When most people think of wine they think of dinner, relaxing on the couch after work, or celebrating an event.
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Its not often people equate wine with economic growth. But they should.
Take New York: The wine industry added $3.76 billion to the states economy in 2008, according to a study by Napa-based Stonebridge Research Group, LLC.
Aside from the increasing revenues in the states agricultural and manufacturing sectors, wine is the only agricultural product that generates excise and sales taxes for the state and local economies.
And thanks to the financial crisis, in 2009, New York excise tax on wine was increased about 50%.
Then there is tourism income. Wine trails throughout New York are a major reason nearly five million tourists visited in 2008, bringing lots of money to the rural economies.
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Thats why it was so great to speak with Matthew Spaccarelli, general manager of Benmarl Winery the other day. Benmarl, Americas oldest vineyard, is located in Marlboro, N.Y., and was founded in the early 1800s. Today it is run by Spaccarellis family.
Matt and his family are on a mission to bring attention to New York wines and get the word out that you dont have to go to Napa Valley to get a great Merlot.
Questions for Our Wine Pro
What is your Death Row wine?
Anything with a high alcohol content! Just kidding. I would have to say a good quality Burgundy. I enjoy Burgundy, but I'm not really sure why. Perhaps in my last moments I'd be able to figure it out. Or perhaps Burgundy is some sort of metaphor for the afterlife, "we dont understand it, but it's going to be good." Unless of course you committed a crime that landed you on death row, then the metaphor would most likely come in a box with a pour spout at the bottom!
What region produces the best wine in your opinion?
Being a New York Wine producer, I am partial to the quality, character and diversity of the wines produced here. Aside from New York wines, I often find a bottle of wine from the Loire Valley in France sitting on my table. Like New York, these wines are delicate and balanced and have a sense of place. It is their subtleties rather than their boldness that makes them shine at the dinner table.
What is the best food and wine pairing you have ever had?
This past New Year's eve I found myself sitting under huge chestnut tree that was situated in the middle of a Malbec Vineyard in Mendoza, Argentina. A few of my siblings, my girlfriend, and a few friends were having dinner at Bodega Cecchin ( a small, family-owned winery that I had the pleasure of working at in 2009). We all ordered something different from the menu and passed it around. We had three bottles of wine with our meal. A sparkling Muscat, a Carignon, and my favorite of the afternoon, a completely organic Malbec made from the vines surrounding our table. For dessert, the chef came out and we all shared a bottle of 2009 Benmarl Riesling. It was a combination of great wine, delicious food, a surreal setting and the best company a man can ask for.
What will the wine industry in your perspective look like in 10 years?
The New York wine industry is growing. Our quality and consistency is turning heads, but not enough. Awareness has been our biggest hurdle in bringing the New York wine industry to the next level. However, we are gaining steam. Because the industry is mainly comprised of small producers, we work together to market our wines. It is this sense of community that has helped us gain some of the recognition that we deserve. Programs like Uncork New York, the Green Market Wine Stand, and our regional Wine Trails all aid in promoting awareness.
In short, I don't know where we will be in 10 years. However, I do know that if the community of New York wine producers continue to stay organized and work together, you will see more New York wines on your store shelves and on your wine lists.