Prior to visiting the Brooklyn Winery, my understanding of the winemaking process was that all of the Trader Joe’s employees spent their lunch breaks terrifying one another and smashing up expired grapes. Once the fruit is liquefied, they dump a couple bottles of flat Trader Jose’s in there, adding both flavor and alcoholic content. But after talking to Dan Ingala of Brooklyn Winery about their Harvest celebration, I found out that winemaking is a bit more nuanced than that.
The winery on North 8th was started by John Stier and Brian Levanthal. Their roots are in “tech,” but their passion was always winemaking, which they’d devoted weekends to in New Jersey. Eventually, they both quit their soul sucking corporate jobs and opened a make-your-own-wine shop in Williamsburg. The business soon evolved into a restaurant/winery/wine bar. Although the harvest, by necessity, takes place every year, this is the first year that the Winery will be celebrating it with events and tastings that are open to the public.
In the New World, the harvest season is referred to as the crush, and it is one of the most important steps in the transformation of a bunch of lonely grapes to delicious, flavorful wines. In the wilderness of France or California, the harvest would consist of luring a flock of mechanical harvesters to the vineyard and having them grab as many grapes as they could. Then, the grapes would be gathered up in large containers and the fermentation process would begin.
But this is New York City, and there just aren’t that many vineyards in the five boroughs (save for a small one on the roof of Brooklyn Winery!). So the grapes are trucked in all the way from Fingerlakes in Upstate NY; Sonoma, CA; and Napa Valley to Brooklyn Winery in Williamsburg. And with their arrival, you can have as delightful a Harvest season experience as any connoisseur in actual wine country.
Every Wednesday during Harvest season, the Winery will be holding special wine tasting classes from 6:30 to 9PM. Take a guided tour of the winery, then put your fancy pants on and enjoy a special selection of BW’s finest wines. If you can’t make it to one of the wine tastings, they’ve got a ton of other events going on: wine and food pairing classes, DIY Terrarium classes, Walking Dead screenings, and a spooky ghost storytelling later in October.
Although initially I feared that wine tastings were a little above my pay grade, the harvest really is a gentle opportunity to coax oneself into the world of wine. A good introduction is their $30 flights featuring six different Brooklyn Winery Wines, and the food selection isn’t outrageously expensive either. So if you feel like doing a little [what’s the opposite of slumming it??] then Brooklyn Winery’s Harvest festival is an excellent place to start.