After months of pouring, swirling and spitting wines from across the state to select bottles they consider the best, Peconic Bay Winery manager Jim Silver and his staff opened Empire State Cellars at Tanger Outlet in Riverhead on Friday.
The store is stocked with 400 different wines and spirits from New York vineyards, and Mr. Silver hopes to grow that number to 600.
“We really tasted everything we could get our hands on and selected what we thought were the best wines in the state,” he said, noting that the store’s most exciting selections include Rieslings from Finger Lakes vineyards and rare bottles like Gruner Veltliners from Dr. Konstantin Frank Vinifera in Hammondsport, N.Y. and One Woman Wine and Vineyards in Southold.
The store currently sells wine from 150 New York vineyards, including 34 on the North Fork. Mr. Silver is hoping to soon sell wine from 200 vineyards — a majority of the state’s approximately 300 vineyards.
The store opened as Peconic Bay Winery’s second location, which is allowed under a New York State agricultural law allowing wineries to have up to five satellite locations.
Lenn Thompson, who runs the popular wine blog New York Cork Report, stopped in to see the new store Friday afternoon and taste a few wines at a tasting bar that sits at the back of the store beneath a giant map of the state’s wine regions.
“I think this is going to be amazing, not only for Jim and the crew, but potentially for the entire state,” Mr. Thompson said.
The writer and editor is partnering with Mr. Silver to turn his wine club, the New York Cork Club, into the Empire State Cellars Wine Club on Jan. 1. Mr. Thompson will continue to select bottles, and Mr. Silver will make sure his picks are stocked in the store.
“With the shop’s devotion to New York wines, and willingness to allow me to continue picking the wines independently, it was an easy decision to make,” Mr. Thompson wrote on his blog.
The store emphasizes more than just local wine — Mr. Silver said reclaimed wood from a barn in upstate New York was used to make a table and benches near the tasting bar and a display table that sits at the front of the store. Even the water bottles sold at the store come from commercial distilleries in New York.
“I don’t want to beat people over the head with the fact that everything is New York state local,” said director of operations Polly Brown. “I just want people to come in and taste and buy some really good wine. The fact that it’s wine from New York state is just icing on the cake.”
In addition to tastings, the store will soon offer local artisanal packaged foods, she said. A holiday-themed grand opening is planned for sometime in between Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Mr. Silver and Ms. Brown expect a good turnout in the coming months; people were “banging on the windows” waiting for the store to open, Ms. Brown said.
“It’s time for this,” Mr. Silver said. “Local wine has been making its way to the forefront. People are really embracing it.”