PLATTSBURGH — Two new initiatives could draw attention to local vineyards and promote the future of winemaking in the North Country.
The official designation of the Adirondack Coast Wine Trail by the State Legislature and the establishment of an American Viticultural Area (AVA) on the federal level would each have important effects, said local vintner Colin Read.
“We’re hoping to get (the trail) through this year.”
Read is the owner of the Champlain Wine Company, with his wife, Natalie Peck; he is also the chair of Finance and Economics at SUNY Plattsburgh. He sees the Finger Lakes’ wine country as a model for the North Country.
State Sen. Betty Little (D-Queensbury) and Assemblywoman Janet Duprey (R-Plattsburgh) support to legislation, he said.
Official passage of the bill would lead to signage and advertising.
Another local vintner, Dan Vesco of Vesco Ridge Vineyards in the Town of Chazy of Ingraham, also expressed excitement about the possibility of official Wine Trail designation.
“We’re all anxious to get the thing going so we can entice more people to come to the area.”
He also noted that the Wine Trail would “give credibility to the vineyards here.”
Last summer, some chartered buses from Albany brought tourists to visit the local vineyards, Vesco recalled.
He appreciates the help of the North Country Chamber of Commerce in getting the word out and believes the Wine Trail would be a further boon.
“We’ve invested in the future.”
Confident that winemaking has a bright future in the North Country, Vesco and his wife, Nancy, have expanded their tasting room. And their wine-processing area, which they first established in the basement of their home then moved to their garage, now has its own building set on a hill beside the vineyard.
Time has also helped the Vescos.
“We’ve been going for three years now, and we have wines that are aging well,” Mr. Vesco said.
He added with a laugh, “We no longer have the month on the label.”
The other project, at the federal level, is the establishment of an American Viticultural Area. For an area to be designated as an AVA, winemakers must demonstrate a unique environment and climate. Once the designation is made, the area would be recognized as distinct in the world of wine.
“I think it would be significant,” Read said.
The process may take two years to complete; Congressman Bill Owens (R-Plattsburgh) is in favor of the application, he said.
And Read noted that the unique characteristics of the region make it an excellent candidate for a Viticultural Area.
“If the Finger Lakes were replanted today, they would replanted with different vines,” he explained.
Many of the cold-hardy vines chosen for North Country and Adirondack vineyards are experimental varieties; they were not available when Finger Lakes grapes were planted.
“We would be the first AVA focusing on cold-hardy vines. This area is helping to pioneer that,” Read said.
“It would be something unique.”
Cold-hardy varieties proving successful include Frontenac, Frontenac Gris and Marquette.
“I think Marquette’s going to be the star,” said Read of the rich, flavorful red wine.
He noted that all vines struggle by nature.
“They were designed to go deep into rocky or sandy soil, and they like harsh conditions.
“Through genetics, we’re introducing the cold as a harsh condition.”
And vines that survive in harsh conditions often produce fruit that is smaller and more dense, with concentrated juices and a richer taste.
And as a Viticultural Area and with a Wine Trail, vintners say, attention could be drawn to this potential.