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Napa comes to Brooklyn

Brooklyn Winery crafts

Brooklyn Winery crafts "boutique, small-batch wines." Photo Credit: Ben Kilgust

Just a block from the Bedford L train stop in Williamsburg, the initial stages of winemaking are in progress. Grapes have just been pressed, and the wine is now fermenting. The first bottlings are still a few seasons away, but the attached wine bar, which fits up to 175 patrons, opens on Friday. (Small bites come courtesy of Radish).

Brooklyn Winery is the brainchild of Brian Leventhal and John Stires, oenophiles who made several barrels of wine at a facility in NJ, but kept wondering why nothing like it existed here in New York. The rest is history

We spoke with resident winemaker, Conor McCormack and founder Brian Leventhal about their new spot.

When are the first bottles scheduled for release?
CM: Our first batch, including a rosé, will be ready next summer. We’re also going to start pouring some of the whites earlier, then bottle some of the reds later in the summer.

Why did you decide to open a wine bar too?
CM: Owners Brian Leventhal and John Stires had the idea of the winery and the wine bar. For me, the idea of having the two together was a crucial business model. The idea is that you can make wine on site and sell it on site.

Can anyone make wine at the winery?
CM: Exactly! I’m there to walk everybody through all the production steps. The idea is to get people making wine, whether they are experts or not.

What differentiates Brooklyn Winery from Manhattan’s City Winery?
BL: You have to see both spaces to see how different they are. For us, I can tell you our winemaking experience is extremely artisanal and hands-on. Our customers get to craft their wine down to every detail. Our whole approach to what we’re doing in the wine bar is different. We’re making a lot of our own wines here, too.

Why do you think New Yorkers will want to make their own wine? Isn’t space an issue when it comes to storing it?
BL: We thought about this. We heard the excuse many times. We actually partnered with Manhattan Wine Storage. If people don’t have room in their apartments, we’ll ship it over to them.

Has there been a lot of interest in making wine?
Yeah, I mean, who wouldn’t want to do this? The amount of customers we had signing up before we had space shows that that there’s a huge demand for that. We’re going to do 100 barrels the first year, and don’t want to do more. We’re almost sold out.

Who do you think your customers will be?
BL: There are a lot of different customers from the guy trying to start his own label, to a group of 15 people in their 20s trying to have fun together.


Note: Full barrel/25 cases (approximately 300 bottles) cost $5,700

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