Last week's Wine, Beer and Spirits Summit organized by Gov. Andrew Cuomo's administration was, on the whole, productive for the state's development of that industry.

It was disappointing, however, that more substantive discussion did not take place surrounding some of the controversial but supremely crucial issues facing the growers, winemakers, distilleries and other related businesses in New York.

What the summit did do was provide an always-helpful spotlight on this growing economic engine. One media report described it as an "infomercial."

Much of the policy commitments relayed by elected officials at the summit surrounded promotion of the industry, and it was encouraging to hear plans for major initiatives to spread the word about the remarkable products and attractions that are out there, especially here in the Finger Lakes region.

We urge state officials, though, to not hide from some open and honest discussions and ultimately decisions regarding more divisive issues. Two that immediately need addressing are the long-debated wine sales in food stores ban still in place in this state and the impact hydraulic fracturing for natural gas drilling could have on the wine trails that are so crucial to tourism efforts in the Finger Lakes.

We had some slim hope that this summit might include a commitment to allow food store sales of wines, a measure that would bring New York in line with the majority of states in this country. It would benefit consumers with increased choices and competition and wineries with greatly expanded access to potential customers. Although it did not happen at this summit, it's important this topic remains in the spotlight.

The hydrofracking issue is also a big concern. Even putting aside the heated debate that exists over the environmental impact of drilling, there's no denying that the scenic beauty of the wine trails in the Finger Lakes would be compromised with unfettered drilling activity.

Just take a drive around Pennsylvania's northern tier counties to see the heavy volume of large truck traffic and a landscape dotted with massive drilling pads. That's not an environment that attracts tourists.

Whatever level of drilling New York allows, it must take into consideration some restrictions to preserve what has made the Finger Lakes wine trails such a popular destination.

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dbower

tiltil

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