It's an absolute
Watertown Daily Times
'IT'S AN ABSOLUTE PASSION' COYOTE MOON: Clayton entrepreneur hopes to make wine in four years
Date: Tuesday, May 20, 2008 Section: Jefferson Edition:
Dateline: CLAYTON By JAEGUN LEE TIMES STAFF WRITER
A local entrepreneur is joining what he calls the start of "a booming wine industry" in New York."It's an absolute passion," said Philip J. Randazzo, owner of the Whiskey Islands Lodge in Clayton, who started his own vineyard this year. Mr. Randazzo recently planted 2,600 vines of cold-hardy grapes on four acres this year and looks forward to using all 90 acres he has available for grape production along East Line Road.
Mr. Randazzo has been planning his winery with his wife, Mary S., for the past two years. The couple has been researching, consulting several organizations, including Cornell Cooperative Extension and the University of Michigan, and purchasing equipment for the vineyard."I think it's fun to be in the front of a new booming industry," Mr. Randazzo said.Mr. Randazzo said Northern New York can become a popular region for wine production if local cultivators start looking to turn their vacant land into vineyards to meet the increasing demand for grapes.
"There is an opportunity for Jefferson County to become a great centerpiece of grape vineyards," Mr. Randazzo said.Richard P. Vine, a professor of oenology at Purdue University and founder of Vintage Winery Consultants, said the market for wine is indeed expanding, partly because of anincreasing demand from the aging baby boomers who have disposable income."Wine sales have remained very strong in the past few years despite the economic downturn," Mr. Vine said.He said wine, once considered a novelty, became more popular in the mid-1980s and now has become a "cultural fabric of America.""The market has an increasing demand, particularly for wines less than $15 per bottle," he said.So what makes the north country a good place to produce wine? According to Mr. Vine, the nontraditional grape varieties grown in the region are attractive to many wine tasters."I'm excited about wines produced in Northern New York because they are unique," he said. Jay M. Matteson, executive director of the Jefferson County Agricultural Development Corp., said wines produced in Northern New York are relatively sweeter."Our wines are as good as in any place in the world. But it always depends on the individual's taste," he said. Mr. Matteson said while the grape varieties planted in the area affect the type of wine produced, regional culture and preference are what really drive local winemakers to produce sweeter wines.
There are three wineries in Jefferson County. St. Lawrence, Lewis and Oswego counties have one winery each, according to Mr. Matteson. But despite the expanding wine market, starting a vineyard still involves a lot of risk. One of the challenges is the startup cost. "It takes about $10,000 per acre to do a really first-class job," Mr. Randazzo said. Another challenge is the time it takes to harvest the first crop. It will take Mr. Randazzo about four years to make any revenue from the vineyard.
The long and harsh winters of the north country also challenge winemakers.
However, according to Mr. Randazzo, there are four hardy grape varieties he will use that prove to make high-quality wine in such climates - Frontenac, Frontenac Gris, LaCrescent and Marquette. Mr. Randazzo said he also is taking advantage of the latest technology in grape production to ensure the best quality grapes.
One of the advanced technologies the vineyard is using is a weather station. This device is installed in the fields and measures everything from temperature to humidity, wind gust and dryness of the leaves. Mr. Randazzo said the weather station makes it possible to set up an automated system that can quickly respond to changes in environment by turning on and off the sprinklers. "This is a pretty high-tech vineyard," Mr. Randazzo said. The small weather station alone him cost about $2000.
Mr. Randazzo plans to build the winery next year and will start producing his own wine, Coyote Moon, after four years, when the grapes are ready for harvest.