' Coyote Moon Vineyards - Local State Representatives, Wineries Optimistic About Roadside Wine Bill
Local State Representatives, Wineries Optimistic About Roadside Wine Bill
 by Timothy W. Scee II
Special to Newzjunky.com

WATERTOWN, N.Y. — Northern New York wineries could be getting a boost in sales following the passage of new legislation that allows for the sale of wine at roadside farm markets and along wine trails.

Originally sponsored by State Sen. William J. Larkin Jr., R-New Windsor, the bill is part of a legislative package that includes the extension of wine trails throughout the state. It specifically allows for each authorized roadside farm market to sell products from up to two wineries within a 20-mile radius.

Under the legislation, which will go into effect in March 2014, roadside farm retailers will only be able to sell wine if they apply for a $100 license regulated through the state’s Liquor Authority.

Still, Assemblywoman Addie J. Russell, D-Theresa, said she expects the new legislation will be less burdensome on wine vendors than in past years. Qualifying roadside vendors would not have to obtain a second liquor license.

“The previous system was quite burdensome for wineries because they had (state Department of Agriculture and Markets) rules that required them to have a couple of other types of agriculture business licenses in order for them to be able to sell wine,” Mrs. Russell said. “What this does is it gets rid of those burdensome and somewhat illogical requirements.”

Local state representatives, all of whom supported the initiative, seem pleased with Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s approval of the legislation on Sept. 27.

Sen. Patricia A. Ritchie, R-Heuvelton, who last month announced plans to introduce a bill in January that would create a St. Lawrence County wine trail, said her office is in the process of surveying restaurants throughout the 48th Senate District about their offering of local wines.

Mrs. Ritchie hopes to use the results to determine what obstacles, if any, could be removed to allow for North Country restaurants to be able to offer more locally produced wines.

“The farmers markets seem to be getting bigger every year and the people want more local produce,” she said. “It is my hope that (this legislation) would have a big impact, especially on the local wineries.”

Phillip J. Randazzo, owner of Coyote Moon Vineyards in Clayton, said the bill will provide new opportunities to his family’s 5-year-old winery which often showcases its products at traditional farmer’s markets.

“The roadside stand is just another little notch on the governor’s list to give us as much sales opportunity as possible,” Mr. Randazzo said. “I think we’ll look at doing something like that in the spring.”

The entrepreneur said although becoming an authorized roadside farm vendor would benefit both the consumer and wine producer, he believes there is still room for improvement. "Because we can do it, it’s good, but it would even be better if we could taste wine,” he said. “People know what a fresh ear of corn tastes like, but they don’t know what’s in a bottle.”

Brian S. Peck, chief of staff for Assemblyman Kenneth D. Blankenbush, R-Black River, said the assemblyman voted in favor of the bill to help provide roadside farm market vendors a “value-added product” and more opportunities to buy it through the growth of designated wine trails.

“A lot of farms had to diversify and find other revenues and this is a way so they can, not only grow (grapes), but manufacture the wine and be able to sell it locally,” Mr. Peck said. “We only have one winery in his district, but there is obviously room for growth and we have seen other breweries with that as well.”

Mr. Randazzo said growth at Coyote Moon Vineyards was especially evident this season. His business, along with some neighboring farms, produced what he describes as “a record” 140 tons of grapes.

“If you consider wine like we all do, and the way I was brought up, wine is food,” Mr. Randazzo said. “It’s healthy, it’s a natural product, it’s good for you and it just belongs on a farm stand.”

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Post By:   Tony Randazzo