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No Finger Lakes Wines on the List? Walk Out, Says Head of New York Wine Group

Morton Hochstein
Posted: July 21, 2001

In a move not calculated to win friends in the restaurant business, Jim Trezise, president of the New York Wine & Grape Foundation, is urging wine drinkers not to eat at upstate New York restaurants that do not feature Finger Lakes wines.

Trezise, in a letter to the editor sent to regional New York newspapers, contends that every restaurant in and near the Finger Lakes wine region should promote local wines before California wines and imports, in the same way that local wines generally get top billing in San Francisco, Seattle and Portland. "If the wine list doesn't begin with Finger Lakes wines," Trezise urged, "walk out, but not before you let management know why."

"I am appalled that restaurants in the greater Finger Lakes area typically feature foreign wines, followed by California, and maybe a token New York wine or two. The gross underrepresentation of Finger Lakes wines at regional restaurants, especially chains, is an outrage," wrote Trezise in his letter, which appeared in the Finger Lakes Business Almanac and the Syracuse Post Standard.

A quick survey found that, with the exception of chain operators, most restaurants in the area -- from Binghamton and Corning to Rochester and Syracuse -- said they carried some New York wines. Most of the restaurateurs thought that Trezise's demand was out of line.

Anne Wheatley, a manager at Warfield's Restaurant in Clifton Springs, near Canandaigua, found the idea of an informal boycott disturbing. "We carry a nice representation of New York wines," she said. "As a consumer at a restaurant which did not carry New York wines, I would find a wine I like on the list, but would also suggest to management that there are good New York wines that they should be offering."

Anthony Daniele, manager of Mario's Via Abruzzi in Rochester, which holds Wine Spectator's Award of Excellence for its wine list, also found Trezise's idea a bit strong, and said he tries to represent most major wine regions on his list, with a selection of the best from the Finger Lakes.

Chain hotels and restaurants often lack local autonomy and must carry wines dictated by corporate management. Regional wines suffer in such instances where a chain operator makes huge savings on large purchases. Chains also prefer a consistent supply, sometimes not possible with smaller wineries.

Trezise, who has spent 20 years working in the New York wine industry, described it as the shining star of New York agriculture, "a locomotive pulling the train of economic development in this region." Tourists come to the Finger Lakes because of the wineries, Trezise argued, and then dine in restaurants where local wines are underrepresented or not present at all.

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