That all seems fairly straight forward. When I saw a Facebook post about the decision I thought it was a one-time decision that attempted to skirt the definition of a farm winery. Turns out, it wasn't. The Department of Agriculture used a provision in the Alcohol Beverage Control Law that states: "(a) Except as provided in paragraph (b) of this subdivision, no licensed farm winery shall manufacture or sell any wine not produced exclusively from grapes or other fruits or agricultural products grown or produced in New York state. (b) In the event that the commissioner of agriculture and markets, after investigating and compiling information pursuant to subdivision forty-two of section sixteen of the agriculture and markets law, determines that a natural disaster, act of God, or continued adverse weather condition has destroyed no less than forty percent of a specific grape varietal grown or produced in New York state and used for winemaking, the commissioner, in consultation with the chairman of the state liquor authority, may give authorization to a duly licensed farm winery to manufacture or sell wine produced from grapes grown outside this state." New York also allowed out-of-state fruit in 2005 because of winter kill events that dramatically reduced yield.
|Chickens tending a Frontenac vine...|
The Colorado Limited Winery definition used to contain a provision for requiring at least 50% Colorado-grown fruit, but a lawsuit in the mid 1990s saw that requirment removed. In 2005, the Limited Winery statute was amended to include the ability of a winery to use the phrase "Colorado Grown" on a label. "Colorado grown" means wine produced from one hundred percent Colorado-grown grapes, other fruits, or other agricultural products containing natural sugar, such as honey. However, no winery is required to use "Colorado Grown" for any of their products.
Many other states still have a farm winery license in statute. Connecticut requires only 25% of a farm winery's fruit come from Connecticut. Kansas law requires more than 30% of the products utilized in the manufacture of table and fortified wine by a farm winery be grown in Kansas. In Minnesota, a majority of product used to manufacturer wine must be Minnesota grown. Nebraska's requirement for a farm winery is at least 75% of the finished product be grown in the state. Arizona requires five producing acres of land owned or controlled by a farm winery and that the land has been devoted to fruit growing for at least three consecutive calendar years. Tennessee, Virginia and Rhode Island also have farm winery licenses. I'm sure other states do as well, but I've read enough wine-related statutes for the time being.
So, back to the issue at hand in New York. Is the requirement of 100% NY fruit too high? Is the provision to ignore the requirement in bad years a good thing or does it diminish what it means to be a farm winery? I know producers in Colorado are grateful for the ability to use out-of-state fruit. Many try to use as much CO fruit as possible, but when harsh weather hits, as it has four out of the last five years, sometimes there is no fruit to be found in Colorado.