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Clayton businessman plans launch of Northern Flow Winery in 2015

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CLAYTON — Philip H. DeLuke has made plans to open Northern Flow Winery in the spring of 2015 off Route 12.

Mr. DeLuke, owner of DeLuke’s Garden Center, plans to expand his business at 16738 May Irwin Road to open the winery, named after the flow of the St. Lawrence River.

The winery would be housed in the same building, while property behind it has enough room for a vineyard of eight to 10 acres to be planted, said Mr. DeLuke, who already planted 1 acres of vines in 2012.

Because grapes on newly planted vines won’t be ripe for harvest until the fall of 2015, Mr. DeLuke plans to purchase grapes to produce wines at the business until the vineyard matures. An expansion of 2,000 to 3,000 square feet planned at the building will create space for wine-making equipment, including tanks and fermenters. Extra space now available at the garden center will be used to build a tasting room and gift shop.

“Our garden center is quite large, and we have extra room,” said Mr. DeLuke, who is in the process of applying for a state farm-winery license. “We’ve had the garden center for about 20 years now, so we have thousands of people come through our door every spring and summer for plants, and a good part of those customers are folks who have a second home up here in the Thousand Islands area or on the river. They like wine, and it’s a good combination. A lot of the shoppers who are out buying flowers for their home are wine makers.”

Mr. DeLuke expects the winery to become another destination along the Thousand Islands Seaway Wine Trail. The trail includes seven wineries: Coyote Moon Vineyards, Clayton; Thousand Islands Winery, Alexandria Bay; Otter Creek Winery, Philadelphia; Venditti Vineyards, Theresa; Yellow Barn Winery, Hounsfield; Tug Hill Vineyard, Lowville; and River Myst Winery, Ogdensburg.

Mr. DeLuke said his winery, as a destination on the trail, will draw visitors who have never stopped by the garden center.

“A lot of people are up here for vacation, and I think this will be something to get them in my door. And I really want to promote Clayton as a whole and work with other wineries in the area,” he said, naming Coyote Moon Vineyards and Thousand Islands Winery as examples. “I think if someone is going to come to Clayton and have the opportunity to come to three or four wineries, instead of one or two, that it can help add to the wine trail.”

To prepare for launching the Clayton winery, Mr. DeLuke enrolled in the winery management and marketing certificate program at Jefferson Community College, Watertown, last year.

He said the yearlong program, which includes five courses specific to winery operations, has helped him avoid making mistakes while planning his winery. The program was launched in 2012 at the college.

“Everyone in this field in our area has gone into this uneducated, and some wish they could do it over again after making mistakes,” Mr. DeLuke said. “I now have a lot of information that can help in the start of a winery.”

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