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Wineries get threats for grocery store position

YATES COUNTY—A number of area wineries have come out in support of wine in grocery stores, only to be faced with retaliation from liquor stores.
Fox Run Winery, Anthony Road Wine Cellars and Miles Winery have all had liquor stores refuse to do business with them because they have openly supported the part of Gov. David Paterson’s budget where it proposes allowing grocery stores to sell wine. However, Doug Miles, owner of Miles Winery, and Scott Osborn, owner of Fox Run, both said that it has not been area liquor stores.
Miles said Spirit of the Adirondack has removed Miles Winery products from their shelves. Abbie Chamberlaine, owner of that liquor store in Johnstown, said they have removed Fox Run wines as well.
“It’s pretty obvious how retailers feel,” she said. “It’s our livelihood.”
He also had Chili Liquor from Chili, N.B. send the winery an e-mail stating that “the liquor store association is going to list on their website ALL the wineries that are on our side (against allowing grocery stores to sell wine). I feel sorry for those that are not. Most stores are not going to support those not on our list.”
Jim Lepore, owner of Chili Liquors, said that the list is not out yet. He added that big stores are not going to support small wineries, even if they start by selling some local brands. Lepore said that even stores like Wegmans who sell local products sell more brandname products than local produce.
“They don’t state those figures,” he said.
Owners of the three wineries brought up these concerns in Albany last Tuesday when they announced their support of Paterson’s proposal.
“We’re not advocating putting anyone out of business,” said Osborn. “I’m a small farmer looking for other markets.”
“It’s good for wine consumers, it’s good for wineries and it’s good for wine shops,” said John Martini, owner of Anthony Road Winery.
Osborn said that he has talked with several liquor stores to hear from them on the subject. However, when it comes to backlash he has seen because his public stance, Osborn said he thought he lived in a country where he had the freedom to speak his opinion. That freedom of opinion included being told over the phone two weeks ago by a Rochester liquor store owner that “neutral” was not a good enough stance. He said he learned his wines there have been moved to the closeout bin since then.
“So now, simply because I refused to state that I was opposed to expanding the sale of wine in the grocery stores, the financial health of my business, the financial success of my farm and vineyard, and my employees’ and my family’s well being is jeopardized. I am being personally retaliated against and I will lose wine sales over this issue,” said Osborn.
He also explained that how in New York state for 2007-2008, 47 percent of his sales in liquor stores come from 15 stores in Rochester and Syracuse. The other 340 stores that sell his wine sell an average 10 cases of wine per year.
“But now, many of these same liquor stores are telling us to support their small businesses because they support New York wines? Show me the support? I simply don’t get it, because I haven’t seen it from them,” he said.
“If I’m going to survive and grow in this state I simply need more outlets to reach consumers who would enjoy my wines if they were able to purchase them,” said Osborn.
Both Miles and Martini said they also wanted to see liquor stores be able to have more than just a liquor license. They said those stores should be able to sell food or other products if they wanted.
Miles quoted statistics that 80 percent of people in grocery stores never go to liquor stores. These are the people the wineries want to reach.
One of the arguments liquor stores are making is that if grocery stores are allowed to sell wine, they will not carry local wines but cheaper brands from overseas and from other parts of the country. Martini said that Wegmans has a history of buying local and there was a chance stores like that would sell local wines.
“Maybe some will, maybe not. It doesn’t bother me,” he said about the chance of his wine being carried in grocery stores. In Wisconsin Anthony Road wine is being sold in liquor stores and grocery stores.
He added that liquor stores have had the monopoly of selling liquor and wines in New York. Martini said that they still would offer other services grocery stores would not be able to sell.
“I’m going to fight wine in food stores just like they’re going to fight for not,” said Martini.

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