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Ogdensburg festival celebrates local food and wine

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OGDENSBURG — Sandra M. Porter wants the local wine industry to make Northern New York the next Finger Lakes. As more local wineries and vineyards are opening, the area might be well on its way.

“It’s catching on, and I’m excited about it,” said Ms. Porter, executive director of the Greater Ogdensburg Chamber of Commerce.

Ms. Porter created the North Country Wine, Beer and Food Festival in 2009 to celebrate the region’s culinary endeavors, particularly its wine. More than 1,000 people attended this year’s two-day event on Saturday and Sunday in the Richard G. Lockwood Civic Arena.

“It kind of makes you feel the north country has some businesses that are surviving and growing,” said Eileen M. Lloyd, Hermon, who attended the event with her husband.

The show added 13 vendors this year, for a total of 40. Most offered wine tastings while selling bottles to interested customers; others sold cheese or flavored olive oil.

Vendors benefit from participating in the festival because people are more likely to discover new things they like and purchase them on the spot, Ms. Porter said.

“Even though a lot of the vendors are pretty local, people don’t go to seek them out,” she said.

Many of the show’s vineyards and wineries are fairly new. Coyote Moon Vineyards, Clayton, opened in 2009, and Potsdam’s High Peaks Winery followed last summer. River Myst Winery in Ogdensburg is a relative old-timer, opening in 2007.

“It was an area that hasn’t been tapped into, business-wise,” said Denise A. LaMay, an owner of River Myst.

Coyote Moon Vineyards makes wine with grapes from all over the state, but like River Myst it also has its own vineyard. It takes a particularly resilient grape to grow in this region’s cold climate, which has forced growers to be innovative with their wine varieties.

“We’re growing things that nobody else is growing,” said Lori S. Randazzo, one of the owners of Coyote Moon Vineyards.

If the festival’s crowds were any indication, area residents are willing to support local wines. Booths were crowded by customers with tasting glasses outstretched, many of whom would later purchase a bottle or two of their favorite varieties.

“It’s been a great turnout here. People have been very friendly,” said Matthew W. Whalen, owner of High Peaks Winery.

If the local wineries prove as popular in the years to come, it may take the region a few steps closer to realizing Ms. Porter’s vision of a north country known for its thriving wine industry.

“We don’t have enough wineries up here, and we should,” she said.

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