By Haley Viccaro, Albany Bureau
ALBANY -- The New York Wine and Grape Foundation reported a strong year for the quality and growth at the state's wineries.
The wine grape harvest experienced an early average quantity and strong quality throughout the state, the group said Monday. Warm temperatures during the winter accelerated the growth of grape buds, which continued to grow despite frost in April and May.
"The amount of sunshine and heat determines the ripening of grapes on the vines. The warm winter, spring, summer and fall all accelerated the growth rate," said Jim Trezise, president of the state Wine and Grape Foundation.
"It wasn't a huge crop and it wasn't a small crop, we had an average crop. The crop was good because wine grapes grow more slowly, so the frost didn't damage them."
Trezise said the grapes that were affected by the late frost were in isolated areas, such as the Lake Erie region. Concord grapes in the region grew earlier during the warm winter weather and were therefore exposed to frost in April, which killed half of the crop.
"Statewide in general, central and western New York had a tougher time dealing with the heat and the drought," said Steve Ammerman, spokesman for the state Farm Bureau. "I think overall they had a good year. Granted there were some nerves and anxious moments, they were able to save the season and have a good one."
The state's total wine producers reached 328 this year, with 17 new licenses issued and 71 new wineries. It marks a record number of wine producers in the state: 55 of the 62 counties have wine producers, including in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens.
State wines had successful promotions, including the "New York Drinks New York" in New York City and the annual "New York Farm Day" hosted by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand in Washington in September.
Ammerman said the promotions have helped to educate people about the wines and farm distilleries in their own backyards.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo held the first Wine, Beer and Spirits Summit in October to find ways to market and promote the industry. Cuomo announced $1 million in advertising, including another $2 million if the industry can match it.
"I think your industry has tremendous potential," Cuomo said at the summit Oct. 24 in Albany. "First of all, the numbers in your industry are astronomical. The growth has just been staggering."
Cuomo announced regulation changes to allow wineries and breweries to develop products with one state license. Companies can also sell their products at tasting events, with tasting fee permits decreased from $1,000 to $125.
"Any time we can spread the word about how great New York products are, it is going to benefit the entire wine industry," Ammerman said. "The governor is willing to commit $3 million to marketing efforts for these industries, and New Yorkers need to be made aware of what we have to offer and how much we love New York wines."
State wines were awarded 88 "Best" designations and a record number of top medals in international competitions, the wine foundation said, and received positive reviews from major consumer publications.