The growth and popularity of the North Fork’s wineries are a Long Island success story. From a single vineyard planted 43 years ago, there are nearly 50 producers today. Add in breweries and farms with hard apple-cider tasting spurred by the relaxing of state regulations and you have an industry that is part of the backbone of the North Fork economy. It creates jobs and revenue, and its customers rent area lodgings and patronize restaurants and shops.
Now the region is questioning: How much success is too much? Some officials say the North Fork suffers from winery fatigue, that the area can only support so many. But how many? How does one weigh the vitality and dollars brought by 1.3 million visitors against worries that the North Fork is being overrun by drunken day-trippers?
Very carefully. Growth always is a matter of balance, and management. In preserving from development farmland once planted with potatoes, vineyards have helped the North Fork retain its rural character. But visitors attracted to that bucolic charm can ruin it by their numbers and behavior. Maintaining quality of life means taking steps to keep traffic moving smoothly and calm the environment in general.
Wineries themselves are acting. That’s good. Many ban buses, limos and large groups, or accept them only by appointment. Others are limiting tasting pours to one ounce, and de-emphasizing the live music that drew people more interested in partying than tasting wine.
The state Department of Agriculture and Markets should let local officials set reasonable regulations of wineries, and that must be complemented by evenhanded enforcement. Pumpkin picking and corn mazes can create traffic and parking nightmares, too.
The success of the North Fork’s wineries is something to celebrate. But let’s not destroy it in the process. — The editorial board