Local wine industry leaders recognized

Staff Writer
The Chronicle Express
Dan Mitchell of Fox Run Vineyards, who was honored with the Jim Finkle Industry Award, with winery owners Ruth and Scott Osborn.

The New York Wine & Grape Foundation said a big “Thank You” to several individuals and businesses at its annual “Unity Banquet” Wednesday, March 1 at the Rochester Institute of Technology Conference Center, site of Cornell Cooperative Extension’s 3-day B.E.V. NY symposium.

Two Yates County Seneca Lake wineries were among the honored.

The “Jim Finkle Industry Award”— presented to an individual who has made a major contribution in advancing the interests of the New York grape and wine industry — was presented to Dan Mitchell, Sales Manager of Fox Run Vineyards for the past 12 years.

“The Finger Lakes region is well known for collaboration among wineries on many levels, and Dan exemplifies that on the marketing end. He travels constantly selling Fox Run wines, and in the process also promotes other wineries in the Finger Lakes and throughout New York,” writes Jim Trezise, outgoing president of the New York Wine & Grape Foundation. “The most dramatic example involves his efforts in the Canadian province of Alberta which he opened up for Fox Run and then for many other wineries, giving New York wineries a significant presence in a market that is truly excited about them.” The Industry Award is named after the late Jim Finkle, former Senior Vice President of Constellation Brands who also served as Chairman of NYWGF and in leadership roles in many other wine industry organizations.

The “Winery Award” — recognizing wineries which have advanced the widespread recognition and quality reputation of New York wines — was presented to Glenora Wine Cellars. “With the explosive growth in wineries throughout New York State, it’s too easy to lose sight of the true pioneers on whose shoulders others stand. Gene Pierce, with his past and current partners, is a prime example,” writes Trezise. 

Established in 1977, Glenora was the first farm winery in the Finger Lakes after the Farm Winery Act of 1976 was passed (and Pierce was involved with that effort). Over the years, the number of Glenora “firsts” in many different areas has multiplied, and the winery has been joined by the upscale 30-room Inn at Glenora and Veraisons restaurant overlooking a panoramic view of Seneca Lake. In addition, both Knapp Vineyards, Winery & Restaurant, and Chateau Lafayette Reneau — two high-quality operations — are now part of the Glenora family of wineries. Pierce and his colleagues have also always been deeply involved in industry organizations on regional, state, and national levels.

The New York Wine & Grape Foundation is a statewide, not-for-profit trade association representing grape growers, grape juice manufacturers, wineries and others in the Lake Erie, Niagara Escarpment, Finger Lakes, Hudson River, Champlain Valley, Long Island and other regions. Part of its mandate is to stimulate coordination and cooperation among all segments of the industry in all regions. Its overall goal is “to have the New York grape and wine industry recognized as a world leader in quality, productivity, and social responsibility.”

The Unity Banquet was created nearly 30 years ago as a way to recognize, encourage, and celebrate cooperation among grape growers, wineries, grape juice producers, and others to advance the entire industry. “Diversity is our strength, and unity is our power,” said Trezise.  His successor, new Executive Director Sam Filler, was also on hand to present the awards. In addition to the “Unity Award,” several others have been added in different categories over the years.

Most of the awards were presented at the Unity Banquet, with a few to be presented at the NY Drinks NY Grand Tasting March 7 in New York City, and later at other locations.

Other Awards are: 

• Phyllis Feder Unity Award to Larry Perrine, Partner and CEO of Channing Daughters Winery in The Hamptons, Long Island.  

• Grower Award  will be presented to John Graziano of Millbrook Vineyards in the Hudson River Region.

• The “Research Award,” for major contributions in research and education to benefit the New York grape and wine industry, was presented to Dr. Justine Vanden Heuvel.  

• Restaurant Award will be presented to Thomas Pastuszak of New York City. 

• Retailer Award will be presented to Astor Wine & Spirits of New York City. 

• Ron Reals Distributor Award was presented to Cheryl Dianetti of Opici Family Wines. 

• Consumer Award went to Charlene Ryder of the Lake Erie region.

• Collaboration Award was presented to Bill Farnham, retired from Constellation Brands.