Fruits of Labor: A Look Inside The Booming Finger Lakes Wine Industry

The wine industry is a viable part of our Southern Tier economy

WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. (18 NEWS) - - The Finger Lakes wine industry is a viable part of our Southern Tier economy and as the word spreads, it continues to grow.

"It's becoming more and more world-renowned," Peter Oughterson, Owner of Hickory Hollow and Highland Cellars, said. "We're now one of the premier producers of Riesling in the world. I think we ranked number three which is pretty amazing."
 
The industry provides jobs to thousands of locals; jobs that can never go overseas. They also pay well above minimum wage and, contrary to popular belief, aren't just seasonal positions.

"Every single winery from the small little guy to the big guys, there are year-round, good paying, full-time jobs and honestly they're only going to grow from here," Connor Evans, Sales Manager at Castel Grisch, said.
 
That's because the industry is expanding thanks to that international recognition. For example, Dr. Frank's 2014 Dry Riesling won a gold medal at the World Wine Championships and Lakewood Vineyard's Dry Riesling won a gold medal at the Taster’s Guild International Wine Competition earlier this year.

These honors have lead to an influx of tourism. Hundreds of wineries draw in thousands of people and millions of dollars to the region each year.

"In 2012 we pulled in over $60 million in tourism, tourism dollars," Dr. Mark Karasz, owner of Rock Stream Vineyards, said. "It's just absolutely fantastic, you just don't find that in any other region in the United States."

As the industry is expanding there's more opportunities for collaboration. Oughterson's mobile bottling line travels throughout the region and helps wineries bottle more wine than they ever be able to do on their own, thus encouraging the growth.

"A lot of my customers, I started out 10-12 years ago, were just starting out, just their first day in operation," Oughterson said. "We bottled their first wine and then over the years some of them have doubled and tripled their production I figured I was enabler, I got them started."
 
with untapped potential, the industry continues to thrive. Many wineries are branching out to add distilleries and breweries to their operations, but they can all agree that the key ingredient to the region's success is collaboration.
 
"As a group we can make more of an impact and that's where the wine trail comes in, as a group we can make a big impact and get our name out there," Oughterson said.


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