A week ago if you asked me where wine is made I probably would have described a small log cabin tucked into the rolling hills of a vineyard in California or Italy where grapes grow as far as the eye can see. I think I would have described winemaking facilities that have been in the family for years, with artisanal practices passed down from generation to generation. Admittedly, it’s a pretty romantic picture.
Indeed, if you had asked me about where wine comes from I definitely would not have described a new two room space tucked behind a classy, candlelit wine bar in the middle of one of Brooklyn’s most hip neighborhoods, Williamsburg.
But that’s exactly what Brooklyn Winery looks like: cozy, innovative, and hip. I was surprised to hear that the winery sources most of the grapes they use to make wine from the Finger Lake region of upstate New York–not a terribly long haul from Brooklyn (that’s the bit that surprised me most). The head winemaker, Conor McCormack, has developed his own set of artisan practices, integrating modern equipment and age-old techniques. He prides himself on his ability to let his wines showcase their own natural flavor, disturbed minimally by processing. This allows for some rich local wines like Barrel Fermented Riesling, made from the grapes of Nutt Road Vineyard in Seneca Lake, NY.
This was all very clear when I entered the winery of one of their free, weekly tours. The tour guide described how different wines are made from fresh grapes in the large, stainless steal vats occupying the first of the two winemaking rooms. After describing the process by which wine temperature is regulated, she led us into a room that looked more like my romantic winemaking vision. In front of barrels and barrels of artisanal wine, the tour guide told us about the effect of different barrel woods on the taste of wine. I don’t know if I can do justice to the details, so suffice it to say they’ve got this down to a science.
Even the most passionate and well meaning environmentalist I have met are often hesitant to join the locavore movement because many have, somehow or other, come to associate locavoreism with denial and restriction. What is life if we can’t eat tropical fruits? Winter without fresh blueberries??
But the truth is, many of the most delectable treats are available right in our backyards. The choice to choose local does not mean never drinking a sip of wine again because you don’t live in California, for example. There are plenty of fascinating and delicious treats from nearby, like artisanal wines made in Brooklyn from grapes grown in the finger lakes (if you’re from NY, of course).
Creative and passionate artisans are making our world more hospitable by the day to those who choose (and can afford–the cost of many locally grown items is still an unfortunately restrictive in many cases) to eat locally.
I am hoping for all of our sakes that we as a community can keep up the good work.
But for now, working chard and playing chard in NYC,
Yona Tali Roberts Golding
Food Warrior, 2012