagree that allowing wine sold in grocery stores will close down mom and pop. Yes, some will close if they can’t offer better service/selection/price than grocery stores. Sometimes a business deserves to fail. Would you frequent a restaurant with high prices and bad food just because they are independently owned? Most people wouldn’t.
I will no doubt continue to spend the bulk of my wine dollars at Empire Wine because of their great selection and prices, but it would be great to pick up a bottle of wine on occasion at BJ’s or Price Chopper. Time for NY to move into the 21st Century.

Rhianna: IF wine is to be allowed in NY grocery and chains are going to move into the state, THEN the state needs to allow *DUAL LICENSING* in independent retail, i.e. off-premise (retail) stores with on-premise authorization. Independent retailers will need the competitive ability to compete with big grocery by allowing to sell wines by-the-glass, i.e. a wine bar with retail store under one roof; a retail store with a wine/beer bar capability.

If insurance is a problem, allow a dual license to include only beer & wine for on-premise consumption if retail is attached (not liquor) – though liquor should still be allowed to be sold in retail side (under same roof). Look to Florida state for guidance. FL allows dual licensing for beer & wine (on and off premise under one roof) for only a few hundred dollars. It is also allowed with the addition of liquor, but liquor add-on license is several hundred thousand dollars and there are only x amount delegated per district.

Lee: The laws in NY are about protecting different lobbying groups and have nothing to do with protecting New Yorkers. It is just another type of “prohibition” based upon who has the money to get their will done in Albany.

Dostoevsky: There are real reasons why states should want to impose limits and controls on the sale of alcoholic beverages. You might not agree with them but you should at least know what they are. Here is an unbiased, third party report that discusses those reasons: “2012 ISSUE BRIEFS FOR STATES – Brief Explanations of Common Alcohol Regulatory Issues Facing State and Local Communities.” It can be downloaded from http://goo.gl/NSNig.

Anthony: Here is the smell test -- None of the proposals that have been offered give the liquor stores the the ability to offset the massive losses with other items. Cheese and crackers are not going to keep these stores in business. If we are going to allow wine to be sold everywhere that beer is sold, then we should allow beer to be sold everywhere wine is sold. But the grocery stores want exclusivity on the Holy Grail of beverages and won’t give that up. Thats why it doesn’t pass the smell test.

MIkeD: I hope NY can learn from Tennessee’s mistakes. All the Associations in the world won’t get it done. The people must be heard, not the heads of industry.


Mike: We all know the supermarkets will only carry Gallo, Yellowtail, Cavit and all the other mass produced wines. So where is the benefit to the New York state wine producers? The only beneficiaries will be large out of state businesses.

fiorot at westchesterwinemakers: Harry makes me laugh. Preserving a business? Protect a business from whom? Me thinks Harry is not a Capitalist who believes in free markets. Maybe we shouldn’t allow French wines in the country since we have California Wine. As consumers and taxpayers we do not have any interest in shielding one set of businesses from others at our expense and with the loss of healthy competition. Monopolistic practices must end. Free the Wine!

Whiner: Sorry, Harry, but your idea is in violation of the US Constitution.

Eric Orange: But as soon as you do that, Harry, it becomes an issue of protectionism and interstate commerce.

mabel: I like Harry’s idea. I hate seeing mom and pop stores (which describes most liquor stores) being bulldozed by big-box stores (which describes most supermarkets), but I think we need to support our state’s amazing wineries as well. And like Sarah, I’d love to be able to pick up a nice table wine when I’m buying my other groceries. :)

Harry Cook: I would support the concept of allowing grocery stores, eyc. to sell only NYS grown and bottled wines. That would tend to preserve the liquor/wine specialty businesses while encouraging the further development of the NY wine industry through expanded retail outlets.

Sarah Hinman Ryan: I lived in Seattle for almost seven years and every supermarket sold wine but there were still liquor stores all over the place. It was really nice to be able to pick up a bottle of something decent while buying the makings of dinner.

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NY wine group opposes warehousing change

Wine America sent this letter to members of the New York State Legislature, expressing opposition to a bill before the Senate that would require wines to be stored in-state for 48 hours before vendors deliver it to New York stores and restaurants. Currently, most of the wine produced from outside the state is warehoused in less-expensive New Jersey space.

WineAmerica, the National Association of American Wineries, on behalf of our member wineries in New York and across the nation, echo the concerns of the New York Farm Bureau and other related groups with respect to the possible adoption of an “at-rest” provision that would require wines to be stored in a New York warehouse for 48 hours before being distributed.

WineAmerica is comprised of approximately 800 winery members in nearly every state. Through our state association partnerships, we represent the vast majority of the nearly 8,000 American wineries at the state, federal and international levels. The mission of WineAmerica is to encourage sound public policy that will allow for the growth of the American wine industry, and to provide wineries market opportunities both domestically and abroad.

The proposed “at rest” provision would add unnecessary delay and complexity to a distribution system that already poses significant hurdles for small production wine brands. By increasing the expense associated with wine delivery, the proposal would result in lost sales and associated reductions in state excise and sales tax revenue in a sector of the New York economy that has shown dynamic growth over the last three decades. See Stonebridge Research, The Economic Impact of Grapes, Grape Juice & Wine on the New York Economy, 2008 (Jan. 2010).

Wineries are often an engine of rural economic development in New York. Anchoring towns throughout Central and Western New York, the Hudson Valley, Long Island, and other rural communities, the development of the state’s wine industry is a remarkable success story. As local wineries continue to grow and flourish—improving their reputation throughout the country and around the world—it is incumbent upon the New York legislature to improve distribution efficiency for producers of small production brands. An “at-rest” provision would be a significant step backward, building a barrier to market entry for local and out-of-state wineries with no commensurate benefit to the state.

New York can be a leader whose distribution laws further encourage the development of local wineries and promote the interstate sale of locally produced wine. Improvements could make the distribution system more transparent and easier to navigate, and could serve as a model that other states could follow.

New York should not impose new obstacles to efficient interstate wine sales. An “at-rest” provision would be a major impediment to interstate wine deliveries and would seriously damage the ability of local and out-of-state wineries to reach their customers.

We urge you not to adopt this harmful proposal.

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Wine collector accused of $1.3M scam

From ABC News

An Indonesian millionaire who was once known as one of the world's up-and-coming collectors and dealers of rare wines was arrested Thursday and accused of trying to trick other wealthy buyers with more than $1.3 million worth of counterfeit bottles.

Rudy Kurniawan, 35, was arrested in Los Angeles, where he has lived in luxury for years despite a longstanding deportation order, U.S. prosecutors said. He is charged in New York with repeatedly trying to sell sophisticated fakes of vintages that can trade for thousands of dollars per bottle.

The criminal charges follow years of increasing suspicions about Kurniawan among top wine connoisseurs. Some of his wines were pulled from a sale in 2007 after an auction house declared them to be fakes. The billionaire entrepreneur and wine investor William Koch sued Kurniawan in 2009, claiming that several bottles he'd purchased from him were phony.

Federal prosecutors in New York accused Kurniawan of engaging in "multiple fraudulent schemes" related to his wine business, including trying to sell 84 bottles of counterfeit Domaine Ponsot wine at an auction in 2008 and 78 bottles of bogus Burgundy wine from Domaine de la Romanee-Conti at an auction last February.

Prosecutors said Kurniawan also fraudulently obtained millions of dollars in loans to finance his playboy lifestyle.

[Go here for the remainder of the story.]

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NY seeks changes for 'Farm' brewers, winemakers

ALBANY -- Governor Andrew M. Cuomo may not be the poster boy for grocery stores that would like to be able to sell wine, something he has dismissed out of hand, but he may have won some friends among the state's craft brewers, winemakers and distillers.

Cuomo today proposed legislation that would create a "Farm Brewery" license. It would allow craft brewers who use products grown in the state to operate in a similar fashion to the state's wineries which have flourished under the 1976 Farm Winery Bill, leading to increased demand for locally-grown farm products as well as expanded economic development and tourism.

