The 2014 Wine and Food Festival
I’d been to the Brooklyn Uncorked event a few times before and found it almost overwhelming: the number of booths, the many wineries and restaurants represented was almost staggering. And all of it from New York: Wineries from the Finger Lakes, the Hudson River Region, and of course Long Island; restaurants mostly from Brooklyn, but also from what we New Yorkers call the “city”—Manhattan. The entire bash came under the auspices of the owners, Brian Halweil and Stephen Munshin, of a wonderful Edible publications franchise that includes Edible East End, Edible Brooklyn, Edible Manhattan, and Edible Long Island. (Their franchise is one of many that come from the Edible Communities group. The franchises and their publications are spread across the country.)
Part of the reason that one may feel that the experience is overwhelming is the stunning space in which it takes place: the high, vaulted space of the former Williamsburg Savings Bank. Once a cathedral to money, now a cathedral to events like this one. Some years ago this imposing building, long a Brooklyn landmark, was converted to a condominium and renamed One Hanson Place. It stands check by jowl with the Brooklyn Academy of Music, one of the great performance venues of New York City.
Brooklyn Uncorked is the result of a collaboration between Edible Brooklyn magazine and the Long Island Wine Council, along with a few wineries from the Hudson River Region and the Finger Lakes. There have been six prior Brooklyn tastings, but this is the third one to be held at Hanson Court. Edible Brooklyn shared in the sponsorship of the event, which was managed by the franchise’s events coordinator. The Uncorked tasting is always well-publicized and well-attended, as was apparent from the crowd milling about on the floor, wineglasses in hand.
This past May 29th the Seventh Annual Brooklyn Uncorked event was held there. This time there were twenty-eight wineries represented in all: Baiting Hollow Farm and Vineyard, Bedell Cellars, Bouquet, Brooklyn Winery, Brooklyn Oenology Winery, Channing Daughters, Croteaux Vineyards, Lieb Cellars, Macari Vineyards, Martha Clara Vineyards, One Woman Wines and Vineyards, Palmer Vineyards, Paumanok Vineyards, Pindar Vineyards, Raphael, Ravines Wine Cellars, Red Tail Ridge Winery, Roanoke Vineyards, Sherwood House, Shinn Estate Vineyards and Farmhouse, Southold Farm + Cellar, Sparkling Pointe, Suruh Wines, The Lenz Winery, The Standard Cider Co. & Brotherhood Winery, Whitecliff Vineyard & Winery, and Wölffer Estate Vineyard. All but three were from Long Island, plus the Finger Lakes Wine Alliance and two Finger Lakes wineries, in addition to one from the Hudson River Region: Brotherhood and its cidery.
I didn’t have the time to try them all, to my regret. Of the ones that I did, a few stood out.
This is not to mention the many restaurants, the majority from Brooklyn, that also participated, with booths set side-by-side with the winery booths, alternating. What this meant was that a food booth could provide samples of their fare to match that of a winery alongside, as was the case with Whitecliff Vineyard and Gramercy Tavern, which provided a home-cured pastrami with herbed cheese on a cracker sliver to go with the Chardonnay.
In fact, Whitecliff was one of the two wine producers from the Hudson Region, and they offered samples of their Traminette, Awosting White, Red Trail, and steel-fermented Chardonnay, which are all very well-made and of excellent quality. The Traminette is a hybrid variety that shares parentage with Gewürztraminer, the great Alsatian grape, and that shows clearly in the aroma and flavor profile, albeit subdued. The Awosting White is a blend of Vignoles and Seyval Blanc, two hybrids widely planted in the region that here produce an off-dry, fruity and zesty—Whitecliff’s all-time best-seller that is also distinguished by its consistency from year to year, and that’s a real accomplishment in a place with such vagaries of weather and climate. The same is true of their best-selling red, Red Trail, also a blend of “off-the-beaten-trail varieties. The steel-fermented Chard is an excellent example of its kind, with clear varietal typicity, clean, limpid, well-balanced, made with local fruit. Yancey Migliore an owner, was there with her son, Tristan, offering their wines. Yancey was especially pleased that Whitecliff’s off-dry wines were found so appealing by tasters who, having tried so many dry wines, thought the off-drys very appealing.
