Saturday, August 06, 2011

A Visit to Redhook Winery

So Grayson Hartley, the winemaker at Haight-Brown calls me and says he's coming down to the city, and he's going to Brooklyn Winery and Red Hook Winery, do I want to join him? Are you kidding me? My lunch hour just took on a whole new meaning, here I come!

Unfortunately, because I just couldn't leave work early (meetings and all) I arrived too late for the Brooklyn Winery tour, so I was bummed. But I was in time for the next stop. First off, the Red Hook Winery is a little wierd. There's no sign. There's no doorbell, and there is no tastingroom. This is a small artisinal producer doing very cool things though.

The Red Hook Winery produces wine from grapes grown in the North Fork region of Long Island, specifically at the vineyards of Macari, Jamesport, and Ackerly Pond. Currently available varietals include five whites (Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier, Gewurztraminer, Riesling) and three reds (Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon).

Cookbook author Katie Lee best described the story in Food & Wine magazine:
Red Hook Winery is the brainchild of Mark Snyder, a native Brooklynite who sells top California wines through his company, Angels’ Share Wines (and who, in his previous life, was a guitar tech for Katie’s former husband, Billy Joel). Snyder has long worked with top winemakers, which is how he was able to bring two of the biggest talents from the Napa Valley region to Brooklyn. One is Abe Schoener of Scholium Project, an avant-garde thinker, whose wines have been described as anything from “exotic and compelling” to “just too weird.” “I mentioned my Brooklyn plan to Abe in passing, and he said, ‘You know, that sounds like a good idea,’ ” Snyder says.

Foley took more convincing. Says Snyder, “When I first mentioned my idea, Bob laughed.” Foley, who makes velvety reds for producers like Switchback Ridge and his own Robert Foley Vineyards, ultimately signed on after a scouting trip to Long Island’s Macari Vineyards. The vineyard was that good. “Finally, when Mark asked, ‘Are you in?’ I said, ‘Heck, yeah!’ ” Foley recalls.


OK, so here's how it works. Each winemaker will take half a shipment of fruit. So if two tons of chardonnay come in, each winemaker takes half. And both will probably take a shot, and split those two single tons, and split them and half, to make two different styled wine. So out of two tons, come four wines. They do whole cluster fermentations. Partial whole cluster fermentations. Wild fermentations. Stainless steel, oak, etc. It's insane. But it yields some wonderful wines.


We met with Chris and Darren. Chris Nicolson, the winemaker in residence, is the man with the plan on the day to day, and Darren is the trusty cellar man. These are two very cool guys. Chris has apprenticed here for four years (and serves as a fishing boat captain six weeks out of every summer off the coast of Alaska hauling in wild sockeye salmon). Darren Palace is a dedicated, hard core Yankees fan, with a massive passion for wine.

We tasted through about five wines. The 2010 wines were phenomenal. This is now the second barrel tasting of a 2010 Cabernet Franc, and it was astonishing! 2010 is shaping up beautifully across the east coast, and these wines were astonishing. The 2010 Chardonnays and Rieslings were also outstanding.

Two wines that I can recommend that are currently in the stores would be the Electric 2008 Jamesport Vineyard a gorgeous chardonay tinged with about 3% Riesling. It's got a tremendous nose and is a bright, clean, complex, layered white, with green apple, melon, and a hint of kiwi? Incredible.

The other was a Merlot 2008 Jamesport Vineyard. Big bold dark cherries, a hint of raspberry and cassis. A nice lashing of vanilla. A very, very nice drinking red and grows and grows on you as you drink it.

These guys love wine, and are really doing something special. A tremendous visit and tremendous promise. Find these wines!

Read Katie Lee's article at Food & Wine here: