NY breaks ground for wine/food center

William M. Dowd photo

CANANDAIGUA, NY -- Call it Copia Lite if you like, but if the movers and shakers behind the New York Wine & Culinary Center project for which ground was broken on Aug. 10 are correct, you'll be comparing it to the Napa Valley, CA, food and wine institution before long.

The plan is to construct and open the center by early summer of 2006, an ambitious target for the $7 million project being financed by $2 million in state funding and the rest from various private funds. The center will be located on the shore of Canandaigua Lake and will serve as a gateway to the state's wine, food and agricultural areas.

Gov. George E. Pataki (at the center of the photo during the ceremonial groundbreaking), who recently announced he will not seek another term, was on hand for the event.

"From North Country apples to Long Island wine, the New York Wine and Culinary Center will be a celebration of New York's agriculture and its many offerings," he Pataki said. "We are proud to be a partner in this tremendous effort that will showcase New York's rich abundance of outstanding food and wine products and our agricultural heritage in this new state-of-the-art facility located right here in the heart of the Finger Lakes."

The major private backers are Constellation Brands, the locally0headquarterd company that is the world's largest manufacturer and distributor of alcoholic beverages; Wegman's Food Markets, a Western New York chain, and Rochester Institute of Technology's Hospitality and Service Management School.

The mission of the Center will be to foster knowledge in the wine, agriculture and culinary arts industries across New York State. To do so, the Center will offer hands-on courses in culinary science; interactive exhibits on New York State agriculture, foods and wines; demonstration space; and a live garden outside of the building.

The 15,000 square-foot facility will include a tasting room with a rotating selection of wines from New York's major regions (Niagara/Lake Erie, Finger Lakes, Hudson Valley and Long Island), a wine and tapas bar for light meals and wine-and-food pairings, a theater-style demonstration kitchen, a training kitchen for hands-on cooking classes, and industrial kitchens for credited culinary classes and corporate training. It also will house the offices of the New York Wine and Grape Foundation.

Said state Agriculture Commissioner Nathan L. Rudgers, "New York is an agricultural powerhouse. So much of our present culture, achievements and local community development are derived from agriculture that it is important to educate and promote the importance of this industry. The Center will highlight our wine and agricultural products, agri-tourism and focus on developing value-added products."

Agriculture is one of New York's most vital industries, encompassing 25 percent of the state's landscape and generating more than $3.6 billion last year. It has 7.6 million acres of farmland with 36,000 farms and is the nation's third-largest wine-producing state after California and Oregon.
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