In an effort to strengthen New York's claim as a wine and food destination, the Finger Lakes region will soon be home to the New York Wine & Culinary Center, now under construction. The project is a joint effort between commercial, nonprofit, governmental and educational entities, and is designed to rival similar attractions in more prestigious wine regions, such as Napa Valley and Australia.
The nonprofit center, located in Canandaigua, is designed to be a gateway to New York's food, wine and agriculture attractions. It will have a concierge desk to provide information and directions to tourists, a tasting room with a rotating selection of New York wines from all of the state's regions, a tapas and wine bar, a demonstration kitchen where guest chefs will prepare dishes for live audiences, and a training kitchen for cooking classes.
Groundbreaking for the 19,475-square-foot facility took place on Aug. 10, and the ceremony was attended by Gov. George Pataki, who has pledged more than $2 million in funding from the state. The center is scheduled to open in summer 2006.
The concept began to take shape about four years ago at Canandaigua-based Constellation Brands, which produces nearly 9 million cases of wine in New York each year. "This is an idea we've had for some time that originated from the thought that New York really needs a central point to promote its wine industry," said Robert Sands, president of Constellation Brands and board president of the new center. "Our real interest is seeing the Finger Lakes and Canandaigua being viewed as an important center for the New York wine industry, and seeing our home state recognized for its contributions in the world of wine, as well as agriculture and culinary arts."
The focus on food and agriculture is designed to help broaden the appeal of the center, but the idea evolved even more after the partners analyzed other facilities that promote wine and food, including the National Wine Centre of Australia in Adelaide and Copia: The American Center for Wine, Food & the Arts, located in Napa Valley.
"It combines the best, we believe, of existing facilities, and goes some steps beyond," said Jim Trezise, president of the New York Wine & Grape Foundation, one of the partners in the project. "This will be considered the leading-edge facility of its type in the world--not just a museum where people walk around and look at things, but where they get their hands dirty and truly learn about food and wine, where they come from and how they go together."
Trezise said he also expects the center to spawn more hotels, restaurants and bed-and-breakfasts in the area. "That has happened in the interior of the Finger Lakes," he explained. "People are investing in this region because they know wine-country tourism is permanent. It's not a flash in the pan."
Constellation has invested about $1 million in the center so far, Sands said, and has helped raise an additional $4.5 million from other partners, such as New York's Department of Agriculture & Markets, the Rochester Institute of Technology and Wegmans Food Markets. In the long-term, Sands expects the center to generate enough income to operate on its own, but "any support that it needs, we'll be prepared to give it," he said.