Cuomo Sets New York Party to Help State Brewers, Vintners

Governor Andrew Cuomo wants to make alcohol produced in New York state the next celebrity cause.

He’s inviting top New York chefs and stars such as baseball’s Derek Jeter and television’s Whoopi Goldberg to a New York City tasting party to promote the state’s beer, wine and spirits makers.

The event, proposed at a meeting today with industry leaders in Albany, is the latest idea backed by Cuomo to promote New York state products. The party may help local brewers, vintners and distillers tap the city’s $1 billion thirst for alcoholic beverages.

“The most competitive market in the world is New York City, and we’ve been knocking on the door a long time,” Jim Trezise, president of the New York Wine and Grape Foundation, a trade group, said at the meeting. “We need to do more. I propose a blowout event of New York wine, beer and spirits.”

Cuomo, a first-term Democrat, agreed to the proposal at the meeting. In August, the governor hosted a similar gathering of industry leaders and government officials, focused on developing New York’s yogurt industry, as part of his efforts foster growth in state industries. There were no celebrities at either event. For the beverage makers, Cuomo, 54, plans to host a party.

Big Party

“Let’s do it as big as we can do,” Cuomo said. “We have big personalities.”

Cuomo’s girlfriend, Sandra Lee, among the Food Network hosts who live in the New York metropolitan area, won’t be one of the celebrity chefs, the governor told reporters after the meeting.

“It’s not something that she’s working on or I anticipate working on,” Cuomo said. He said he’ll recruit other New York- based celebrity chefs to help with the party and draw attention to state’s alcoholic-beverage makers.

Getting more New York-made fermented grape and grain products on the shelves of the more 11,000 establishments in the city that have liquor licenses would help boost a $22 billion industry that’s rapidly growing, said Rick Sampson, president of the New York Restaurant Association.

Growing Industry

Since he took office as governor in January 2011, the number of Empire State wineries has risen 17 percent to 251, including Lakewood Vineyards in Watkins Glen, Cuomo said. The number of micro-brewers has increased 74 percent to 75, and farm-based distilleries have jumped to 28 from fewer than 10, including whiskey-maker Tuthilltown Spirits in Gardiner, Cuomo said. New York is already the third-largest wine producing state in the U.S., he said.

“Is there a connection between my governorship and people drinking more? I don’t know,” Cuomo said after reading off the growth figures. He also announced a $1 million industry marketing campaign, lower manufacturer fees and regulatory changes to simplify licensing and marketing rules.

After the meeting, Cuomo invited those in attendance to the executive mansion for a liquor, beer and wine tasting.

Hope Hartman, a spokeswoman for Walt Disney Co.’s ABC television network, which airs Goldberg’s “The View” show, didn’t immediately respond to an e-mail seeking comment on Cuomo’s party plans. Casey Close, Jeter’s agent, also didn’t immediately respond to an e-mailed request for comment.

Getting access to a market of educated consumers requires better marketing to buyers for restaurants, said Sampson, whose statewide organization represents more than 10,000 restaurants and caterers.

“Once our people are educated and serving it, it trickles down to the consumers,” Sampson said.

Cuomo said he’s intent on getting more beverages made in New York in the city’s bars and restaurants.

“The single largest market for an immediate boost would be to get New York City, and the rest of New York state, to purchase New York state products,” he said.

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