by Marco Montez
I recently visited The Red Hook Winery in New York. Red Hook, an industrial port section of Brooklyn, is the home of this urban winery launched in 2008 by proprietor Mark Snyder. Mark convinced two west coast winemakers to get on board, Abe Schoener and Robert Foley. Their concept is quite unique… Red Hook Winery purchases grapes from several New York vineyards. Upon arrival, the grapes are split between the two winemakers who then create two separate wines from the same batch of grapes.
During my visit I had the pleasure to meet Darren Palace who is the General Manager and Assistant Winemaker. Darren guided me through a tasting of seven of Red Hook's wines. Another interesting aspect about Red Hook is that every harvest they work on about 60 to 70 different fermentations. Since the winery currently produces between 1,000 and 1,200 cases, the result is very small batches of distinct wines. Red Hook produces many white wines, a couple of rosés, and several red wines as well. As I tasted through the wines, what I enjoyed the most was their uniqueness. The winemakers are definitely experimenting here, not simply making wines with mass appeal.
Christopher Nicolsen, resident winemaker, jumped in when he heard me say that I'm from New Bedford, MA. "The New Bedford with the Whaling Museum?" he asked enthusiastically. Christopher visited New Bedford several years ago to participate in the Moby-Dick Marathon at the New Bedford Whaling Museum, just a couple blocks down from where Travessia is located. Small world…
Red Hook's greatest challenge might have come back in 2012 when hurricane Sandy hit the Brooklyn area especially hard. The winery was flooded with several feet of water, damaging infrastructure, equipment and destroying wine. It was late October and the winery had already begun fermenting that year's harvest. Tanks and barrels full of juice and grapes spilled over onto the winery's floor which was flooded. It was practically total loss and the winery had to close for 7 months. Thankfully, the team at Red Hook "rebuilt" and the winery appears to be thriving once again.
I wanted to get a taste of the local flavor and Darren suggested "Defonte's", a sandwich shop within walking distance of the winery. I had the Red Hook special… Chicken cutlet, melted american cheese, sliced turkey, lettuce, tomato, bacon, gravy and mayo. It was a beautiful sunny day so I decided to sit on a bench right outside the shop and devour my Red Hook sandwich… like a boss!
Name: Red Hook Winery
Location: 175-204 Van Dyke St., Pier 41 #325A, Brooklyn, NY 11231
Year started: 2008
Grape sourcing: Several vineyards, all within New York State
Current case production: Between 1,000 and 1,200 cases per year
Sales channels: 75% distribution, 25% tasting room
Retail price range: Whites $22-$45, Reds $32-$50