By Evan Dawson, Managing Editor

Gov1 Last week, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed legislation that, he says, goes a long way toward helping New York state wineries succeed. The changes come from recommendations made in 2008 by the New York Wine Grape Task Force, which was chaired by Paumanok winemaker Kareem Massoud. 

You can check out the news release from the governor's office here.

I figured there's no one better to put this stuff in context than Kareem Massoud. Our Q&A follows.

NYCR: What is the biggest impact that will come from this legislation?

KM: Making it easier for farm wineries to open satellite stores is potentially a huge boon as it allows them to expand their retail business.  In the Governor's press release they described the revised Direct Shipper Report as an efficiency.  And this provision will do just that, it will allow small wineries to operate more efficiently by not wasting time and money on meaningless data entry.  Governor Cuomo summed it up well when he said, "Reducing the regulatory burdens on farm wineries will allow them to continue to thrive as a key tourism, agricultural, and economic engine for our state."  

NYCR: How are consumers likely to be affected?

KM: Ultimately consumers will only be affected in a positive way by having an in state fine wine industry that was already meeting its needs do an even better job at producing high quality wines grown in New York State and catering to consumer demand.

NYCR: You spent a long time putting proposals together. How many of your recommendations were carried out?

KM: I have not seen the actual legislation, but after having read the Governor's press release, I am very pleased to see that this legislation has acted on at least five of the recommendations set forth in the New York Wine Grape Task Force report to the Agriculture Commissioner.  I first presented the idea of a Task Force for our industry while serving on then Governor-elect Spitzer's Transition Committee for Agriculture.  At the time, I had no idea that I would be asked to chair the Task Force and that some of our recommendations would actually be carried out.  When a colleague questioned whether it was worth participating in the Task Force, I said, "When was the last time the government asked you to help it reform itself?"  I feel a sense of accomplishment that — at least this time — political leaders (including Governors Spitzer, Paterson and Cuomo and Commissioners Hooker and Aubertine and Assistant Secretary Moody-Czub and Senators Young and Ritchie and Assemblyman Schimminger) were able to exercise the necessary political will to enact some basic reforms that were based on recommendations from the industry.  I applaud Governor Cuomo and all the other leaders involved and all the members of the New York Wine Grape Task Force.  I am grateful to have played a part in the reform process.

NYCR: Finally, is it cynical to wonder if there is a political component to the governor's support of this legislation? In other words, is it possible this is an effort to placate the wine industry, which might be upset with his actions on other upcoming matters?
KM: There is a political component to every piece of legislation.  Chances are, this one is no exception.  One has to wonder what political motives existed to implement some of these nonsensical regulations in the first place.