The Red Terroir

Day Four 12 Sips of Brooklyn
The Brooklyn Oenology tasting room.

The Brooklyn Oenology tasting room.

dec9HERE IN CONCRETE-LANDSCAPED NEW YORK, we tend to think of wine as a product of elsewhere;  foreign lands with exotic cultures and languages, like California or France. But in the past four years, two wineries have sprung up in Brooklyn alone: Red Hook Winery (established 2008) and Brooklyn Winery (2010), committed to actual production within the borough limits. Another approach is that taken by Brooklyn Oenology, which focuses on regional grapes and produces its wines outside the city. But it has set up a tasting room in Williamsburg to help promote its production.

Wine has a long history of being made in one place and consumed in anotherremember all those ancient amphorae dredged up from the bottom of the Mediterranean? But local production has its merits. It is one of those tropes of the wine culture that to be in the know, one has to taste those wines that “never get shipped outside the little town in [insert name of region here] where they are made,” with the implication that the locals snare the best for themselves, leaving the rest of us to sip the leavings from the barrels. As well, in our increasingly environmentally aware culture, many question whether it is a good idea to be shipping quite so many goods, including wine bottles, thousands of miles, burning fossil fuels and polluting the planet.

When the French use the term terroir to refer to the effect of a geographical region on its agricultural products, they sometimes elevate that to a mythical level. But they are on to something. The number of steps in getting a wine from a little vineyard in Europe to our dinner table can appear daunting. Very different from the winemaker leaning over and drawing off a bottle for you from the barrel.

Cheese pairing at Brooklyn Oenology

Cheese pairing at Brooklyn Oenology

A good place to begin to sample the local terroir is the Brooklyn Oenology tasting room. They have a nice selection of wines they are making from New York State grapes. They have three reds currently, with two 2006 vintages (unlike the other Brooklyn wineries, which haven’t been around long enough to actually have wines more than a couple of years old).

  • 2006 Merlot: 93% Merlot with 5% Cabernet Sauvignon and 2% Petit Verdot (all grapes from Long Island’s North Fork).
  • 2008 Motley Cru: 40% Petit Verdot, 37% Cabernet Sauvignon,18% Syrah, and 5% Merlot (all North Fork grapes, as well).
  • 2006 Social Club Red: a blend of 62% Merlot, 26% Cabernet Franc, 8% Cabernet Sauvignon, 3% Malbec, 2% Petit Verdot, 1% Syrah. I would categorize this last as outside the terroir as 2/3 of the grapes are from the Finger Lakes region and hence had to cross bridges to get here.

The staff at the tasting room are helpful and friendly, there is a variety of regionally sourced cheeses and charcuterie on the menu, and the facility hosts a number of events including movie nights and a happy hour on weeknights before 7 pm that offers two glasses of wine for the price of one.

We’ve talked about Brooklyn Winery elsewhere, and they have a nice selection of reds, including the 2010 North Fork Blend (81% Merlot and 19% Cabernet Franc), which we’ll be saving for our Christmas table. The winery encourages you to bring your own growler so you can enjoy that “out-of-barrel” experience directly.

These Red Hook Winery bottles at the Brooklyn Wine Exchange survived Sandy. Collector's items?

These Red Hook Winery bottles at the Brooklyn Wine Exchange survived Sandy. Collector’s items?

The Red Hook winery was badly damaged during Sandy and is currently offering “survival packs” of their wine in an effort to rebuild. Their wines are also available at the Brooklyn Wine Exchange on Court Street.

And some time soon, perhaps some wine connoisseur will lean over his dinner table to whisper of a wine bottle he snagged “that, you know, never even gets across the BQE.”

Postscript: Noticed on an old Brooklyn Historical Society blog post that December 7 th was the anniversary of the repeal of Prohibition. That reminded me that although we now welcome the new winemakers to Brooklyn, we are probably far from the high point of Brooklyn winemaking. Many immigrant families, particularly from Italy, were used to making wines. During Prohibition, thousands of personal winemaking operations went on in the borough, taking advantage of a loophole that allowed manufacture for personal or religious consumption. The grape consumption in the borough must have been truly spectacular through the 1920s and early 1930s.

Brooklyn Oenology
209 Wythe Avenue, Williamsburg
718-599-1259

Brooklyn Winery
213 North 8th Street, Williamsburg
347-763-1506

Red Hook Winery
175 – 204 Van Dyke Street, Red Hook
347-689-2432

Brooklyn Wine Exchange
138 Court Street, Cobble Hill
718-855-9463

Photographs by Basia Hellwig. Date stamp typographic design by Joy Makon Design. The font is Cochin, by Georges Peignot, Linotype, 1912.

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Joy’s Best of Brooklyn, December 7, 8, 9, 10

Festival of Lights, photography by Brooklyn Artisan.

Festival of Lights, 2012, photography from the Brooklyn Artisan photo pool.

Eclectic edition, shopping roundup included.
PS: When’s Festivus?

