Over The Barrel: Empire State Cellars

New York Wines Coming to Riverhead: Empire State Cellars

By now you’ve probably heard that some of the best Rieslings in America are being made in the Finger Lakes region in upstate New York. You probably haven’t heard as much about the wines of Niagara wine country – on the New York side of the border – a fairly new region that is doing some interesting things with Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.

At this point, unless you visit those regions in person, it can be a challenge to get these wines on Long Island. I see a few wines from the Finger Lakes at shops occasionally, but never wines from Niagara or the Hudson Valley or Lake Erie, or any of New York’s other regions. [expand]

Empire State Cellars, a new shop to be opened later this summer by Peconic Bay Winery at the Tanger Outlet Center in Riverhead, is going to change all that. Peconic Bay Winery general manager Jim Silver said the North Fork producer will open the store as the second of five tasting rooms it is permitted by its Farm Winery license. This is much more than a satellite tasting room, however.

Under New York State Liquor Authority rules, the winery will be permitted not only to sell its own wines at Empire State Cellars, but cider, spirits and wines from other wineries as well – as long as they are New York AVA (American Viticultural Area) products produced in New York State.

“We intend to represent the very best the state has to offer, as well as great values – since this is an outlet store – at competitive prices,” Silver said. The store will stock wines from every corner of New York wine country – Lake Erie, Thousand Islands, Adirondacks, Hudson Valley, Niagara, Finger Lakes and Long Island.

The concept for Empire State Cellars isn’t a new one. There are and have been wine shops that focus on New York wines or feature large New York selections – most famously the now-closed Vintage NY stores in Manhattan and New Paltz.

But the timing of this opening – when “drinking local” is more popular than ever – may be the key. It’s what Silver is banking on. “There’s a growing interest in New York wines that is unprecedented so I think the time is right for this type of store. There’s no Jack Daniels, no Smirnoff and no Cavit Pinot Grigio in this store. We have to exist on people’s growing interest in the local wine and the local economy too. It’s not going to be easy I’m sure, but with the support of the industry behind us we should all do well.”

Silver said that they are targeting an August 1 opening. [/expand]


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