According to Edible Manhattan, “Brooklyn Uncorked has become one of the most popular events in New York City to kick off a summer of delicious fun.” And delicious it was: Great wines, fantastic food and fascinating conversation, all in the wonderful setting of the old Williamsburg Savings Bank Building at One Hanson Place. But Brooklyn Uncorked is more than just a harbinger of the summer season; it is also a chance to unwind after a long cold winter.
While the food is always outstanding at this event, there is no doubt that the real star of the evening is the wine. And with 30+ wineries, and countless wines, deciding where to go is easier said than done. So, many great choices! I always make a point of using these events to expand my horizons, so in the end I decided that my main destination was going to be Whitecliff Vineyards a Hudson Valley winery that I was totally unfamiliar with.
First, a few words about the venue. The building was built in the mid 1920’s when a bank looked like either a palace or a fortress, and was the new headquarters for the Williamsburg Savings Bank. It was designed by the architectural firm Halsey, McCormack and Helmer and for forty years was the tallest building in Brooklyn. From the 40 foot windows to the 60 foot banking floor to the elaborate detail (head of Mercury, squirrels storing nuts, beehives, seated lions, etc.) it is a masterpiece of Art Deco design. A fitting setting for a grand occasion.
While my intention was to start at Whitecliff getting there was no easy task as I first had to walk to the other end of the room, passing by many old friends (ie, wines) and quite a few familiar faces. First there was Macari wines, where I enjoyed the 2008 Dos Aguas with winemaker Kelly Urbanik Koch. One of the great things about Brooklyn Uncorked is that you get to talk wine with owners and winemakers who are responsible for the wine. Dos Aguas is a brilliant blend of mostly Merlot & Cabernet Sauvignon (with some Malbec, Cab Franc & Petit Verdot added in). Next was Channing Daughters, a Hamptons winery on the South Fork, where winemaker Christopher Tracy was pouring his usual fascinating mix of wines. I went for the 2011 Mosaico, a field blend of Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Muscat Ottonel, Tocai Fruilano and Gewürztraminer. This is a dry white wine where all varieties are grown, harvested, pressed and fermented together.
And then there was Roanoke Vineyards, where I chatted with Scott Sandell, the “creative” director of Roanoke, where I took a walk on the “wild” side with their 2013 old-vines wild-fermented Chardonnay. And finally a stop at Shinn Estates, where I was hoping to try their new Schreiber Riesling, but settled for the 2009 Nine Barrel Reserve. Not a bad trade-off, as this wine is one of the best Merlots on Long island, exhibiting aromas of blackberry, cassis and black plum, with a distinct earthiness. I was just about to leave and head over to Whitecliff, when Patrick Caserta appeared and suggested I try the 2013 First Fruit Sauvignon Blanc. Patrick is the winemaker at Shinn, so how I could I say no. “First Fruit” is so named because it is the first fruit that they harvest from their vineyard every year. Classic flavors of ripe pears and a high acidity that made me in the mood for some food. OK, first some food and then to Whitecliff.
Which was not a problem, as the iconic Gramercy Tavern was right next door. There I enjoyed the remainder of my wine with a Reuben Cracker. Great combination! Continuing with food, I stopped at Three Letters, a Clinton Hill restaurant on Fulton Street in Brooklyn that serves up French and American dishes with creative twists. Tonight they were doing a Black Sea Bass Crudisson, with radish, flowers and a tarragon vinaigrette. Delicious! I then had the marinated octopus from Enoteca On Court, a restaurant that I was familiar with, having enjoyed their pizza on one of our Smith Street pub crawls. The octopus was served with mango, lemon yogurt and black quinoa.
Finally made it. Only took an hour! Whitecliff Vineyard, which is located on the west bank of the Hudson River Valley, about 8 miles south of New Paltz, and is part of the Shawangunk Wine Trail. Whitecliff is an artisanal family winery created by Michael and Yancey Migliore in 1979. They are now one of the largest vineyards in the Hudson Valley with over 20 varieties of grapes planted. Because I was new to the winery I had a bunch of questions for the pourer, who turned out to be the owner Yancey Migliore. Yancey explained that creating a successful vineyard has been an ongoing struggle, with years of trial and error. But working closely with the Cornell Cooperative Extension, together they have figured out what grapes work best in their cool climate region. First up was the Awosting, named after a nearby waterfall. Awosting is a blend of Seyval Blanc and Vignoles and has aromas of pineapple and quince. We then tried the 2012 Traminette, a Gewürztraminer hybrid developed by Cornell University for the cooler climates of New York State. This was another “tropical” wine from the Hudson, reminding me of lychee nuts. We finished off with Red Trail, my personal favorite. Red Trail is a blend of cold weather friendly grapes (Dechaunac, Frontenac and Noiret) with some Merlot added in. This was an easy-drinking red table wine that had hints of black pepper & cherry. I thanked Yancey and her son, promising to make the trip up to Gardiner, NY over the summer.
After Whitecliff I made the rounds, tasting and chatting with many of the wine makers and shakers of Long Island and before I knew it the evening was coming to a close. Time passes very quickly at Brooklyn Uncorked! All in all it was a very satisfying event. And a great start to the summer!