200px-Radio_free_albemuthFriday, Saturday, Sunday: The inaugural weekend of the Philip K. Dick Science Fiction Film Festival. Hollywood’s love affair with sci-fi author Philip K. Dick is well represented by hits such as Blade Runner, Minority Report, Total Recall. This weekend’s festival of screenings, speakers and panel discussions covers some of the best and newest in science fiction, science and the supernatural. Watch documentaries on A.I., virtual reality, galactic superwaves. Observe scientist Ronald Mallett Ph.D. who is working on a real-life time travel machine. The festival opens Friday with an adaptation of Dick’s last novel, Radio Free Albemuth. At indieScreen, Williamsburg. Check the website for schedule.

picklesSaturday, Sunday: Whiskey, Pickles and Jerky Pairing Weekend at Brooklyn Oenology. Pickles + New York State Whiskey = Picklebacks, the now-classic Brooklyn chaser. Composed of 1oz whiskey chased with 1oz pickle brine with jerky garnish for additional oomph. Williamsburg. Saturday, 3pm-midnight. Sunday, 12pm-10pm.

Etsy crafter Jessica Marquez, author of
Stitched Gifts (Chronicle Books), will share her
techniques this weekend at Textile Arts Center.

Saturday, Sunday: Make your own Fabric Books: Hand Bound, Dyed and Stitched, a two-day class at Textile Arts Center. Taught by Etsy member and maker behind Miniature Rhino, Jessica Marquez, and visual artist Rebecca Kelly. Book binding, sewing, embroidery, dyeing and image transfer techniques will be taught and students will make three simple practice books. Park Slope. 11am-5pm each day.

Saturday: Downtown Brooklyn Holiday Trolley. Relive a bit of Brooklyn history by taking a free ride on the hop-on/hop-off old-fashioned trolley as it makes eight stops along a mile-long circular route covering interesting architecture and local lore. Warm up with hot chocolate as guides share stories about Brooklyn’s past and present history. This would be a novel way to get from Brooklyn Heights to BAM or the Brooklyn Flea. Every Saturday through December 22. Brooklyn Heights, Fort Greene. 1pm-7pm.

Saturday: The Art of the Tequila Cocktail, presented by Sycamore. The Cocktail Weenies Mike Mikos and Wil Petre, who also happen to be the expert barmen at Sycamore, will host an evening devoted to everything about tequila cocktails. Demonstrations, recipe booklets, snacks will be part of improving one’s mixology skills. Advance ticket purchase advised. Ditmas Park. 5pm.

beardAllianceSaturday: 3rd annual NYC Beard & Mustache Competition, produced by Gotham City Beard Alliance, an organization to promote tolerance and acceptance of all facial hair. Proceeds of the evening, being held at Warsaw, will go to the NYC chapter of the MS Society. Judging categories include, but are not limited to: Full Beard Styled Moustache–heavy use of styling aids on your moustache permitted; College–18-22 year old competitors or baby faces; Freestyle–anything goes, styling aids ok; Women’s Most Fantastic–creativity. Greenpoint. Registration starts at 6:30pm, doors open at 7pm.

FiveBucksFinal01Sunday: unwind and have a cozy dinner somewhere in the nabe. Try Fort Defiance: Saxelby Cheesemonger Plate, Pickled Beet Salad, Prescription Julep (circa 1857). Red Hook. Dinner 5pm-11pm. Also check out their Buy Now Drink Later Junk Bonds to help them rebuild post-Sandy.

Sunday: Concert & Comedy for Sandy Animals, a benefit for Sean Casey Animal Rescue. Live music, videos, art, raffle and giftbags. Littlefield, Gowanus. 7pm.

Monday, aka third Hanukkah candle: Fourth Annual Latke Festival, sponsored by Great Performances and Edible Brooklyn. Sample creations by notable Brooklyn chefs from BAMcafe, Blue Ribbon Brooklyn, The Farm on Adderley (Spud Maccabee with pickled fennel jam, butternut squash, and crème fraîche), Stone Park Cafe, Berlyn, The Vanderbilt, The Sussman Brothers (latkes with lots of sauces), along with other Outer Brooklyn chefs. Enter your own recipe ahead of time to be part of the latke cook off. Tickets are limited and must be pre-purchased by Monday via the festival website. At BAM, Fort Greene. 6:30pm.

SHOPPING ROUNDUP:

Saturday, Sunday:

  • Housing Works Buy the Bag. Housing Works provides housing resources for New Yorkers living with and affected by HIV/AIDS. Their thrift shops are a staple among savvy NYC hunter-gatherer types. What began as an event is now a free-standing store and works like this: spend $25 and receive a bag to fill up with gently-used menswear, womenswear and accessories. Purchase as many bags to fill as you like. Sunset Park. Saturday 12pm-6pm. Sunday 12pm-5pm.

stuff_masthead2012Saturday:

Festivus is celebrated on December 23. There’s plenty of time to prepare.

Joy Makon curates Brooklyn Artisan’s Craft & Design coverage and creates the weekly Best of Brooklyn lists.
Send items for listings to brooklynartisan@joymakondesign.com

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