It is fast becoming one of the most anticipated days on the State Legislature’s spring events calendar.
I’m talking about the New York Wine Industry Association’s (NYWIA) annual “Sip and Sample” tasting event in Albany, which, since 2014, I have been proud to host with Assemblyman Phil Palmesano and several other legislative colleagues. This year’s fifth edition on May 7 featured wineries, cheese producers, restaurateurs and food manufacturers from the Finger Lakes, Long Island, the Hudson Valley, and Central and Western New York.
A group of grape growers, winery owners and other industry professionals established the NYWIA (www.nywineindustryassociation.com) in 2009 as an advocacy, public awareness and education organization.
NYWIA President Suzy Hayes, of Miles Wine Cellars in Yates County, said, "’Sip and Sample’ has become one of the favorite events for legislators and their staff because they get the chance to try wonderful New York products while meeting the producers themselves in a festive, informal setting. It is a showcase of New York's finest....the products and the people that make New York a ‘grape’ place to be!"
The event has steadily grown over the past several years. It is now one of the Legislature’s primary tools to help keep our incredible wineries, cheesemakers, food manufacturers and other producers at the forefront of state government’s attention. It has become a rite of spring at the Capitol. (Visit my Senate website, www.omara.nysenate.gov, for a full list of this year’s participants.)
Assemblyman Palmesano and I are proud to promote the excellence and quality of these sectors of the Empire State’s agricultural economy. They represent amazing and interesting stories of culture, history and economic growth. These industries are indeed economic engines for communities right here at home, of course, but throughout the state as well from Long Island to the Hudson Valley up into the North Country and out into Western New York. In every region of the state, they are providing good, sustainable livelihoods for thousands of New Yorkers.
The New York Wine & Grape Foundation (https://www.newyorkwines.org/) estimates the state’s grape, grape juice and wine industry annually generates upwards of $13 billion in overall economic benefits to New York State. It directly employs more than 62,000 workers. It encompasses 450 wine producers and more than 11,000 acres of vineyards.
I have long noted that the rise of New York wines to secure their place on the national and international stage is one of this state’s greatest of all success stories and, with the heart of the industry right here in the Finger Lakes, we should be proud to take every opportunity we can to celebrate it.
On the cheese front, the New York State Cheese Manufacturers’ Association (http://www.nycheesemakers.com) was founded in 1864 – in other words, it remains one of our oldest and proudest industries. New York is the fourth leading state in America in total cheese production. I am proud to recall that my grandfather was a cheese maker who operated the Colosse Cheese Factory in Oswego County in the early 20th century, where he helped produce award-winning cheeses.
Again, our region is prominent. The Finger Lakes Cheese Trail was established in 2010 to establish what has become a highly successful and vibrant partnership between small family farms and cheesemakers. According to the Finger Lakes Cheese Alliance (http://www.flxcheese.com), you would put 500 miles on your car if you visited each of the farms on the trail. Amazing.
By the way, the Alliance’s signature event, the Finger Lakes Cheese Festival, takes place this year on at Sunset View Creamery in Odessa, Schuyler County. Visit the Alliance website for additional information and tickets.
These industries are cornerstones. They represent some of the best of New York.
"From The Capitol" is a weekly column distributed to local media by Senator O'Maras office for publication.