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Husband and wife John (left) and Jane Wynnik sample a concord wine at the vendor booth of Morrisonville's Hid-in-Pine's Vineyard. The Wynniks appreciate the exposure that the festival provides small, local culinary companies.
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P-R Photos/Ben Rowe Nancy Vesco, co-owner of Vesco Ridge Vineyards in West Chazy, fills a visitor's glass with a sample of the vineyard's "Sweet Melody" red wine. Vesco and her husband, Dan, have operated the vineyard together for four years.

Culinary festival celebrates homegrown industries

Adirondack Coast event spotlights North Country food, drink

By: BEN ROWE

PLATTSBURGH — Bordeaux, Tuscany, Sonoma County. If Colin Read has his way, the Adirondack Coast could soon be added to that list.

Read is co-owner of The Champlain Wine Company, one of the vendors at the second-annual Adirondack Coast Wine, Cider and Food Festival held at the Crete Memorial Civic Center on Saturday.

The festival featured 20 local businesses ranging from brewers and vineyards to bakeries and arts and crafts artisans. More than 900 visitors attended the event to sample and purchase the products on display.

Along with the cuisine booths, the event featured live music and the Race to Taste cooking competition between culinary students from local universities. Schenectady County Community College took first place in that competition.

For Read, the festival was a day of celebration after the approval Friday of the Adirondack Coast Wine Trail by New York state officials. In 2010, Read approached the office of Sen. Betty Little with a proposal to push for the establishment of an official wine trail for the Adirondack region. Gaining support from Assemblywoman Janet Duprey, the idea saw repeated rejection by the New York Legislature.

“It’s been a long three years of lobbying and letter writing, so it’s very satisfying to finally see it completed,” Read said.

Read said the next step is gaining approval to declare the Adirondack Coast an American Viticultural Area. That designation would provide further recognition of the unique wines that the region and its cold climate grapes produce.

Yet despite the growing state and national attention, there was a sense from both vendors and visitors at the event that many residents of the Adirondack Coast are still discovering the network of wineries and vineyards in their neighborhoods.

For Morrisonville resident Jon Young, discovering the Adirondack wine scene allowed him to enjoy a culinary experience that would have otherwise involved some expensive traveling.

“Normally, you’d have to go to the Finger Lakes to see something like this or do something like this,” Young said.

Attracting and pleasing nearby residents is a major business strategy for Vesco Ridge Vineyards co-owner Dan Vesco. He said his company has only recently seen a spike in repeat local customers and has been working to adapt its products based on local suggestions in order to grow its regional reputation.

“We’ve been in business four years and some people go, ‘Oh, there’s a winery in West Chazy?’” Vesco said.

For John Wynnik of Dannemora, events such as the festival and the local wine-trail tours work to expose the market of smaller, homegrown breweries and wineries that he said are otherwise hidden among the larger national retailers.

“Once you do the trail, you know you can just stop, get it from somebody in your community, support a local business rather than going to a liquor store and grabbing something from the Finger Lakes or California,” Wynnik said.

Although he agrees with the need for recognition from locals, festival organizer and Elfs Orchard founder Tom Frey said he encourages distant visitors explore the growing Adirondack Coast cuisine region.

“If you’re a foodie, a winie, and you want to know something new, you should come here, check it out, because in 10 years we’re going to be blowing up,” Frey said.

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