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Bill to expand 'Niagara Wine Trail' awaits governor's approval

A bill to expand the “Niagara Wine Trail” is awaiting approval from Gov. Andrew Cuomo.  Once the legislation is passed into law it’s expected to provide a boost to upstate New York tourism.

The legislation, that’s already been passed by the state Assembly and Senate would create two new trails branded under the“Niagara Wine Trail.” President of Leonard Oakes Estate Winery, Wendy Oakes-Wilson, and President of the Winery at Marjim Manor, Margo Sue Bittner, both lobbied for the bill’s passage.

Bittner explains the changes that would take place.

“So through negotiation we were able to take what is now the ‘Niagara Wine Trail’ and rename it the ‘Niagara Wine Trail Lake’, and then take what is now the ‘Niagara Escarpment Trail’, which starts at Niagara Falls, downtown Route 104 and Robert Moses Parkway and extended it all the way along 104 to the 390 [that will become the ‘Niagara Wine Trail Ridge’],” said Bittner.

The law also allows two additional wineries to join the “Niagara Wine Trail” extending it through Orleans and Monroe Counties eastwards. Oakes-Wilson says it will also create wine trail specific signage for participants. She is particularly excited about this, because she’s located on the far east of the trail.

“People go by me at 55 miles per hour and sometimes are not looking for a sign on the other side of the street. Those wine trail signs with the grapes, they’re green and white, and they’re highly visible, really attract the passerby so it give them the little hint that they need to slow down and stop in,” says Oakes-Wilson.

Oakes-Wilson says expanding the trail would draw tourists visiting Niagara Falls, Buffalo, and Rochester to the wine trail providing a boost for the entire upstate economy.

“We produce in excess of 200,000 brochures each year and put them in all of your major tourism destinations, as well as hotels, restaurants and alike. People look for those things. They just got into the area, they’ve seen the Falls, [and say] “Okay what else do we want to do? Hey, let’s go have a sip of wine someplace and see what else is going on out there,” she says.

New York State’s wine and grape industry generates an estimated $3.7 billion in economic benefits each year according to the New York State Wine and Grape Foundation. Wendy Oakes-Wilson attributes the Niagara Wine Trail’s success to the fact that all of the wineries work together.

“We’re all volunteers to help promote the trail. We do all of this, because we know that working together we can promote the region and in turn gain confidence in our own styles of wine and what we’re trying to achieve in our own business plans,” says Oakes-Wilson.

Oakes-Wilson adds each winery on the Niagara Wine Trail offers a different experience. But, she believes the jewel in the crown of New York wines is its ice wine, made from grapes frozen on the vine for between four and six hours.

“We’re one of the four regions in the world that can actually produce that delectable product, and that is made from the vidal grape,” said Oakes-Wilson.

Margo Sue Bittner says over 40,000 people are expected to visit her Winery at Marjim Manor this year. If Governor Cuomo signs off on their wine trail improvement bill, that number could be even higher next year.

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