PLATTSBURGH — Vintners on the western side of the Champlain Valley will soon have a new edge when it comes to marketing their wines.
The U.S. Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau has approved the Champlain Valley of New York American Viticultural Area, effective Sept. 21.
Winemakers who use at least 85 percent locally grown grapes will be able to include that designation on their labels.
The newly recognized region covers about 500 square miles, from Ticonderoga to the Canadian border.
'QUITE AN HONOR'
The idea was first floated by Rich Lamoy of Hid-In-Pines Vineyard in Morrisonville and the late Rob McDowell (founder of the Lake Champlain Grape Growers Association).
Champlain Wine Company co-owner Colin Read took up where they left off and formally submitted application materials about three years ago.
It is quite an honor for the region, he said, and is another part of the move to promote agritourism, specifically in grape production.
"The people who we wish to attract to our region look for these types of activities as something that add to our quality of life," Read said.
"I'm most grateful that the hard work on behalf of our region has finally paid off for all the dedicated wineries and grape growers in our region."
The application involved a 50-page analysis of the region's geography, climate, soils, agriculture and more.
Read said it was one of most difficult analysis projects he has undertaken. That was partly due to the complex and onerous regulations but also because, at about 500 acres, it is probably one of the smallest such designations in the country.
"So, we had a lot of hoops to jump through. I'm glad we succeeded, though," Read said.
He and his wife, Natalie Peck, also own a large vineyard in the Town of Mooers where they grow eight varieties of cold-hardy grapes.
The unique character of those grapes played a large part in the new designation, he said.
"There are very few AVAs in the country growing the grapes we grow here (cold hybrid), so this recognition makes our region unique," Read said.
"Even the Finger Lakes hung their AVA hat on more conventional grapes, so they don't have the distinctness we do in this region and our vineyard."
Lake Champlain Grape Growers Association President Dan Vesco welcomed the government's approval.
He said four of the wines he produces at Vesco Ridge Vineyards in the Chazy hamlet of Ingraham meet the criteria for the label designation.
"This is the status earned by renowned regions like the Finger Lakes and Sonoma and Napa valleys," he said in a press release.
He expressed gratitude to Read for "his diligence and hard work" in helping win the designation.
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