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Senator Ritchie calls for St. Lawrence County wine trail

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St. Lawrence County soon may have a wine trail consisting of three wineries, if state Sen. Patricia A. Ritchie can get the support needed for the legislation she introduced last week.

Mrs. Ritchie, R-Heuvelton, said she’d like to see a wine trail established to increase the exposure of area wineries.

“It really is a booming business,” Mrs. Ritchie said. “There are 16 wine trails across New York state that really increase tourism. Anytime you can bring more tourists in, it doesn’t only benefit the wineries, but all the local businesses as well.”

The north country trail would include Bella-Brooke Vineyard, Hammond; River Myst Winery, Ogdensburg; and High Peaks Winery, Winthrop. It also will provide exposure for St. Lawrence Brewing Co., Canton, she said.

Mrs. Ritchie said the legislation will make it easier for new wineries to open in the county and even help establish more jobs.

“What makes it easier is the exposure,” she said. “There already is a huge interest in wineries and there is potential for those starting vineyards to open up their own winery. It’s helping to put people to work selling the wine, and those wineries will start to see growth.”

Mrs. Ritchie said she hopes the legislation eventually will lead to a St. Lawrence County wine trail being linked to the Thousand Islands-Seaway Wine Trail, which consists of eight wineries.

Although the north country trail would consist of only three wineries in a widespread county, Mrs. Ritchie said it will still have much to offer.

“People can come for the day or the weekend,” she said. “It’s a beautiful area and they can make a day of it instead of driving a mile to get to the next stop.”

Randy L. LaMay, owner of River Myst Winery, said he hopes the trail will increase tourism and help out other businesses along with the wineries.

“The minimum is three wineries, and you have to start somewhere,” he said. “I’d love to see other wineries open up and join in.”

Mrs. Ritchie said she sent her proposal to Assemblywoman Addie J. Russell, D-Theresa, in hopes that she’ll sponsor companion legislation in the Assembly.

“Everyone that we’ve talked to so far and the Chamber of Commerce has been supportive,” Mrs. Ritchie said.

Mrs. Russell said that before she can back the legislation, she first needs to do some research on how the number of wineries and the locations would affect the success of the trail.

“It’s an emerging industry, and I want to do as best I can for the wineries in our area, but we have to research and find out how to best serve those businesses,” she said.

Mrs. Russell said one concern is that most wine trails don’t exceed 100 miles, and with only three wineries, the trail already exceeds 60 miles.

“I have my staff looking into the technical issues and I’ll be meeting with the different wineries to talk to them about it as well,” she said.

Mr. LaMay said he is confident the legislation will pass.

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