Sunday, March 30, 2008

A Vineyard Grows in Queens



(This is a post about the Queens Historical Farm and a friend of mine Gary Mitchell. This is a very cool thing that they are doing out in Queens, and I encourage as many folk as I can to go visit this farm. It is quite cool and quite fun.)

May 23, 2007
Queens Grapes Make Merlot, Sheep Approve
by Hugh Merwin
The Gothamist

Did you ever hear the one about the vineyard in Queens, just minutes away from the Little Neck Parkway Q46 bus stop? Even if you haven’t, it’s true. First reported three years ago, the borough is finally set to prove it has terroir in spades with the imminent production of its namesake wine. The epicenter for this oenophile revolution is the Queens County Farm Museum, described on its website as “New York City's largest remaining tract of undisturbed farmland,” and “the only working historical farm in the City.” It’s also one of the oldest farms in the entire state of New York, celebrating its 310th birthday this year. It’s about time for Queens to have its own wine. Gothamist visited the farm yesterday, and got the full story from vintner Gary Mitchell.

After a few bumps in the road, the Queens Farm Vineyard label -- sorry to all those who were hoping for Maspeth Merlot or Corona Cabernet -- is set to launch with the harvest of this year’s growing season. In January, winemakers at the farm will bottle their first few cases, followed by an early Spring 2008 release. The initial production run of 250 cases will be a plain, straightforward Merlot, and a red blend consisting of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Cabernet Franc. Additionally, with a predictive eye cast on Rego Park spritzers and eventual shellfish pairings, the Queens County Farm has also been working hard on a crop of Chardonnay grapes. Mitchell estimates that the first Chard bottling will happen sometime during the next two years; he hopes that Queens Farm Vineyards output will reach a total of 600 cases per year.



All grapes grown on the farm are sourced and hand-selected from a variety of Long Island growers. The farm’s goal is to fit the wine into the larger framework of products made and grown in New York, and to eventually showcase other local wines when it opens its tasting room, which should happen sometime during the next few growing seasons. In the meantime, the Queens County Farm Museum remains one of the last local places within the reach of a Metrocard fare where you can actually buy fruit, vegetables and herbs grown on premise. You’ll just have to wait a few short months for the summer harvest, and for the farm stand to open, to get a crate of really local tomatoes and squash, with some basil thrown in for good measure.

Queens County Farm Museum
73-50 Little Neck Parkway
Floral Park, New York 11004-1129
(718) 347-3276

Photos: Grapevines at the Queens County Farm Museum; a shorn Merino sheep at the farm. Note: Gothamist doesn't know if the sheep actually approve of the wine; we actually just approve of the sheep.