He also proposed legislation to exempt Farm Wineries and Farm Distilleries from the current costly tax filing requirement.

"These bills provide a boost for breweries, farmers, wineries, and communities across New York State," Cuomo said. "This legislation will give our state's growing craft beer industry the tools needed to create jobs, promote agriculture, and encourage environmentally friendly economic development across New York State."

His bill to promote the economic growth of the craft brewery industry includes:

Increasing Retail Outlets for New York Products: The legislation would allow Farm Breweries to sell New York State-labeled wine at their retail outlets. In addition, Farm Wineries would be permitted to sell New York State-labeled beer for off-premises consumption.

Allowing Farm Breweries to Open Restaurants: The legislation would allow Farm Breweries to obtain licenses to operate restaurants, conference centers, inns, bed and breakfasts or hotels on or adjacent to the farm brewery.

Increasing Tastings: The legislation would allow both Farm Breweries and Farm Wineries to conduct tastings of New York State-produced beer and wine at their premises.

Selling Related Products: The legislation would allow Farm Breweries to sell beer making equipment and supplies, food complementing beer and wine, souvenir items, and additional products similar to those allowed under the Farm Winery statute.

To hold a Farm Brewery license, a producer's beer must be made primarily from locally-grown farm products. Until the end of 2017, at least 20% of the hops and 40% of all other ingredients must be grown or produced in the state. From January 1, 2018, to December 31, 2022, no less than 60% of the hops and 75% of all other ingredients must be grown or produced in the state. After January 1, 2023, no less than 90% of the hops and 90% of all other ingredients must be grown or produced in the state.

The beer manufactured under these guidelines would be designated a "New York State labeled beer." The legislation is modeled after the 1976 "Farm Winery Act," which spurred the growth of wine production in the state, including the creation of 237 farm wineries and tripling the number of wineries, which in total now have hit the 316 mark.

Also today, the governor proposed exemptions for Farm Wineries and Farm Distilleries from a costly and burdensome tax filing requirement. Currently, all beer, wine, and liquor wholesalers in the state are required to report sales made to restaurants, bars, and other retailers. However, because Farm Wineries and Farm Distilleries are small, often family-owned operations, they have struggled to afford the costs of complying with this annual reporting.

According to the Governor's Office, "The burden imposed on them by this filing requirement outweighs the benefit received by the State Tax Department, as purchases from Farm Wineries and Farm Distilleries account for a very small percentage of the state's total beer and wine sales. These businesses are already required by law to maintain sales records which the Tax Department may obtain upon request, making the additional mandatory filing requirement not necessary."

Here is some of the pertinent reactions to the proposals:

• Dean Norton, New York Farm Bureau president: "We've seen tremendous growth opportunities for our farmers from alcoholic beverage license categories that are specifically linked to locally produced farm goods – from the growth of farm wineries to the relatively recent trend of farm distilleries. This is an opportunity for local farmers to bring New York back to being the premier hops growing state that we once were, creating added value markets and new jobs in our State."

• Dennis Rosen, State Liquor Authority chairman: "This legislation will provide a significant benefit to local farmers, by helping to create a sustained demand for their products. Ultimately, by providing incentives for farm breweries to expand, these businesses will become, much like farm wineries, destination locations that will promote economic development and tourism within their communities. This bill will boost agriculture and breweries, as well as create jobs and increased economic development across New York."

• Darrel Aubertine, Department of Agriculture and Markets commissioner: "This bill will exempt Farm Wineries and Farm Distilleries from burdensome tax filing requirements that have hurt small business here in New York. Our Farm wineries and Farm distilleries are small, often family owned operations, and they have struggled to afford the costs of complying with this annual reporting. Governor Cuomo has made opening New York State to business a top priority of his administration, and this bill will help cut burdensome costs that have been imposed on small farm wineries and distilleries. New York's craft brewery and farm winery industry is an important part of our economy, supporting jobs and tourism across the state, and I look forward to working together to make sure this legislation becomes law."

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