Who would have thought? There are five winemaking facilities in New York City—two in Manhattan and three in Brooklyn. None of them actually own any vineyards. They purchase grapes from trusted producers, truck them in refrigerated trucks to the city, and then make wine from the grapes.
I visited Brooklyn Winery, which is a winery with an adjoining wine bar, where you can enjoy the wines created on-site with small plates and shared dishes. Located in Williamsburg, it is very easy to get to. From Manhattan you take the L subway and get off at Bedford Avenue, the first Brooklyn stop, then walk to Eighth Street and go east one and a half block.
Like many of the better winemakers I have met, the winemaker, Conor McCormack believes that the best wines are made in the vineyard. He uses modern vinification techniques and modern equipment at the winery, but keeps a hands-off approach when it comes to interfering with the winemaking process. He lets the fruit speak for itself!
The most successful wines I tasted were the gewürztraminer and the rieslings—a stainless steel fermented riesling, a barrel fermented riesling, and an on-the-skins fermented riesling.
A good riesling is a difficult wine to make. The best European grapes grow at high-latitude vineyards in Germany (at steep, red or blue slate vineyards along the Mosel and Rhine rivers), in French Alsace, in southern Austria (Sud Tyrol), and northern Italy (Alto Adige). In North America, the best grapes grow on the Canadian side of the Niagara Escarpment, in New York’s Finger Lakes area, Washington state, and British Colombia’s Okanagan Valley.
The riesling that I especially liked was the 2012 Skin Fermented, from the Finger Lakes—a dry wine with an exceptional nose of peach, pear, and lime with a touch of fresh hay. On the palate one tastes grapefruit, tangerine, lime, and white pepper with lots of minerality, finishing with citrus tones. It is as good as any of the dry (trocken) German wines I have tasted.
The 2012 gewürztraminer has a heady aromatic scent and is spicy. The wine is golden-colored, but the grapes are reddish pink in color. In order to achieve the golden-yellow color you see in the glass, the juice is pressed off the skins right after the grapes are crushed, to prevent color from the skins from blending into the juice. The wine is well-balanced, full-bodied, and crisp, with ripe pear, lychee, and honeysuckle on the nose and a light lime acidity that keeps it lively.
I also liked the red wines. The winery produces nine reds, including two pinot noir—one from Russian River and one from Carneros; a Syrah; two cabernet sauvignon—one from Sonoma, one from Napa; an old vine zinfandel and two blends, the Driggs Blend and the North Fork Blend, and finally Fortitude, a dessert, port-like sweet wine. There are also two rosé wines, a zinfandel and a cabernet sauvignon.
The wines at the bar can be had by the glass or in flights, and of course by the bottle or even half-bottle. Bottles can be purchased to take home.
To your health!
213 N. Eighth St.
Brooklyn, NY 11211
Check online for most up-to-date hours. It is closed on select dates for private events.
Manos Angelakis is a wine and food writer in New York City. As the gastronomy critic for luxuryweb.com, he has spent many years traveling the world in search of culinary excellence.