In 1976, the NYSLA passed the Farm Winery Act, which allowed NY grape growers to operate small wineries. Since then, the Finger Lakes Region has sprouted 119 wineries, accounting for more than one-third of NYS wineries.
New York wineries is a $3.8 billion industry, and Finger Lakes wineries provide 17,000 jobs. The economic impact doesn’t stop there. Many of the small wineries rely on local producers to keep their business going – eggs from a nearby Amish farm, bottles from Waterloo Container, fermentation tanks from Vance Metal Fabricators in Geneva – the list goes on. Viticulture and winemaking has had such a presence in the region that the local college, Finger Lakes Community College, began a viticulture program.
Despite its importance, the Finger Lakes wine industry faces its own challenges. Like so many businesses these days, the industry is seeing rising costs of fertilizer, fuel, pesticides, equipment and lower prices for grapes. A booming industry means more competition. And if you are looking to start a winery, be aware of the entry cost: you can expect to shell out up to $2.5 million for a 50 acre wine yard, between purchasing adequate land and new equipment. Wineries are charged with the task of minimizing expenses to keep their products priced competitively.
Despite these obstacles, Finger Lakes wineries still command a large presence in the New York economy and the wine industry. Kudos to these businesses that are supporting the local economy and for getting themselves “on the map” in a highly competitive industry.