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The Upstate Economy

Cuomo brings upstate wineries and downstate restaurants together

Governor Andrew Cuomo/flickr

Gov. Andrew Cuomo was in the Finger Lakes on Tuesday playing host to restaurant owners and chefs from New York City and around the state.

The latest in a string of initiatives aimed at promoting upstate produce, the event was designed to showcase the region’s wines and foster downstate partnerships.

Cuomo says increased emphasis on the region’s quality produce has been a long time coming. But it’s proving to be good for business.

“The state does have a new energy about it, you feel it all across the board in the business community, and you feel it all across upstate New York. And you know, upstate New York has been struggling for a long, long time and this energy, this focus, and this direction was long overdue.”

Rick Camac represents a group of New York City based restaurants known as the Fatty Crew. He says upstate wines would pair perfectly with their cuisine, and it’s a good opportunity to take advantage of local produce.

“I think there’s a couple of things that could work very well for us and I would love to help upstate and downstate come together because for the most part we’re really just not taking advantage of that whatsoever. We’re typically going to Austria and to Germany, but we’re not taking advantage of the wines that are in our own state.”

Camac says there’s a growing demand for local produce, and upstate wines can help their restaurants fill that need.

President and winemaker for Lakewood Vineyards, Chris Stamp, agreed. He says New York City is a market that upstate wineries have coveted for years.

But he says most vineyards in the region have a limited advertising budget, and it can be a slow process to build up demand in such an expansive market.

“We have a lot of really high quality wines up here and having the governor come here, it kind of opens the door up and helps that recognition level that people have of Finger Lakes wines.”

Stamp says getting their wines onto the shelves in downstate restaurants is a positive step, but there’s still a need for increased public awareness of upstate products to create real demand.