Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Urban Wineries: Brooklyn Winery Visit

Based on information contained in a New York Times (NYT) Diners Journal article of September 12, 2008, urban wineries can be classified as falling under either the “Red Hook” model or the “Crushpad” model. The Red Hook model is named after an urban winery located in the Red Hook section of Brooklyn wherein the facility houses a full commercial winery in an urban setting and the grapes are sourced from other vineyards and processed at the facility. In the Red Hook winery case, according to the NYT, the owners located their facility in Brooklyn to stand out from the wineries on Long Island as well as to be close to the wine directttors of the NYC restaurants. The Crushpad model, on the other hand, caters to the amateur winemaker by providing the environment and direction to aid in realizing his/her wine production dreams. The Brooklyn Winery, located in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, falls into the latter category.

Brooklyn Winery is a self-described small-lots crush facility which sources Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Riesling fruit from New York vineyards and Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, Petit Syrah, Sangiovese, and Chardonnay from California. The 8,000 sq. ft. facility is divided into a production area, a barrel storage room, a wine-bar with a small-plate kitchen, and a patio.

Brooklyn Winery is slated to fully open to the public on October 18. When I visited on Monday, October 4th, it was a beehive of activity as construction workers toiled feverishly to get the social facilities ready for the grand opening.

With the main entrance caught up in the construction activity, I entered the winery through the receiving area. The winery proper is located just beyond the receiving dock and is populated with shiny new fermentation tanks, de-stemmers, crushers, and other winery paraphernalia.

Just off to the left of the production area, and entered via large, double-paned, wood-bordered glass doors, is the barrel storage room, which has capacity for 500 barrels.

Just in front of the barrel storage room, and still under construction, are the wine bar, small-plates kitchen, and patio.

The current Brooklyn Winery location was a former night club and a significant amount of modification was required to transform it into a structure that met the business requirements. Overall, the floor required the biggest structural modification to meet the winemaker’s requirement for a modern winery floor with excellent drainage.

Upon completion the winery will be able to accommodate up to 300 people for special functions. Such functions will be catered by a neighborhood caterer with whom Brooklyn Winery has established a partnership. The company is a fully bonded winery but also has an on-premise license and will exploit that capability by operating a 7-day-per-week wine bar with small-plate capability.

Brooklyn Winery’s customers will fall into three categories, with some overlap within the categories. The major customer group will be the fledgling winemakers, a group which will run the gamut from wine newbie to accomplished collectors. This is the heart of the business. The second class of customer will be the ones frequenting the wine bar for wines and small plates while the third group consists of entities that rent out the facility for special events. Management sees the capacity for 500 customers at full run rate but this is somewhat in conflict with the goal of 30% production devoted to house wines.

Customer projects are initiated with a planning session where all the parameters for making the individual’s wine are nailed down. Customers will be guided through the entire process by winemaker Conor McCormick. After fermentation, customer wines are placed into used oak barrels. Little to no oak influence is exerted on the wines from these neutral barrels. Where necessary, oak staves are added to impart relevant flavors and scents. Customer wines are stored in barrel for 1 year before they are ready to drink.

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