BUFFALO, NY (BUFFALO BUSINESS FIRST) -- Westfield winery co-owner Fred Johnson supports the idea of New York grocery stores selling wine, but he outspokenly opposes the governor's current proposal to allow it.
He said the bill inadequately protects the interests of wineries and grape growers.
"It's as if (the state's grape and wine industry) thought we were getting a ham and cheese sandwich," Johnson said. "But when we looked carefully at the ingredients, we found there was no ham in it, but it did have a couple dollops of cow manure."
Johnson, co-owner and president of Johnson Estate Winery, says the idea of grocery stores selling wine makes sense for consumers and could work if done properly, "but I am violently opposed to the governor's proposal."
Johnson said liquor stores and grocery stores are his industry's major customer bases, and the biggest problem with Gov. David Paterson's proposal to change the law to permit grocery stores to sell wine is that it threatens the standing of liquor stores instead of protecting them.
Johnson said wineries and grape growers are not taking sides in the issue, which has pitted liquor store owners, law enforcement agencies and others against large retailers and their allies.
He is one of three New York winery owners scheduled to speak at an industry seminar Feb. 12 called to discuss the issue of wine sales in grocery stores.
The New York State Wine & Grape Foundation, which is sponsoring the seminar, does not have a position on the issue, choosing instead to serve as a forum for the various views, said President James Trezise.
The 90-minute seminar, which also will include an industry expert from Cornell University, a liquor store owner and representatives of the New York Farm Bureau and food industry, will air the issue more thoroughly for those attending the Viticulture 2010 trade show Feb. 17-19.
The Rochester event is sponsored by the New York Wine & Grape Foundation.
The Erie County Legislature last week voted unanimously to adopt a resolution urging the state Senate and Assembly to reject the governor's plan to legalize the sale of wine in grocery stores, gas stations, delis, and anywhere beer is now sold.
If implemented, opponents say, the change would force more than 1,000 stores to close and eliminate at least 4,500 jobs.
The state legislature rejected a similar proposal in 2009.