Cheers to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo for following a successful yogurt summit with a beer and wine chaser.
Trying to create buzz around New York's growing beer and wine sectors, Cuomo is bringing together producers, farmers and regulators later this month to boost these multibillion dollar industries on Long Island, in the Hudson Valley and in every region of this state.
Modeled after the Greek yogurt meeting in August, which resulted in looser restrictions on dairy farmers who provide milk for this booming market, the goal of a business-oriented Oktoberfest at the Capitol is to tap expertise and ensure that the state's brewers and winemakers keep their quality products flowing into the marketplace.
That hasn't always been easy when you consider that New York isn't toasted for a business-friendly environment. Many of these entrepreneurs do laud the governor's recent efforts -- he proposed legislation to exempt farm wineries and distilleries from costly tax filing requirements, and earlier this year signed a law that waives fees and provides tax credits to microbreweries -- but they say there's more the state can do to help them.
Prohibition-era laws, layers of federal, state and local regulatory agencies, and a growing number of wine and beer makers competing for limited market share -- on liquor store shelves and restaurant menus -- have made it difficult on some of these entities, particularly smaller vineyards and microbreweries.
That's where this summit can make a difference. Although challenges vary and there's no easy fix, consolidating some farm and liquor regulations and promoting New York's quality wines and beers would be a good start. As would something as basic as creating signs along the state's beer and wine trails, which are popular tourist destinations and common in neighboring states, or creating passports for travelers, who get special booklets stamped when they visit.
It's unrealistic that a one-day summit will result in an overhaul of liquor laws, discharge storm-water concerns stemming from large-scale production or even answer vexing questions about selling wine in grocery stores. In fact, the latter may even be taboo at this summit. Even so, this blending of minds ought to result in changes.
Beer in New York, after all, is a $5.3-billion industry that employs roughly 60,000 people; it generates an estimated $446 million in federal, state and local taxes. Craft brewers, which are found in all parts of New York, have doubled in number over the last decade alone.
Winemakers have followed a similar trajectory. Three decades ago, there were 19 vineyards in the Empire State. Now, there are more than 200 and the state is ranked second in this country to California in wine production. New York's wine industry, which includes dozens of vineyards and labels on Long Island, employs 5,000 people.
We like our brew and vino in this state. Whether it's Riesling and chardonnay or pale ale and chocolate stout, New York makes it from the grapes, hops and know-how of its small businesses.
After this summit, the state ought to uncork the potential of its brewers and vintners.