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Southold town begins cracking down on food trucks at wineries

Castello di Borghese Vineyard and Winery in Cutchogue,

Castello di Borghese Vineyard and Winery in Cutchogue, seen here on June 20, 2011. Credit: Randee Daddona

Town of Southold enforcement officers have begun issuing citations at wineries that host food trucks, a month after warnings that the practice violated town code and could result in summonses.  

North Fork vintners say more than half a dozen citations were handed out at wineries this past weekend. Newsday confirmed two: one at Castello di Borghese Vineyard and Winery in Cutchogue that went to the winery, and another at Lenz Winery in Peconic that went to the food truck, according to a Lenz employee.

Supervisor Scott Russell said winneries in the town can sell food but not food trucks.

"Food trucks don't fall within the defined list of what can be sold,” Russell said in an email, noting the list of allowed foods was created by the state Department of Agriculture and Markets.

Giovanni Borghese, co-owner of Castello di Borghese, said the citation he received last weekend was written for a general use violation relating to the food truck he hosts on his property during summer weekends. He said he makes no profit from the venture, but hosts it as a way to please customers, who stay longer and see it as a sign of “civility” and safety.

“It’s in everyone’s interest to not have people driving from vineyard to vineyard on an empty stomach,” he said.

Borghese said he’s likely to stop hosting the food truck, but plans to appear in court next month to find out what it’s about before determining next steps. He’s opposed to the idea of banning food trucks.

“We’ll stop; we’re not interested in digging the hole deeper,” Borghese said. “I don’t want to create a worse situation out of a bad one. I’ll also be hunting for a logical explanation of what is the real risk that’s involved with this, and what is the true agenda with the town in preventing us from being able to do this.”

Doug Harrigan, a tasting room employee at Lenz Winery in Peconic, said the summons went to the food truck operator that the winery hosts from Thursdays through Sundays. There’s “no effect on the winery,” he said.

Not all wineries that host food trucks have been cited. Russ McCall, owner of McCall Wines in Cutchogue, said the winery hasn’t been cited for the food truck that it hosts on Friday nights, which serves burgers made with beef raised on the property.

The town crackdown was not unexpected.

At a town meeting last month, the Southold board expressed little patience for winery owners who sought to work out a compromise to the pending crackdown. Councilman Bill Ruland warned officers “have visited many of the wineries but not all, and they asked for compliance. The next step will be giving citations.”

Russell, the supervisor, said one of the main issues is the “recent growth” in the trucks in the town. “Now they’re everywhere, operating in a lot of locations,” he said. “It’s a food-truck issue; it’s not a winery issue.”

Steve Bate, acting director of the Long Island Wine Council, suggested it was a “good time for the town to take a look at some of the permitted uses” at wineries, given the natural pairing of food and wine and the growing popularity of food trucks. He said food trucks have been around for a decade, largely without notice.

But Councilman Bob Ghosio shot down the idea. “I don’t see the will for the town board to create a law to allow it," he said.

Michael Falsetta, general manager for Sparkling Pointe vineyards in Southold, said that while the winery doesn’t host food trucks, he supports those who do.

“I’m fighting this fight with them,” he said. “I think food trucks are a good complement to the industry and the business. And many of the food trucks have [local] brick-and-mortar businesses and are going out of their way to make sure they’re using local ingredients.”

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