Traverse City Record-Eagle

Business

October 24, 2012

Wine and fracking don't mix, owners say

The hillside vineyards of New York's Finger Lakes region make money producing fine Rieslings and inviting tourists to sip white wine by the water's edge. Now winery owners are worried about the prospect of a grittier kind of economic development: gas drilling.

Some grape growers fear that if shale gas drilling, or fracking, is allowed in this region of postcard-perfect hills and crystal-clear lakes, the muddy well sites and rumbling trucks will not only endanger the environment but threaten the Finger Lakes' reputation for pristine beauty.

In their view, wine does not pair well with drilling.

"If they allow hydro-fracking anywhere near us, tourism will be over and the industry will be done," said Art Hunt of Hunt Country Vineyards near Keuka Lake, N.Y.

Hunt owns one of the roughly 100 wineries that dot the gently sloping hills around the Finger Lakes, which has a grape-friendly micro-climate created by the deep, slender, hill-framed waters.

Many of the wineries are small operations and depend heavily on business from tourists who make their way from vineyard to vineyard along the scenic roads.

"If the drilling does come to the Finger Lakes, what I can see happening in a heartbeat given a couple of accidents, all of the sudden the consumers are going to say, 'Are your vineyards near any wells?'" said Peter Saltonstall of King Ferry Winery by Cayuga Lake. "If people start thinking something is wrong with it, then we are sunk."

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