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Cuomo shows off upstate wineries to downstate restaurants

Gov. Cuomo led a tour of Finger Lakes wineries Tuesday, designed to show off the region’s produce to restaurant owners and chefs from New York city and around the state.

The event was the latest in a string of initiatives aimed at promoting upstate produce, and foster relationships with downstate partners.

Rick Camac represents a group of New York City-based restaurants known as the Fatty Crew.

He says upstate wines would pair perfectly with their cuisine, and it’s a good opportunity to take advantage of local produce.

“I think there’s a couple of things that could work very well for us and I would love to help upstate and downstate come together because for the most part we’re really just not taking advantage of that whatsoever. We’re typically going to Austria and to Germany, but we’re not taking advantage of the wines that are in our own state.”

Camac says there’s a growing demand for local produce, and upstate wines can help their restaurants fill that niche.

President and winemaker for Lakewood Vineyards, Chris Stamp, says the growing trend toward locally sourced food, wine, beer, and spirits has definitely increased business.

But, he says most vineyards in the region have a limited advertising budget, and it can be a slow process to build up clients in a market as expansive as New York city.

“We have a lot of really high quality wines up here and having the Governor come here, it kind of opens the door up and helps that recognition level that people have of Finger Lakes wines.”

Stamp says New York city is a market that upstate wineries have coveted for years, and getting their wines onto the shelves in downstate restaurants is a positive step.

But, he says there’s still a need for increased public awareness of upstate products to create a viable demand.

Gov. Cuomo says increased emphasis on the region’s quality produce has been a long time coming. But it’s proving to be good for business.

“The state does have a new energy about it, you feel it all across the board in the business community, and you feel it all across upstate New York. And you know, upstate New York has been struggling for a long, long time and this energy, this focus, and this direction was long overdue.”

WXXI/Finger Lakes Reporter for the Innovation Trail