Local food sourcing has been a social movement for a while. Consumers are asking serious questions, more now than ever, about where restaurants and food distributors are getting their produce and packaged items from. We are as conscious about what we put in our bodies as we are about the local businesses we choose to support over chain retailers or big brands. It’s great that in Brooklyn, there’s no shortage of green markets, small businesses, and farm-to-table restaurant options (could there ever be enough?).
So, what about our local wine market? It’s no secret that the young Long Island wine region has a reputation for less than sophisticated wine. Consequently, in the past there has been little demand for their products in fine-retail facilities. I admit I too once turned a nose up at some of the wines I’ve experienced from the region over the years. More recently though, I found some amazing gems that work hard to dispel those stigmas and have gained popularity at the wine bars and wine shops I frequent. About a decade ago there was another who took on this marketability issue and has been putting Long Island on the map ever since – Red Hook Winery.
The founder, Mark Snyder’s, mission: to showcase the best wine that Long Island and the greater New York State can produce. They pride themselves on taking local grapes grown throughout New York to produce stellar wines on par with global favorites. Many Red Hook wine labels give credit to the vineyards in NY that grew the grapes. The three masterminds of this winery approach their wine making with very different strategies. Robert is known as the traditionalist. He loves big California reds (Cabs etc.) – so structure and powerful fruit notes are the styles he creates with NY grapes. Abe, a former professor at St. Johns University (Brooklyn Stand Up!), fell in love with wine and decided to make a career out of it. His wines focus on pushing the limits of well-known methods by returning to the “ways of old” by letting nature do more of its thing, which you guessed it, means more variety and even beneficial surprises in his wines. Chris’ wines are all about the senses and taking you on a trip to familiar places that you wouldn’t expect – think a NY Riesling reminding you of a mountainside in Germany or a NY Sauvignon Blanc seating you in a relaxed French café.
You can check out their wines for yourself. Their tasting room is a lovely facility located in, you guessed it, Red Hook, Brooklyn. It sits right on the water and boasts stellar views of the upper New York Bay, Statue of Liberty, and downtown Manhattan. A few weeks ago, I attended a barrel tasting and enjoyed touring the winery with the entertaining and knowledgeable house wine guide, Marcelo. Even on a chilly day in February, the sun’s rays shine through huge industrial windows and fall on big comfy couches and decorative wine barrels. You can tour the wine making areas at your leisure and sample most wines from their portfolio.
One of my favorite wines was the 2015 ‘Entre-Deux-Mers’ – so much so I had to get a bottle for home. It’s a white wine (Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon blend) with great minerality and a hint of softness on the palate. As the name suggests, this Bordeaux-style inspired wine was created with grapes sourced from the Castello di Borghese Vineyard in North Fork Long Island. This is one of Abe’s wines and is reminiscent of old world flare and sophistication.
Here’s a kicker… they’ve got Grappa! What’s that? It’s a spirit made from the leftover grape skins and seeds after the juice has been squeezed out. A sip of this will put hair on your chest! Definitely worth the experience – and giggles later. Red Hook Winery is easily accessible by taxi and an amazing hang out spot for day lounging with friends.