Category Archives: Agriculture

Smoking out trouble in grape country

This is a sight you don’t see very often, but when you have an erratic late winter and early spring as we saw in the Finger Lakes, it’s not terribly surprising.

This photo shows Magdalena Vineyard, the northernmost of the Herman J. Wiemer Vineyards in the heart of the Finger Lakes, where several weeks ago hay bales were set afire in hopes the smoke would protect the fragile grapes when the temperatures dipped.

As the folks at Wiemer explained it, “Many of you have asked how we dealt with the whims of our weather this year. March decided to come in hot and heavy, sometimes reaching 75 degrees. Then April arrived and threw some cold water on the party, turning the dial down to 25 degrees. But our vines showed typical Finger Lakes resilience, despite the widespread bud damage across the Northeast.

“Our warmer sites were somewhat shielded by the temperature moderating lake effect, and we did our part by summoning colleagues and family members in a three-day around the clock effort by surrounding the vineyards with hay bales. Each bale was set on fire to encourage air circulation and reduce the likelihood of damage. … While it is honestly hard to say whether it is the hay burning spectacular that protected the vines, or whether it was simply the lake effect, we are simply grateful that only small patches of vines surrendered to the cold.”

Check out my New York Drinks Events Calendar, the most comprehensive anywhere.

Leave a comment

Posted by on June 2, 2012 in Agriculture, Wineries


Golden anniversary for Dr. Frank

This video comes from Dr. Konstantin Frank Vinifera Cellars, the Finger Lakes establishment that this year is marking its 50th anniversary.

Check out my New York Drinks Events Calendar, the most comprehensive anywhere.

Leave a comment

Posted by on March 6, 2012 in Agriculture, History, Winemaker


HV Food and Beverage Alliance gets going

From Westfair Online

Combine dairy farmers, meat producers, vegetable growers, and beverage makers, sprinkle in some unique niche food businesses, toss with some packaging companies and distributors so each can find the ingredients it needs to work expeditiously, and you’ve created a winning recipe for harnessing the power of agri-business in the Hudson Valley.

That’s the goal of the new Hudson Valley Food and Beverage Alliance, which held its first roundtable at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park on February 2. More than 200 companies, economic leaders and home-grown food and drink purveyors attended the standing-room-only conference.

PepsiCo, Gillette Creamery, Crown Maple Syrup Farm, Tuthilltown Spirits and restaurateur Peter X. Kelly were just a few of the dozens of attendees representing Dutchess, Orange, Putnam, Rockland, Sullivan, Ulster and Westchester counties.

[Go here for the full story.]

Check out my New York Drinks Events Calendar, the most comprehensive anywhere.

Leave a comment

Posted by on February 11, 2012 in Agriculture, Marketing


Dept. of Competitive Information

Attention all New York State winemakers. There’s bad news/good news coming from the land of your biggest domestic competitors.

• The bad news (for California): Late freezes and untimely rain negatively impacted California’s wine grape harvest just as vintners had predicted. The 2011 harvest was down 7% to 3.3 million tons. When table grapes are included, the overall tonnage of the California fruit still was down, by 3%.

• The good news (for New York): See above.

According to the preliminary harvest report released Friday by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, reduced supply has meant increased prices for California wines in general.

Napa County had the highest prices for grapes with an average $3,400 per ton, an increase if 5% from 2010. Grapes from Sonoma and Marin counties sold at an average of $2,081 a ton, up 3%.

Factoring in all wine grape-growing regions in California, the average price for red wine grapes went up 12% to $702 a ton, while for white it went up 8% to $541.

Check out my New York Drinks Events Calendar, the most comprehensive anywhere.

Leave a comment

Posted by on February 11, 2012 in Agriculture, Research


• Bills would aid NY wine, beer makers

The revival of the push to legalize wine sales in New York State grocery stores isn’t the only activity going on in the State Legislature that concerns adult beverages.

State Senator David Carlucci, D-Rockland/Orange, has introduced a trio of bills that would affect both the wine and brewing industries in the state. They are part of a larger agriculture reform legislation package. As explained by his office:

  • Bill S.1909 would make it easier for small wineries to sell their product to restaurants. Currently, wineries that wish to make such sales are required to register as a wine wholesaler and comply with record keeping requirements that small wine makers have neither the manpower nor the expertise to handle.
  • Bill S.4533 would allow wineries to be able to rent their space to home winemakers. Other major wine producing states, such as California and Washington, already allow this additional revenue stream.
  • Bill S.5078 would create a new farm brewery license that would allow farmers to brew beer on their property as long as they use a certain percentage of New York State-grown products. The bill would allow commercial sales on farm property and would cap the number of barrels brewed under this license to 15,000 a year.

“It is not only essential that we work to actively promote our family farms, but that we also seek ways to make sure they continue to grow and prosper,” Carlucci said. “This package of legislation will provide the tools needed to support our farmers, promote locally grown agricultural products and preserve our valuable farm land.”

Check out my New York Drinks Events Calendar, the most comprehensive you’ll find anywhere.


• Wine & Grape Foundation breathing again

It appears that last-minute maneuvering has saved the New York Wine & Grape Foundation.

The industry lobbying and education group had been zeroed out of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s proposed 2011-2012 state budget, which foundation president Jim Trezise said would mean its quick demise.

However, $713,000 has been inserted into the budget by the state Legislature’s Joint Budget Subcommittee on Environment, Agriculture, and Housing, Assemblyman Dan Losquadro, a Long Island Republican, said today.

Among its numerous activities, the Wine & Grape Foundation created and runs the annual New York Wine & Food Classic, a competition for New York wines that helps popularize New York wines and helps winemakers market their products.

A call to the Foundation office in Canandaigua for comment was referred to Trezise, who was said to be working outside the office today. No response has yet been received to a message left with him.

The subcommittee also added $500,000 for the state’s Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program, which will aid vineyards throughout the state.

The grape, grape juice and wine industries contributed more than $3.76 billion in economic benefits to New York’s economy in 2008, according to a study by the Napa Valley-based Stonebridge Research Group LLC, released in January.

Check out my New York Drinks Events Calendar, the most comprehensive you’ll find anywhere.


• The grapes of Madison County

CAZENOVIA, NY — Tonight’s Cazenovia Town Planning Board meeting is a crucial one for Ben Reilly.

He is the operations director of the budding Owera Vineyards project, which is seeking to become the first winery in Madison County, with a fall opening being targeted.

So far, things have gone without a legal hitch and final approval is expected from the Planning Board. If received, work will begin as soon as weather permits on the planned 8,500-square-foot winery building and a smaller pole barn. (Architect’s rendering of the main building shown above right.)

Owera Vineyards is located near the intersection of East Lake and North Lake roads on the north shore of Cazenovia Lake. Plans call for several acres of vineyards, a winery and a tasting area for visitors.

In 2008, a variety of grapes were planted on the 60-acre tract owned by Peter Muserlian, along with a range of fruit trees and an organic garden. Experimentation with grape varieties is needed to find those best for the slightly harsher climate compared to that of the Finger Lakes, an hour’s drive west of here. Reilly has said he will apply for state agriculture grants to test different varieties.

When Owera, which has been experimenting this season with ice wines, officially opens, it will mean that 51 of the state’s 62 counties has at least one winery. Given the absence of other wineries nearby, Owera is being planned as a destination site that will host tasting events, live entertainment and guest chef demonstrations and dinners.

Check out my New York Drinks Events Calendar, the most comprehensive you’ll find anywhere.