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Andrew Cuomo wine, beer summit draws cheers from LI producers

New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo after a

New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo after a cabinet meeting in the Red Room at the capitol in Albany. Cuomo is calling a summit to boost the beer and wine industries in New York just months after a similar effort began to try to make New York the nations largest producer of Greek-style yogurt. (Sept. 27, 2012) Credit: AP

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo Thursday said he would hold a wine and beer business summit in the state at the end of October, and local producers are lifting a glass to celebrate.

The gathering is modeled after a yogurt summit Cuomo held during the summer, bringing together yogurt makers, dairy and fruit farmers, and related industries to discuss ways to foster growth.

The wine and beer summit, to be held in Albany, will do the same, the governor said. "The wine industry in New York is very important for us," he said. "It's a big business," including for tourism on Long Island.

The summit will allow producers around the state to discuss impediments to local growth, and to "talk about regulations" that could be enacted or altered to increase it.

"Wow, that's great," said Ron Goerler, president of the Long Island Wine Council and an owner of Jamesport Vineyards. There are 59 licensed wine producers on Long Island, and 35 tasting rooms open to the public. Some 1.3 million people visit the wineries annually.

"There are big issues," Goerler said. "It's costly to do business in the state of New York."

New York is losing ground to other big wine producers such as California, Washington and Oregon, he said, while facing new competition from low-cost imports from Australia, South Africa and Europe. Local governments, meanwhile, have imposed rules that make it harder for wineries to grow, including restrictions on events.

"If the governor created an initiative asking for ideas on sustaining growth and helping fund it, that would be a win-win for everybody," Goerler said.

Long Ireland Beer Co., a 3-year-old microbrewery in Riverhead, also applauded the idea. Co-owner Greg Martin said the state has been helpful in promoting growth.

"But," he said, "there's always more that could be done."

For instance, his microbrewery license allows him to dispense 3-ounce "samples" of his beer in a tasting room, but he cannot sell beer for consumption on the premises. "If I could sell them a glass of beer, that's revenue for the state," Martin said.

A Cuomo spokesman said the date and location for the summit were still being worked out.

In other news Thursday:

Cuomo announced an initiative that would incorporate a new "driver first" criteria into the bidding process for New York Works road and bridge projects to do work in a way that "least burdens" drivers.

He declared a successful first year of his 2 percent property tax-cap initiative, noting that 95 percent of school districts stayed within the cap, while property tax growth was 40 percent less than the previous 10-year average.

He said a new Department of Motor Vehicles online voter registration program launched in the state in August had processed 16,000 registrations to date, including nearly 6,000 new voters.

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