When I asked her what benefit they derived from attending the Uncorked event—what with its cost and time to come to the city with their wares, pay for and set up the booth, she was unequivocal in her response: “We get to see new clients, including retailers and restaurateurs, expose our wines to the public, and rub elbows with our fellow winemakers. We can’t put an exact value on the cost benefit, but it’s clearly there.”
Among our favorite wines at the Uncorked tasting were a really sublime 2013 Sauvignon Blanc by Kelly Urbanik of Macari Vineyards—deeply perfumed with floral aromas and the typical Sauvignon flavor profile beautifully tamed with a fine balance of citrus fruit and floral notes against a firm acidic backbone. The best American SB that I can remember, frankly. Kelly was so happy with the result that she said that she wished that she could “swim in it”–in a tank, to be sure.
Another that I deeply appreciated for its sheer finesse and loveliness was Roanoke Vineyards 2010 Cabernet Franc, made by that master craftsman, Roman Roth, who is the winemaker for Wölffer Estate and also has his own label, Grapes of Roth. Mouthdroppingly good and mouthwateringly delicious. (Now that’s a professional wine note, isn’t it?). Indeed, Wölffer’s Rosé, Summer in a Bottle, is another triumph. If you want to know just how good a rosé can be, take this one on a picnic this summer. The bottle design, by the way, is as festive and summery as the wine itself.
I found Barbara Shinn and her winemaker, Patrick Caserta, at her booth—Shinn Estate—and tasted one of her new releases, the 2013 First Fruit Sauvignon Blanc. It was bright and lively, a perfect summer quaff. I asked her the same question that I’d asked Yancey Migliore, and her answer was very much the same, boiling down to one thing: exposure of their product to consumers and establishments. Entirely worth the time, money, and effort. I didn’t ask the question of others. What is true for Barbara and Yancey clearly must be the case for all the other vendors, else they’d not be there.
Alie Shaper, owner and winemaker at Brooklyn Oenology, also had some very good wines to offer, and was particularly happy with her Pinot Grigio–made from North Fork Grapes–that is miles away from the usually bland and banal PGs that come to us from Italy. It shows its Pinot Gris roots very clearly in its somewhat honeyed yet dry fruitiness. Hers is one of three wineries that make wine from purchased fruit, as they have no vineyards. I believe that all of them obtain most of their grapes from the East End of Long Island, and after all, Brooklyn is on LI.
One of the newcomers was Regan Meador, who with his wife has planted a new vineyard and built a new winery in just the past couple of years. He was offering his very first vintage, made with purchased fruit, as Southold Farm + Cellar has vines that are to young to bear fruit yet. So Regan made wine from organic grapes, including a Cab Franc he called “Cast Your Fate to the Wind” that was unusually light and fruit-forward for the variety, but it was partly the result of Regan’s making the wine Beaujolais-style, in this case a semi-carbonic maceration, in which the fermentation begins on the skins of about 60% whole, uncrushed grapes. The crushing is done by foot-stomping the grapes. The result is very enjoyable indeed.
I’d write more about the food that was offered, but I wasn’t sufficiently attentive to who was offering what. What I hadn’t realized until this visit was that the food purveyors were creating amuse-bouches meant to complement a wine of the adjacent winery booth. Some of the little snacks were really interesting, like the mini-tacos with smoked salmon and avocado.
I enjoyed myself immensely, having tasted many really wonderful wines and eaten enough to satisfy my need for dinner. As always at these Uncorkeds, I can’t help but look forward to the next one, for it’s a unique opportunity to try so many NY wines in the city–especially those of Long Island.
(Note: all the winemaker photographs used here were taken by Steve Bedney and Bruce Stevens and can be seen, along with others, on their Facebook page, A Vintner’s Tale.)