02/25/17 6:00am
02/25/2017 6:00 AM


The first day in 1973 that my then-husband, Alex, and I arrived on the farm we’d bought in Cutchogue, on Long Island’s North Fork, to plant the region’s first vineyard, our neighbor Jeanie Zuhoski welcomed us on our long farm road bearing a home-baked pie. READ

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11/20/16 8:50am
11/20/2016 8:50 AM

The Southold Town Planning Board held public hearings last week on several additions proposed to vineyards — discussions that took on greater meaning in the wake of Supervisor Scott Russell’s proposed moratorium on new wineries. READ

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11/16/16 10:25pm
11/16/2016 10:25 PM


After recent debates over Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell’s idea for a moratorium on new winery, brewery and distillery development, Mr. Russell and a representative of the Long Island Wine Council spoke at the Mattituck Chamber of Commerce meeting Wednesday night about the proposal. READ

10/03/13 8:28am
10/03/2013 8:28 AM

CYNDI MURRAY PHOTO | Farm stands like Barb’s Veggies in Peconic will soon be able to sell local wines.

Wine lovers will soon be able to pick up a bottle of local vino at their nearest farm stand.

Continuing his push to promote New York State vineyards Gov. Andrew Cuomo has signed new legislation permitting the sale of wine at roadside farm markets.

“These new laws will build on our continuing efforts to promote New York’s wine industry across the state and beyond, boosting tourism, local economies and job growth,” Governor Cuomo said in a statement.

Mr. Cuomo signed bills last Friday allowing farm stands to sell local wines and creating several new wine trails in upstate New York. They go into effect March 31, 2014.

On the North Fork, which already boasts an established wine trail, the farm markets law allows for sale of wine that is manufactured and produced by up to two licensed farm wineries, special wineries or micro-wineries located within 20 miles of the roadside farm stands, according to the law.

While in 2009 the mere mention of allowing wine sales at supermarkets had liquor store owners furious and scared for their livelihoods, the new law is not drawing the same amount of criticism.

Jim Silver, general manager of Empire State Cellars in Riverhead, said he doesn’t think allowing farm stands to sell local wine would have a negative impact on his business.

“The seasonality of farm stands is so limited that I don’t think it will have an impact,” he said, adding that farm stands are restricted to carrying only two brands of wine and that climate control might cause a storage issue for farmers. “Do I think it’s a good a idea? Yes. Do I think it’s a great idea? No.”

Although the town and the Long Island Wine Council have a long history of disagreeing on wine-related issues, the law is a measure both groups are behind.

“I think it’s a good idea,” Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell said. “It’s good not just for wineries, but farmers and the people selling produce.”

Steve Bate, the Wine Council executive director, agreed.

“I think it provides a terrific new opportunity for wineries and farm stands to work together to promote the sale of local products,” he said. “This is just the latest example that Governor Cuomo really understands and appreciates the importance of agriculture and agritourism to our state’s economy.”

Mr. Cuomo has spearheaded several initiatives to bolster the wine industry.

In July 2012, the governor signed legislation designed to support New York’s breweries and wineries, as well as increase demand for locally grown farm products and expand industry-related economic development and tourism.

The Empire state is home to nearly 500 wineries, breweries, distilleries and cider mills that account for more than $22 billion in annual total economic impact in the state and support tens of thousands of jobs statewide, the governor’s office said.

The state ranks third in the nation in wine and grape production, has the second-most distilleries and three of the top-producing 20 brewers in the nation, Mr. Cuomo said.

The 2013-14 state budget introduced several new initiatives to help improve the marketing of New York State-produced products, including a total of $7 million for Market New York and Taste NY to support a multifaceted regional marketing plan that will promote regional tourism and New York-produced goods and products.

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07/19/13 11:00am
07/19/2013 11:00 AM

The Town Board’s attempt to pass two separate pieces of legislation dictating the use of wineries has proven to be a tricky task.

The already controversial special events law draft was expected to be the focus of a Tuesday night public hearing, but the issue became muddied by a separate proposed policy change amending the town’s legal definition of a winery.

Critics argued that the two pieces of legislation should be combined.

“It important when we look at the proposed law today to realize it’s only half a law,” said Sal Diliberto of the Long Island Wine Council. “We are being asked to look at a law that incorporates another proposed law, which is not here today.”

The special events law seeks to give the town more control over events held at wineries and other properties. It would require a permit for any gathering that exceeds a building’s occupancy or parking capacity or is otherwise prohibited by the property’s zoning. A permit would also be required for events involving the closing of a public street, the use of amplified sound, the sale of food or merchandise, the placement of portable toilets and a number of other circumstances.

At the same time, the town is considering revisiting the code language on what constitutes a winery and what activities are permitted there.

During their morning work session board members requested clarification from the code committee on town zoning polices on allowable uses for wineries and the penalties for violations.

Current regulations state that wineries should primarily sell products made from grapes grown on site and have a minimum of 10 acres dedicated to vineyards or other agricultural purposes.

Supervisor Scott Russell said the goal of redefining the usage language is to expand what’s considered normal business practice and thereby allow vineyards to hold events such as weddings without a special events permit.

“We don’t want people to think they need a special events permit when they have a four-piece band come in on a Saturday and end up having hundreds of people showing up,” Mr. Russell said after the meeting. “That is not a special event. That is just a good day.”

The special events law and the winery use review come in response to residents’ complaints about such events — most notably at Vineyard 48 in Cutchogue — and concern about the town’s options in addressing code violations.

Some critics said separating the two pieces of legislation would have unwelcome consequences for businesses other than wineries.

“In theory, the bill would include yard sales and lemonade stands as special events,” said Marilyn Marks, owner of Shorecrest Bed & Breakfast in Southold. “If the board does not change the legislation regarding custom-driven events like weddings, it will be virtually impossible for [B&B] owners to run those types of events. It needs to be clearer.”

The draft states that the permit requirement does not apply to occasional private events held on residential properties.

This not the first time the proposed law has been called confusing. In the past, critics said the town failed to clearly define what qualifies as a special event, forcing organizers of routine events to undergo burdensome permit procedures.

A previous version of the code change was shelved last year when representatives of the state Department of Agriculture and Markets, which has the power to overturn local laws it believes curtail agricultural activities, found the original events draft did indeed place undue restrictions on farming. This week town attorney Martin Finnegan said that state agency supports the revised proposal.

The less restrictive draft continues to draw fire from winery operators who say it would limit the events they could sponsor and thereby decrease the area’s agritourism business.

“This is certainly better than the draft you had before,” said Steve Bate, executive director of the Long Island Wine Council. “We still have concerns. We hope we can come up with some kind of compromise that allows us flexibility.”

Mr. Bate requested omitting a piece of the legislation that would prevent property owners from acquiring a new special events permit if they are the subject of an unresolved violation action.

He also asked that applications for special events be reviewed within 30 days to assure that event scan be properly marketed, and removing the $250 fee for applying submitted less than 60 days in advance of an event.

“That is an exorbitant fee for a small winery should an opportunity come up in less than 60 days,” he said. “It’s unfair.”

The board tabled the special events law.

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