Wine centers aimed at the tourists

COPIA photo

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Wine tourism has become commonplace now that every one of the United States has at least one winery, and most of them many more.

The majority of states have created wine trails to entice tourists to tour various vineyards and wineries. Pamphlets for self-guided tours are usually free and areas are marked with unique signage to keep motorists from wandering too far off course.

But certain wine-intensive areas in the U.S. and elsewhere are taking advantage of the global boom in wine consumption to push interest to a higher level by creating centers to educate and entertain the masses.

The New York Wine & Culinary Center project, for example, opened this month after a whirlwind 10-month construction schedule.

As the facility, located on the shores of Canandaigua Lake near Rochester, begins its opening programs, a similar facility is under way on the West Coast with a projected May '07 opening.

It's the Walter Clore Wine and Culinary Center, a $9.2 million project located in Prosser, Wash., in the Yakima Valley wine region.

The Washington facility's backers foresee it as both a destination for tourists and a place for winemakers to gather. It will have a 17,500 square-foot building, vineyards, organic gardens and a public park.

The main building will have a restaurant, exhibition galleries, a theater, a demonstration kitchen, wine bar and a retail shop.

The center's namesake is the late Walter Clore, regarded as the father of Washington wine. The state is the No. 2 producer of premium wine in the United States, trailing only California.

To the south, in California's storied Napa Valley, is the 10-year-old Copia against which all other wine-centric facilities are measured.

Neighbor to such commercially popular wineries as Robert Mondavi, Beringer, Stags Leap, Coppola, Domaine Chandon and Sterling, Copia and the nearby West Coast branch of the Culinary Institute of America have helped make the region an eating-and-drinking mecca that helped fuel the rebirth of Napa, the valley's anchor city of 53,000.

Copia's subtitle is "The American Center for Wine, Food & The Arts." It's a not-for-profit cultural center and museum that has been open to the public for about four years. It includes sprawling herb, flower and tree gardens (seen above), as well as several restaurants, museums and galleries in am 80,000-square-foot building on the banks of an oxbow bend in the Napa River.

"We're a non-collecting museum," said Daphne L. Derven, curator of food and assistant drector for programs. "That keeps us on our toes to continually come up with new ways to educate and entertain our visitors."

Two years ago, on the other end of New York state, Stony Brook University came up with a different model by establishing its Center for Wine, Food, and Culture.

The idea is to split its efforts between its main campus on Long Island and its facilities in Manhattan, offering wine- and food-tasting classes, cultural lectures, and interdisciplinary symposia.

The Canandaigua wine and culinary center is more of a destination place, like its California cousin Copia, although decidedly smaller.

While the exterior is on the plain side and the landscaping news and, therefore, undersized for now, the interior has an impressive upscale Adirondack-style design, utilizing multi-hued, handworked wood wainscoting, stair railings, display shelving and counters. A 36-station kitchen and views of the lake are other highlights of the roughly $7 million project.

Director Alexa Gifford said the final look will include entrance landscaping geared toward representations of indigenous plants from the region.

William M. Dowd photo

"We'll have local flowers and shrubs, grape vines and the like that will set the mood for visitors," she said. "Americans in general are used to pulling into a parking lot that leaves you right up to the door. We'll be guiding people along a path that creates a mood, and then they'll walk into this beautiful facility that will build on that atmosphere."

The 15,000 square-foot 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. And, it has a tasting room with a
rotating selection of wines from New York's major regions (Niagara/Lake Erie, Finger Lakes, Hudson Valley and Long Island), a wine and tapas bar for light meals and wine-and-food pairings, a theater-style demonstration kitchen, a training kitchen for hands-on cooking classes, and industrial kitchens for credited culinary classes and corporate training.

No wine is sold at the facility, but visitors can use a computer right there to order directly from New York wineries.
Dowd's Guide to American Wine Trails
Dowd's Drinks Events Calendar
• Copia: The American Center for Wine, Food & The Arts
New York Wine & Culinary Center
Stony Brook University Center for Wine, Food & Culture


Sip transit glorious Finger Lakes

One of the problems with the rapidly expanding number of wineries in New York's Finger Lakes is tourism.

Not that the area doesn't want visitors. Just the opposite. Trouble is, too many of them are potentially dangerous drivers as they move from winery to winery, tasting their wares.

Some enterprising types have been offering a combination of a rental car complete with driver, and even a linkup to a bed-and-breakfast with that service. However, that doesn't do much for the many boaters who pull up to shore and want to visit more tha one winery but have no wheels.

Thus, the Seneca County Chamber of Commerce has begun offering weekend bus tours to local wineries -- four wineries on the west side of Cayuga Lake on Saturday, and four on the west side of Seneca Lake on Sunday.

"The wine tour was in response to boaters coming in not being able to get a limousine or a rental car because they were booked up for the weekend. So they were stuck in the harbor," said Dominic Christopher, the Chamber's executive director. "We're ready for big groups anytime."

Traffic is particularly heavy during the summer months when boaters show up at the state's canal system harbor in Seneca Falls. For $25, they now can take the bus right at the harbor. Of course, the weekend tours, which began June 3 and will run through Oct. 8, aren't limited to boaters. They're available to anyone on a space-available basis.

Meanwhile, a trackless Wine Tour Trolley will also be offering a similar service for visitors in the Geneva area starting Saturday, June 10.

Mike Fitzgerald, who owns a limousine and private tour coach service, bought the trolley which had been used in tourism businesses in New Orleans and Buffalo. Tours on the 26-seat vehicle will cover five wineries in a six-hour period through Dec. 2 at $45 per person.
Finger Lakes Tourism and Travel
Dowd's Guide to American Wine Trails
Dowd's Guides


NY Wine center opening day set

The New York Wine & Culinary Center will open to the public on Saturday, June 17.

Executive Director Alexa Gifford calls the $7.5 million facility perched on the shore of Canandaigua Lake the "physical and electronic gateway to New York's food, wine and agriculture.

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