Legislation Would Expand NY Wine Trails

5/18/2013 7:00 AM
By Paul Post New York Correspondent

Proposed legislation would expand existing New York wine trails and add new ones to other parts of the state including the Adirondacks and Upper Hudson Valley, just north of Albany.

Three separate measures been approved in the Senate and are awaiting passage in the Assembly, where they’re currently under review in the Transportation Committee, chaired by David Gantt, D-Rochester.

State approval is required for wine trail designation, but trail signage is paid for by participating vintners at no cost to the state.

“The creation and expansion of wine trails throughout the state has been a major economic engine benefiting many sectors of the tourist economy in the rural areas where they are located,” said Jim Trezise, New York Wine and Grape Foundation president. “The trails are a major reason why the wine industry generates over $3.7 billion annually in economic benefits to the state.”

The Finger Lakes is New York’s most famous wine-producing area, but trails also exist from eastern Long Island to the Niagara region, near the shores of Lake Ontario.

Proposed measures would expand the Niagara and Shawangunk East wine trails and allow for creation of a new Adirondack Coast Wine Trail near Lake Champlain. Legislation for a new Upper Hudson Valley Wine Trail in Rensselaer, Washington and Saratoga counties is still being written.

The full Legislature’s approval is required whenever an existing trail’s boundary changes; meaning a new winery outside the boundary asks to be added.

New York Farm Bureau says this can be a very lengthy process that stalls growth opportunities for family farms.

“New York Farm Bureau is hopeful these bills will come to the full floor for a vote in the Assembly in order to advance economic development in rural parts of the state,” its president, Dean Norton, said. “These bills help both our wineries and growers as many of the wineries retail other local farm and local business products.”

Signage and promotion for individual wineries helps guide tourists and wine tasters to various locations. In the case of new wine trails, they will let visitors know they are in wine country, which they might not have known otherwise if they didn’t see the signs.

The Wine and Grape Foundation says the state’s booming industry draws nearly 5 million visitors a year to New York contributing $377 million in tourism dollars.

Last year, Gov. Andrew Cuomo hosted a beer, spirits and wine summit in Albany, the state capital, to promote those businesses. On May 8, he held a statewide Tourism Summit and committed tens of millions of dollars to promotion and advertising campaigns aimed at making New York a national and international destination, a strategy already practiced by other states such as California that uses high-profile movie stars to tout manmade and natural attractions.

New York City, by far, is New York state’s most popular tourist site. One of the new tourism initiative’s goals is to direct visitors upstate to various attractions, including wine trails.

“The Shawangunk Wine Trail has spent almost 20 years contributing to the vitality of agriculture and the growth of tourism in New York state’s beautiful Hudson Valley,” its president, MaryEllen Glorie, said. “Two new wineries were added to our membership this year, and we anticipate additional applicants in the next few years, giving us more strength in numbers. Expansion of the trail will allow us to build on our success in an area where agriculture is already a proven contributor to the state’s economy. In particular, this bill will allow a winery that has been a contributing wine trail member for three years to finally have legally approved road signage installed which will help drive traffic to their facility.”

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