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High Peaks Winery Wins Statewide Rural Business Award


A thriving area winery received one of only eight awards presented by the New York State Small Business Development Center (SBDC).

Matthew W. Whalen, owner of the High Peaks Winery, located on Pickle Street in the hamlet of Winthrop, was presented with the 2023 Rural Business of the Year award from SBDC State Director Sonya Smith during special on-sight reception held Wednesday, Sept. 13. The winery and adjoining vineyard are home to a large, semi-enclosed tasting area for guests to sample one of the 13 seasonal wines and numerous craft beer selections.

SBDC State Director Sonya Smith presents High Peaks owner Matthew Whalen with the SBDC 2023 Rural Business of the Year Award.

"I really appreciate the work that our SBDCs do, but also the tremendous fortitude that our small businesses have going into a post-pandemic environment," Smith said. "Rural entrepreneurs or businesses in rural communities are really important to me. They're part of our 'underserved communities' because they use limited resources."

In addition to a presentation-quality crystal trophy for display at the winery, Smith also presented Whalen with an American flag that had flown above the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. from Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez.

"I have to thank all of you," Whalen said to the attendees who came to the celebration. "I had a lot of help from the community, friends, and family. I hope the award doesn't recognize just me but also all the help that I had along the way."

Michelle Collins, Matthew Whalen, and Sonya Smith pose with the SBDC 2023 Rural Business of the Year Award at High Peaks Winery.

Whalen said he started down his path toward viniculture after he graduated from college during the 2008 recession. At the time, he was making cider and experimenting with fermentation alongside his family. He saved up some initial investment capital while working with the 2010 Census. He rented a barn from a friend and began selling his unique products for a wholesale market. He then opened a small tasting room in the Parishville-Hopkinton area. As production expanded in 2014, Whalen relocated the operation to its current location.

Whalen received support locally through the SBDC at SUNY Canton. He initially sought assistance creating a business plan for his startup before moving the enterprise to its new location. Advisors offer free direct counseling and various management and technical assistance services. During its rise, the winery also received backing from the St. Lawrence County Industrial Development Authority. 

"It has been a pleasure to work with Matt as he's grown High Peaks Winery into the successful business it is today," said Michelle A. Collins, an SBDC business advisor from SUNY Canton. "Although the SBDC supported him over the years with business plan development, connections to resources and securing funding, Matt's hard work and dedication grew the winery from a tiny wholesale operation to a beautiful destination on the St. Lawrence County Wine Trail."

In addition to business planning and marketing assistance, SBDC advisors help existing businesses prepare to expand or offer industry-specific resources. All services are provided free of charge. SUNY Canton is home to one of 22 SBDC locations in the State. The U.S. Small Business Administration administers the statewide program.

About SUNY Canton

As Northern New York's premier college for career-driven bachelor's degrees, associate degrees and professional certificate programs, SUNY Canton delivers quality hands-on programs in engineering technology, management, and healthcare fields. It is home to the Center for Criminal Justice, Intelligence and Cybersecurity. Faculty members are noted for their professional real-world experience in addition to outstanding academic credentials. As SUNY's leader in online education, SUNY Canton OnLine offers hundreds of flexible and convenient courses as well as 23 online degree programs. The SUNY Canton Kangaroos 15 traditional athletic teams compete at the NCAA Division III level as part of the North Atlantic Conference. SUNY Canton also features varsity esports and cheerleading.