The Americandream

A small winery was installed on a roof-top in New York, the first of its kind, with the ambition to release its first vintage in 2017.
Our in-house wine journalist, Anna Caidan gives an account of this innovative concept.
2017-01-03
Wine story

A first vineyard on a New York rooftop

Thanks to the 42 urban planters installed on the roof of a building in an industrial district in the south of Brooklyn, the young wine company "Rooftop Reds" intends to offer a small production of about 300 bottles per year. The vines that are currently planted are composed of the great grape varieties of Bordeaux: Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot. The first harvest was in autumn 2016. "We wanted to reinvest urban space in an eco-responsible way," said one of the co-founders, Devin Shomaker, for whom this vineyard on a roof "is the first (of its kind) commercially viable."

The land in which the vines are planted is composed of "40% recycled and crushed glass", which makes it possible to obtain light planting conditions similar to those of a traditional vineyard according to him. A system for removing excess water from the planters was also designed to clean the white stone roof terrace. According to Shomaker, photovoltaic reflection and air circulation also provide good conditions for vine growth. In collaboration with his brother Thomas and a friend, Chris Papalia, he went into business after studying commerce and viticulture.

In 2013, they launched a vineyard pilot project on the roof of Thomas Shomaker's apartment to assess air quality in Brooklyn and then fund the project through a participatory fundraising campaign and support an investor and trading partner, a winemaker from the Finger Lakes region (north of New York). Since the fall of 2015, the partners organise private events and tastings on the roof, in parallel with the setting up of the vineyard. The space is arranged as a showroom with a large bar, tables and hammocks. The three partners currently sell three wines (one rosé and two whites) of their label, grown and produced on a winery in Finger Lakes.

The partners want to extend their vineyard project to other rooftops in Brooklyn. Mr. Shomaker says he was inspired by the "Brooklyn Grange Farms" project, two huge vegetable gardens on the rooftops of the New York City borough, with some thirty hives. He then asked whether the concept could adapt to a vineyard. "The state of New York is the third largest wine producer in the United States," he says. "We wanted to encourage local consumption, a very small percentage of the wines consumed in New York actually support this market.

All of us at Le Sommelier wish them well in their exciting venture

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