LI wineries worry proposed grape restrictions could shut them down

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SOUTHOLD -

North Fork winery owners say they are concerned that a proposed Southold Town law would place new restrictions on wine country and put them out of business.

"This is a 100 percent anti-farming proposition," says Steve Mudd, owner of Mudd Vineyards in Southold.

Southold Town Hall was packed Tuesday night for a meeting on the proposed change that would require that wineries grow 80 percent of the grapes used in their products on their own land. Currently, it's common for winemakers to buy grapes from other growers on the North Fork.

"(It) puts me out of business," Mudd says. "I can't sell my grapes because of this new code."

The measure would also require each winery to have 10 acres of land devoted to grape growing.

Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell says it's important to note that any existing winery will not have to abide by the proposed law if it's approved.

"Not one single winery in Southold Town that's already been approved -- that's already in the pipeline to be approved -- would be impacted by this one bit," Russell says.

Another issue facing the North Fork is the speed at which the industry has grown. Wineries and other establishments have become wildly popular with tourists in recent years, and some residents say traffic has become a problem on many weekends.

Russell assures that the proposed law is not the result of complaints about traffic and noise.

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