When Wine Enthusiast magazine this week announced that New York state was chosen of "Wine Region of the Year"-- ahead of Champagne, Chianti, Sonoma, and Washington -- it was a long-awaited and fitting tribute to the hundreds of people in our industry who have worked so hard for so long to get better every day.
It was also a tribute to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who has created the best business climate in history for our industry; to former Gov. Mario Cuomo, who rescued a dying industry through legislation allowing us to grow; to the many legislators who have been a key part of our success; and to numerous organizations which have been such valuable partners for decades.
On Valentine's Day of 1982, I left a secure and lucrative corporate job in Philadelphia and U-hauled my family and furniture to Penn Yan through a blizzard to become Executive Director of the New York State Wine Grape Growers. The landscape was bleak: abandoned vineyards, padlocked wineries, ramshackle farms, zero hope.
Today the Finger Lakes has well over 100 wineries, an international reputation for quality wines (especially Riesling), and consistent recommendations as one of the world's top wine country travel destinations. The landscape has changed.
Other regions, from Long Island to Lake Erie and even North Country, have had different evolutions but the same basic result: beautiful landscapes with passionate people making wonderful wines.
Quality and cooperation have been key to New York's success. We are so fortunate to have Cornell University and Cooperative Extension as our partners, and to also have so many grape growers, winery owners, and wine makers who, while technically competitors, cooperate in so many ways.
Diversity is our strength; Unity is our power. Excelsior!