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Peconic Bay Winery Tasting Room Leaves Cutchogue

Manager says Tanger Mall location will be more profitable venue.

Peconic Bay Winery has moved its daily operations of its tasting room from Route 25 in Cutchogue to a newer facility at Empire State Cellars in the Tanger Mall complex in Riverhead, the vineyard announced on Monday.

The Cutchogue facility will remain open for large-scale special events, private functions and exclusive wine club get-togethers. The change-up happened Jan. 1, said general manager Jim Silver, who said he “agonized” over the decision to close the Cutchogue tasting room but said that the move will ultimately be more profitable for the company.

“There is a massive crush of people coming through the Riverhead store all of the time now, the hours are much longer, and there is a lot more parking — we’ll reach a lot more people this way,” he said. “And to be honest, the agritourism aspect we were dealing with in Cutchogue is not nearly as profitable as you would image it would be and was not beneficial to the branding of our wine.”

Office and administrative work, fermentation, bottling and storage of wine will also continue at the Cutchogue location, which opened in 1979 and has been owned by Ursula and Paul Lowerre since 1999. Empire State Cellars opened at the Tanger Outlet Mall in the fall of 2011, with a tasting room and a retail store featuring over 800 wine, beer, and spirits products made exclusively in New York State. ESC-X is the export arm of Empire State Cellars, currently shipping products from ten New York wineries, including Peconic Bay, to the New York State Wine Outlet in Shanghai, China.

In the coming months, Peconic Bay will release more than a dozen brand-new wines, including four new “White Label” blends, three new “Red Label” blends, a new viognier, a new sauvignon blanc, a first ever off-dry riesling and a new method champenoise sparkling wine.

“Ursula and I are excited to welcome everyone to taste our new wines at Empire State Cellars, especially our loyal wine club members,” Lowerre said. “We plan to open the grounds of the winery at least eight times this summer exclusively for our club members for private parties, tastings and events.”

Steve Bate, executive director of the said he thought Peconic Bay’s move was an “interesting choice” in a region where many different business models are at work — but agritourism is still an important part of the puzzle as far as the wine council is concerned.

“It’s important for the wine council to continue to generate tourism for the region,” he said. “We’re looking forward to Jazz on the Vine and are planning a few different events to celebrate our 40th anniversary.”

Sliver added that he’d like to see one or two concerts this summer at the Cutchogue location, but nothing as elaborate as something like the NoFo Rock & Folk Fest shows that happened there in the past.

“The one-off shows we did like John Pizzarelli did very well in Cutchogue, and I could see a band like Blue Oyster Cult, who are playing acoustically now, being something we could book,” he said. “That type of thing would be much more profitable than being open seven days a week — pouring a lot of wine with people listening to music but not paying much attention to the quality of our wine. All we are doing here is repurposing our facilities."

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Al 17 January 16, 2013 at 04:18 PM
Mr. Silver, I don't begrudge you for trying to improve your bottom line. You're in business to make a profit. Understood. In fact, I think this move is a good one for you. The increase of foot traffic alone will improve your visibilty and widen your consumer base. But charging by the glass the exisiting customers who have already discovered the wonderful wines you produce? Come on. There are many other vineyards who still allow for the purchase of a bottle to be consumed on premises. Your first option should have been to broaden your customer base, not soak the loyal ones for more cash to improve your margins. BTW, from time to time I still pick up some of your wines but probably won't anymore. After all, you're not relying on my patronage to survive, are you? Business folks should never insult the public. We just might be customers with an honest opinion.
PAT O'REILY January 16, 2013 at 11:55 PM
Pascal I am in shock Mr. and Mrs. Lowerre hasn't fired Jim yet, I guess they won't be happy until potatoes are growing in their fields once again. It is only a matter of time.
Pascal Zugmeyer January 17, 2013 at 02:24 PM
Pat, like most people that know the situation. I don't understand neither. I don't know why they would let Silver destroy they brand. They are probably "so exited" to close the beautiful tasting room for a wine store at the Riverhead outlet... and sell wine to china...very classy... But I know that when you have a tasting room that has the potential to make over $1MM, it should be open....
Deborah Basso January 17, 2013 at 10:37 PM
Yes Mr. Silver I did read the winery would be open to wine club members but apparently for special events only. What about spring, summer, and fall when we just want to stop by for a glass of wine, to relax and some music. What about bringing along family and friends. I agree with Al 17 100% too. I guess u don't need my patronage either. As a side bar, Pascal was a big part of our enjoying our afternoons at Peconic. We miss how personable he was and accommodating. Thank goodness for Melissa. She is wonderful!! I think many members are going to be as disappointed as we are. I am not in the wine business. But I really feel this is a mistake. We will miss Peconic Winery.
Peter Giambruno May 22, 2013 at 11:26 AM
It's all very sad...You guys can fight over a couple bucks for a glass of wine or buying by the bottle, but for my wife and myself it's just very sad. We watched Peconic grow from a small and often crowded tasting room, to a beautiful out door setting, fire pits, live music. One of our favorite past times was sitting by the vineyards, sipping wines we really enjoyed, and listen to live music. We even got married thru Peconic Bay and had our wedding at the Lowerre Estate. Tanger may be a good move for the bottom line, but I am not sitting in a mall sipping wine on a beautiful day. There is no ambiance to Tanger. This past weekend we took the 1 1/2 hour drive out to the north folk. It was kind of a sad trip as we started our quest to find a new winery. We are looking for that rare combination that we had found and loved at Peconic...good wine...good music...very good people that worked at the winery and good ambiance. Any suggestions?

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