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Friendlier Legislation for New York State Farm Wineries

As a New York resident—and a very strong advocate for both New York wineries and the development of the state’s wine law—I am excited to announce that the New York State Governor, Andrew Cuomo, signed a bill, entitled the Fine Winery Bill, on Friday that significantly reduces the regulatory burdens for New York farm wineries. Farm wineries in New York State, as defined by Article I, § 3 of the Alcoholic Beverage Control Act, are “any place or premises, located on a farm in New York state, in which wine is manufactured and sold.” Currently, the New York State Liquor Authority (“NYSLA”) strongly regulates farm wineries with respect to direct shipment reports, branch store operations, and custom crush skills. (Current New York State liquor laws are accessible by viewing the consolidated alcoholic beverage control laws of New York State at Alcoholic Beverage Control.)

The Fine Winery Bills executes several of the suggestions presented by the New York State Grape Task Force in its December 2008 report to the Commissioner of the Department of Agriculture and Markets. The bill includes the following changes:

  • Brand Store Capability: the bill allows farm wineries to manage up to five branch stores. Existing New York law allows for farm wineries to operate up to five satellite stores, but said stores much acquire separate licenses and are bound by the same restrictions as package/liquor stores. The Fine Winery Bill allows the branches of farm wineries to be classified as extensions of the farm winery as opposed to separate entities, which grants greater ease for farm wineries with respect to opening satellites around New York state.
  • Custom Crush Capability: “[t]he bill clarifies the ability of farm wineries to provide and/or utilize custom crush services for purchasers of New York grapes, thereby encouraging smaller vineyards to enter in the industry, which in turn will foster rural economic growth.” (See Governor Signs Legislation Boosting Wine Industry.)
  • Direct Shipper’s Reports: with respect to direct shipment, farm wineries are now permitted to keep records detailing their direct shipments to other states on the premises of the farm winery for NYSLA to review if requested. Previously, New York State wineries were required to produce detailed and time-consuming reports for NYSLA that outlined their direct shipments to outside states. These reports were underutilized by the NYSLA and, it is maintained, that the new Fine Winery Bill will greatly reduce the time constraints required for the prior provisions of direct shipment reports.
  • License Consolidation: the new bill no longer requires farm wineries that produce less than 1,500 gallons annually to apply annually for a separate micro-winery license; instead, all farm wineries will maintain the same license with a micro-winery license costing $50 annually.
  • Charitable Events: “New York wineries seeking to participate in charitable events are no longer restricted to five per year. Now, wineries will have to obtain an annual permit and notify [NY]SLA of the event, greatly reducing the amount of burden on both wineries and [NY]SLA, while ensuring the same oversight.” (Id.)

This bill, which is a great sign for New York wineries, confirms the continual positive legislative development for New York State wineries. For a state that currently boasts the placement as the third largest producer of wine in the United States, behind California and Washington states, its laws can be deemed restrictive and nonessential. In the future years, it is hoped that additional legislative and regulatory measures will be developed, maintained, and executed such to encourage the auxiliary growth of the New York State wine industry. In the last twenty years alone, wine production increased in New York by over 50% to include the production of nearly 200 million bottles annually and generated about $420 million in sales per year. (Id.) Additionally, the wine agricultural industry is one of the–if not the–fastest growing industries in New York State. In fact, presently, “[t]he New York wine and grape industry has a $3.76 billion economic impact from the production of wine and grapes grown on nearly 1,400 vineyards statewide. Since the passage of the Farm Winery Law in 1976, the number of New York’s farm wineries has grown from under twenty to nearly 306 today.” (Id.) With continued legal measures like the above, it is only rational the wine industry of New York will continue to grow at a healthy pace.

For more information on New York wine or alcohol law, or forming a winery, brewery, or distillery in New York, please contact Lindsey Zahn.

DISCLAIMER: This blog post is for general information purposes only, is not intended to constitute legal advice, and no attorney-client relationship results. Please consult your own attorney for legal advice.

Lindsey A. Zahn


Lindsey is the founder and author of On Reserve: A Wine Law Blog. She is an alcohol beverage and food attorney and is admitted to the New York State Bar.

{ 10 comments… add one }
  • Dave Meldrum June 6, 2012, 5:43 PM

    What was the source for indicating there are 1,500 vineyards in NY?
    The highest number of NY vineyards I have seen was 950(2008?).

  • Lindsey A. Zahn Lindsey A. Zahn June 6, 2012, 5:47 PM

    Hi Dave,

    It comes form the source cited in the article, which is this link: http://www.nyfb.org/resources/topic_detail.cfm?ID=395

  • Daren Carroll February 2, 2013, 7:10 PM

    Hi, my name is Daren Carroll, I found your site while trying to find information about starting a microwinery. I’m wondering what the requirements are for a microwinery facility? Will it require something like a NYS approved commercial kitchen? Am I allowed to process/crush my own fruit? I am a homebrewer, but have scaled up quite a bit, and I’m worried I will be forced to go to outside sources for such things that so far, at home, I’ve done for myself.

    Any help will be much appreciated- when I get my license I’ll send a bottle of my best stuff to any lawyer out there who helps me figure it all out!

  • Lindsey A. Zahn Lindsey A. Zahn February 4, 2013, 8:49 PM

    Hi Daren,

    My blog is more or less discussion of legal issues that impact the wine industry. If you are seeking legal advice, I suggest contacting a lawyer or law firm. I am currently associated with this firm: http://www.bevlaw.com

  • Dave Meldrum February 6, 2013, 10:16 AM

    I am studying the growth of the wine industry in four states and how changes in state laws have encouraged and shaped this growth over the last 20 years. Do you know any websites that recap such changes in CA., WA. and OR?

  • R. G. Weller May 25, 2013, 5:41 PM

    I have a 29 acre farm, do not currently grow wine fruits, but am surrounded by a large orchard that can supply and / or grow on custom basis. Could I construct and operate a small winery under current laws if the fruit comes from surrounding growers rather than my own land?

    Thank you for your help.

  • Lindsey A. Zahn Lindsey A. Zahn June 4, 2013, 7:09 PM

    Hi R.G.,

    This blog is actually for research and academic purposes only. It is not intended for legal advice. If you need legal advice, I suggest you contact your counsel for assistance. I am currently a law clerk at this firm and I am pending admission to New York: http://www.bevlaw.com

  • kathy April 2, 2014, 12:30 PM

    But the question is – How does NY State define a “farm”? The farm winery/brewery licenses are great but require that the facility is located on a farm. Yet there is no definition of what they consider a farm. Another legal grey area, maybe?

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