Yates Legislature supports wine in grocery stores

Gwen Chamberlain

For the second year in a row, the Yates County Legislature has passed a resolution in support of the sale of wine in New York Food Stores.

“This act will give the wine consumer easier access to a broader choice of wines produced within New York State,” according to the resolution.

Grape growers, winery owners and representatives from Farm Bureau addressed the legislature seeking support for state legislation.

Scott Osborn, owner of Fox Run Vineyards on Seneca Lake and president of the New York Wine Industry Association, the largest advocacy  organization representing the wine industry, said wineries, like many other businesses in the state, have been hit hard by extraordinary tax increases, filing fees and other added costs.

He said the recent decision by Constellation Brands (Canandaigua Wine) to cut its purchases by 15 percent over the next two harvests has hit the entire industry hard, but getting wine on grocery store shelves would help soak up more local grape juice.

Osborn said for every $1 spent on a locally produced wine, $10.05 is returned to the local economy. For every $1 spent to purchase wine from outside the region, only 67 cents is returned to the local economy.

Osborn said his winery would double in size and add $175,000 in new payroll to the local economy if grocery shelves were opened to wineries. Other support businesses in the region, such as Vance Metal and Waterloo Container, he noted, would grow as well.

Peter Martini, president of the Yates County Farm Bureau said, “For 30 years, Farm Bureau has been in favor of wine in grocery stores.” He said that after seeing severe cuts to programs like the New York Wine & Grape Foundation, it’s time to start working on the revenue side of the ledger and wine in grocery stores.

Don Tones, a local grape grower and president of the New York Wine Grape Growers Association, said even if growers find a market for the grapes that won’t be sold to Constellation, “It will likely be below the cost of production.”

Legislator Tim Dennis encouraged representatives from the group to attend a March 19 meeting between the legislators and state representatives Tom O’Mara and Phil Palmesano.

The legislators unanimously approved the resolution.

Legislator Donna Alexander said, “I’ve always been in favor of this resolution and I want you to know that.”

Other business at the March 14 meeting included (action was unanimous unless otherwise noted):

• CERTIFIED HOME HEALTH AGENCY: County Administrator Sarah Purdy was authorized to seek proposals for the potential sale of the Yates County Department of Health’s Certificate of Need for its Certified Home Health Agency.

•  RECORDING EQUIPMENT: The legislature authorized Sheriff Ron Spike to sign an agreement with New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services for a grant of about $9,600 to purchase video equipment to record statements of individuals in custody at the Yates County Public Safety Building or the Penn Yan Police Department. The grant application is a partnership with the District Attorney’s office and the Penn Yan Police Department, notes Sheriff Ron Spike.

• MORTGAGE TAX: The legislators agreed to seek home rule legislation to renew the increase in mortgage tax. The current law is set to expire in November.

• APPOINTMENTS: The legislators appointed Mary Ann Zelanzny to the Finger Lakes Economic Development Center Board and the Finger Lakes Horizon Economic Development Corp. Board. Karl Tober of Rushville was appointed to the Yates County Planning Board to represent Potter. Wayne Davidson was appointed as the Penn Yan Village representative to the county planning board and Kevin North was reappointed as an at large member.

• YOUTH BUREAU FUNDS: The legislators approved a resolution requesting New York State to maintain funding streams for Youth Bureau. The Executive Budget proposes a competitive bid process for youth development and delinquency prevention programs that could eliminate funding in rural counties. It could cost Yates County $85,000 in youth funding.

• EXECUTIVE SESSION: The board entered an executive session to discuss legal issues.