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Opinion

EDITORIAL: Don't kill East End's new golden goose

Despite a last-minute legal scuffle over a concert this weekend at the Peconic Bay Winery in Cutchogue, the show will go on. It won't draw as many people as, say, the annual strawberry festival in Mattituck. After the concert, life will go on. The lasting issue is: Why the whining about wineries?

Even in this sour economy, they're showing marketing savvy and finding ways to keep dollars flowing to wine tastings, weddings and other events. But public officials in Southold and Riverhead, home to most of the 56 licensed producers, seem a tad too focused on complaints about issues such as noise and traffic, and not enough on the value the wineries bring to the whole tourist economy.

It's an old story: People love the East End for its rural ways. Second-home owners talk about going to their home in the country - not their home in the suburbs. But some of the same people paradoxically complain about what comes with the rural setting they profess to love: dust and tractors at farms, and increasingly, promotional events at the wineries.

If we want farming, including vineyards, to survive, we have to allow for innovation - and for wineries that means letting them find new ways to make people aware of their products. What's needed is a rational discourse between governments and wine producers, to deal sensibly with noise and traffic issues, without regulating to death an emerging golden goose of our economy. hN

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