Across the US, pioneer vintners are growing grapes and making wine within the limits of cities. Though San Francisco may be the reigning urban winemaking capital with a total of 16 wineries, NYC is gaining stride, capturing the wine world’s attention with its one city vineyard and two independent wineries (SF has no vineyards, and all the wines are made at one custom crush facility). Here’s an inside look at grape growing in the Big Apple.
On the 47-acre Queens County Farm, Operations Manager Gary Mitchell planted just under two acres of grape vines in 2004, creating the first modern vineyard in New York City. In 2006, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes were harvested, and 436 cases of Queens County Farm Winery’s red blend, Adriance (named after the Dutch family that built the farmhouse), was made. In 2007, Chardonnay was ready and joined the reds. In each year, about twice as many grapes were purchased from small growers to make up the vintage. Now, 2008 is in fermenting tanks at Premium Wine Group in Mattituck, Long Island, where the wine is made, aged and bottled. Once a retail license is approved, the wines will be sold only at QCFM.
At Red Hook Winery in Brooklyn, grapes from Long Island are trucked to the facility for crushing, fermenting, ageing and bottling under the Red Hook Winery label. The brainchild of Mark Snyder, owner of the wine distributor Angels’ Share Wines, Red Hook employs two iconic California wine makers, Robert Foley (Foley Estates) and Abe Schoener (Scholium Project), each of whom works with half of the grapes. Snyder says he wanted to create an industrial craft in Brooklyn and help build an interest and a buzz about Long Island wines. Total first year (2008) production of Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Gewurztramner, Viognier, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot wines was 400-500 cases, with only a few cases of each wine made. When the wines are ready, they will be sold to local restaurants and wine stores. To contact, email AngelsShareWine@aol.com.
The Next Wave of Manhattan Winemaking
Alie Shaper hopes to have a winery in Brooklyn though claims it’s still a few years off. For now, the engineer-turned-winemaker uses the Premium Wine Group (in Mattiticuk, Long Island) to crush, ferment and age the Brooklyn Oenology wines she makes from Long Island grapes. Her first wine, a 2005 Merlot, made the wine list at NYC’S Gramercy Tavern. The 2006 reds (including the Merlot and a Social Club Red blend) and the 2007 whites (Viognier, Chardonnay and Social Club White) have been released and are available in local retailers, including Heights Chateau and Morrell’s. Brooklyn artists designed the labels, which can be peeled off.
Paul Wegimont and Greg Sandor fought the fight with state and city bureaucracy for a permit to make wine at their Bridge Vineyards Urban Winery Tasting Room in Williamsburg. While they hoped to begin in 2008, round 1 went to the Bureaucrats, and they are regrouping for the next charge. So, production of their Bridge Brooklyn Red and White remains at the Premium Wine Group. In the meantime, BVT is doing good business as a wine bar and restaurant, serving some 20 to 25 New York State wines.
Farther in the future, at the Staten Island Botanical Garden, a 2,000-vine organic vineyard is in the works. The plan is to produce $7,000 bottles (total) of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Sangiovese a year. The wine will not be for sale but, rather, will be given as gifts to visiting dignitaries.