Red Hook Winery. Photo credit: Sava Studio
When asked why a couple should spend Valentine’s Day at City Winery, CEO and founder, Michael Dorf responded, “Wine not?” Puns aside, he believes “there’s this romantic vibe to wooden barrels — something sexy about a winery.” It’s what he attributes to City Winery hosting so many weddings. Plus, he joked, if you get engaged at his winery, you’re guaranteed to stay married. Time might tell whether or not that’s true, but when it comes to planning a date night, urban wineries are like a more romantic version of the ever-popular urban brewery.
City Vineyard at Pier 26; Photo credit: Courtesy of City Winery
“The words ‘craft breweries’ and ‘craft distilleries’ have become en vogue. From Brooklyn Brewery to Samuel Adams, there are thousands of small breweries,” Dorf.
“What people forget is that winemaking was the original craft beverage; it was always done in small lots, locally. As our country evolved and wine-making went to the West Coast, you got big companies…and ended up with big brands. The idea of urban wineries makes a lot of sense in the push to be local and a push for real authenticity…People appreciate when something is truly local.”
But when it comes to locally made wine at NYC’s urban wineries, it’s the making, not the growing that’s done in-house. “Most wineries in NYC do not have vineyards in their backyard — Central Park is not growing grapes,” Dorf said.
Thus, urban wineries stress the importance of “terroir,” which is a wine-making concept referring to the region and land where particular wine grapes are grown. For example, pinot noir and chardonnay are among the wines made in the Burgundy region of France and merlot is among those made in Bordeaux. Locally, the Finger Lakes region is known for riesling and Long Island also produces wine grapes. NYC’s urban wineries rely mostly on California, Oregon, Washington, and New York state for their grape varieties. And getting them here isn’t always easy.
“There are natural challenges that come along with operating a winery in a metropolitan region–like how to get a 54-foot trailer full of grapes from California to Brooklyn or driving a forklift down a busy one-way street!” Jessica Petti, Brooklyn Winery Director of Operations, said.
Armed with a little knowledge about urban wineries, here are three in NYC to check out for your next date night.
City Winery at Pier 57; Photo credit: Courtesy of City Winery
25 11th Avenue, Chelsea
233 West Street, Tribeca
89 East 42nd Street, Midtown East
City Winery has three locations within the city: the flagship location at Pier 57, City Vineyard at Pier 26, and a new location in Grand Central Terminal. Each has its own vibe. “We have a cosmopolitan feel — a nice warm vibe, a lot of wood. If you want a show, 15th Street (which is also a concert venue). If you want more raucous fun, City Vineyard. Grand Central has more of a regalness because it’s in this beautiful spot,” said Dorf. For Valentine’s Day, each location will have a special prix-fixe menu and wine pairing.
City Winery has grown to 14 locations around the country since Dorf opened it in 2008. Back in the early 2000s, he was running the Knitting Factory in Brooklyn. “I’ve always been a lush and enjoyed wine at an early age,” he shared. Knowing this, his brother invited him out to California to make a barrel of wine and he “drank the Kool-Aid and fell in love with winemaking.”
The tagline for City Winery is “global vines, local wines,” as most of the grapes used come from elsewhere — California, Oregon, and Washington state mainly. And City Winery is also dedicated to a sustainable business model. Most of the wines are on tap rather than bottled, which reduces glass, cork, and labeling waste. They also sell growlers and have a reusable bottle program. “We’re very proud of our carbon-conscious wine-making and selling,” said Dorf.
Photo credit: Sava Studio
The Red Hook Winery
Pier 41, Suite 325A, Red Hook
Located in an old warehouse with sweeping views of the water and Lady Liberty herself, The Red Hook Winery is a great Valentine’s destination that feels removed from the bustle of the city. A truly local winery, The Red Hook Winery respects the terroir of New York state, working exclusively with farmers and vineyards on the North Fork of Long Island and the Finger Lakes.
It opened in 2008 under the ownership of Brooklyn native Mark Snyder, who, according to the company’s website, was a musician who had worked as a rig designer for Billy Joel and Peter Frampton. Tasting room manager Amanda Rosa said music is an important part of the winery experience. “With an ever-changing music playlist curated by our friendly and knowledgeable staff, our goal is to inspire discussion around our wines and encourage guests to draw their own conclusions — figure out what they like or perhaps don’t like,” she said. The winery has three experienced winemakers, who have studied in places like Tuscany, Napa Valley, and the Sonoma Coast.
On Valentine’s Day weekend (February 10-13) The Red Hook Winery is offering a tasting experience that will include a dessert wine paired with locally made Raaka chocolate from Red Hook. “If guests leave having both enjoyed themselves and learned a bit more about wine, that’s a win for us,” said Rosa. “Alternatively, if you’re simply looking to sip on a glass and take in the view, we’re here for that too.”
Renderings of Brooklyn Winery’s new Greenpoint location courtesy of Brooklyn Winery
61 Guernsey Street, Greenpoint
Brooklyn Winery is making big moves this February. After more than 12 years in Williamsburg, the winery is moving up the road to Greenpoint later in the month. The new location at 61 Guernsey Street will also be home to a new restaurant called Rosette at Brooklyn Winery.
“The space will include floor-to-ceiling windows, with views into our adjacent barrel room, along with a lush greenery wall and skylights – creating a naturally-lit, vibrant environment,” Petti said. “Our new, larger space will offer the same passionate, ‘old soul’ spirit the property has become known for, with some modern, fresh touches.”
Inside, Rosette will feature colorful wallpaper and a mid-century feel. Throughout the year, Brooklyn Winery will be hosting tastings, tours, and events (the space can accommodate up to 300 people).
A brainchild of co-founders, Brian Leventhal and John Stires, who met in 2009, Brooklyn Winery prides itself on overseeing every detail of the winemaking process – from fermenting to aging and bottling. Grapes are sourced from New York state, California, and Washington where the weather forecasts are watched closely by the winemaking team to make predictions about the harvest.
“Infusing traditional, old-world methodology with the fresh perspective of the neighborhood, we draw on seasonality, creativity, and constant attention to detail,” added Petti.
An official opening date for the new space is yet to be announced as of January 30
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