Massive del Lago casino wine purchase boosts Finger Lakes wineries
Posted on September 21st, 2017
By Matt Steecker, ithacajournal.com | @MSteecker
Published 9:59 a.m. ET Sept. 21, 2017 | Updated 10:59 a.m. ET Sept. 21, 2017
To say the new del Lago Resort & Casino is purchasing and selling locally sourced food and beverages would be an understatement.
Del Lago, located in the Town of Tyre, recently purchased 500 cases — or 6,000 bottles of wine — with an estimated retail value of $84,000 from two Finger Lakes wineries. The resort and casino will gift the bottles to top guests.
This large-volume purchase comes after del Lago opened its casino in February and its hotel in July. Since 2016, four new casinos have opened in New York State.
“With approximately 50 different Finger Lakes wines on the menus, del Lago is continuing to add other local wines to our lists as we grow our array of offerings,” said Jeff Babinski, executive vice president and general manager of del Lago Resort & Casino.
The resort and casino purchased the wine from two wineries — Thirsty Owl Wine Company in Ovid on Cayuga Lake and Glenora Wine Cellars in Dundee on Seneca Lake — selected from the more than 100 wineries in the Finger Lakes region.
“The sale was far from typical,” said Gene Pierce, owner of Glenora Wine Cellars. “It’s not a surprise to us, however, because they are making good on a verbal commitment.”
Babinski said del Lago selected Thirsty Owl and Glenora following a monthly Tasting Tuesday event featuring wine and beer samplings from more than 20 local Finger Lakes region wineries and breweries. Proceeds from the event support a different Finger Lakes charity each month and has helped organizations such as Cayuga/Seneca Community Action Agency and National Women’s Hall of Fame.
The Finger Lakes area is home to a quarter of the state’s 416 wineries, and in the past year has added 10 new wineries, according to the office of Gov. Andrew Cuomo. The number of wineries has increased partially due to the Fine Winery Bill, New York Craft Act and other legislation and political actions supporting the craft beverage industry.
Jon Cupp, president of Thirsty Owl, said his winery’s sale of 250 cases was the largest one-time delivery the wine company has made to a single account in its 15-year history. Thirsty Owl has its winery and vineyard in Ovid as well as a location with a restaurant in Saratoga. The company produces 22,000 cases of wine each year.
The bottles Thirsty Owl sold to del Lago contained a 100 percent estate grown Pinot Noir chancellor blend. The wine is called Lot 99, named after the Revolutionary War grant lot number on which the winery sits.
Pierce said Glenora sold del Lago Resort & Casino 250 cases of its 2015 Riesling. Glenora Wine Cellars sells 50,000 cases of wine each year.
Pierce said del Lago is a community-minded partner who is working with local wineries, vineyards and businesses to promote the tourism, hospitality, and food and beverage choices the region has to offer.
“They treat Glenora like they treat everyone else with programs at del Lago to encourage visitation to wineries,” Pierce said.
Both Pierce and Cupp believe the latest transaction will lead to more people touring the Finger Lakes region.
“Del Lago invites people to come down to the local wineries. They give them a tasting certificate so they can go to the winery and basically taste for free, which, any way we can get customers to come in and try the wines, I think they’ll be pleased and they’ll be a future customer down the road,” Cupp said.
“The more attractions we can have in this area, the bigger the overall draw will be for all of us,” Cupp added.
While del Lago has only been operating for a short period of time, Cupp said he has already gained customers by participating in wine-pouring events at the resort and casino.
“I’ve had people from del Lago visit,” Cupp said. “You’d be surprised. They come down for sure.”
“We strive to support local Finger Lakes businesses. From the very start, our mission has been to act as a gateway to the Finger Lakes region, leveraging the natural beauty and unique offerings to enhance tourism across the area,” Babinski said.
That mission, he said, has been woven throughout the development of del Lago. He cited as an example Savor NY by MacKenzie-Childs, an on-site retail post that showcases local wineries, breweries, spirits, cheesemakers and artisans.
In addition to serving local wine, the resort and casino serves local beer, and locally sourced ingredients including meats, cheeses and produce, Babinski said. The chefs often visit the Ithaca Farmers Market to purchase local farm-fresh ingredients, such as pea shoots or sweet corn.
The resort also has partnered with Headwater Food Hub to sourcing seasonal products from other Tompkins County farms, including Remembrance Farm, Farmer Ground Flour and Stick and Stone Organic Farm.
Babinski said del Lago will also participate in the annual Ithaca Apple Harvest Festival at the end of the month.
“As del Lago grows our business and attracts new tourists, we will continue to look for new partnerships, hold more tasting events and evolve our wine lists to meet our customers’ demands,” Babinski said. “There are so many great products produced right here in the Finger Lakes region, and we look forward to continuing our mission to support local businesses.”