One of the great things about an event like NY Drinks NY, an annual event organized by the NY Wine and Grape Foundation held at the Astor Center in New York City to showcase the wines from all of New York State, is that you get to expand your horizons by exploring new wines and wineries. After making the rounds with familiar faces from Long Island and the Finger Lakes, I started scanning the directory to see what I wanted to explore. Hmmm. Let’s see. Arrowhead Springs Vineyards from the Niagara Escarpment? I’ve seen their wines at Empire State Cellars, but have not actually tasted their wines. Check. Odin’s Nectar Mead from Black Willow Winery from the Greater Niagara area? I haven’t had mead since I attended a medieval banquet in Bunratty Castle in Ireland 25 years ago. Might be fun, check. 21 Brix from Lake Erie? I’ve read some good things about 21 Brix Winemaker Kris Kane in the New York Cork Report. Check. Casa Larga, a winery between Lake Ontario and Canandaigua Lake just outside of Rochester in the northern-most part of the Finger Lakes? Check. Brooklyn Oenology in Williamsburg. Say, what! Brooklyn? Yes, Brooklyn! Although Brooklyn Oenology is on Long Island and just 50 miles away, somehow it has eluded me. I need to rectify that oversight immediately and decided that it would be my first stop on my grand tour.
Brooklyn Oenology Winery (or BOE as they call themselves) is a locally focused winery based in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Founded in 2006 by winemaker Alie Shaper, BOE is one of the many additions to the burgeoning “Made in Brooklyn” alcohol movement. Her love of science led Alie to become an aerospace engineer. But her passion for wine, art and thinking local, convinced her to change directions and become an urban winemaker. While there’s no vineyard in Williamsburg and BOE does not own any vineyards, all of their grapes are sourced from New York State (Long Island & the Finger Lakes) and they manage all aspects of the winemaking process from harvest to bottling. The wines are currently made at the Premium Wine Group, a custom-crush facility in Mattituck, on the North Fork of Long Island. So, while not strictly Brooklyn, their wines are a local NY State product.
The labels on the other hand are strictly Brooklyn, using the works of art by local Brooklyn-based artists for their labels. In addition, they have a revolving exhibit of these artists in the tasting room. The labels are not just works of art, but are rapidly turning into collector’s items with Alie receiving requests from all over the world for their labels. While the menu in the tasting room is not extensive, they do have a varied selection of local cheese and charcuterie. Which all fits into the goal of BOE: To celebrate our local creativity; agricultural, culinary as well as visual.
Alie walked me through a tasting of 5 wines. The first was the 2013 Social Club White, their mostly Chardonnay white blend. Named after the Italian social clubs popular in Brooklyn, Social Club White is an easy-drinking, food-friendly wine. The blending of Pinot Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Vidal Blanc, Pinot Gris, Riesling and Gewürztraminer to the Chardonnay gives the wine a depth and complexity that makes it highly versatile. It is equally great with food or on its own.
Next up was the 2012 Gewürztraminer Orange Wine, a distinctive wine made in a classic Italian/Slovenian style. Through on-skin maceration the wine is imbued with a deep golden color and complex flavors. As soon as I started swirling this wine in my glass I knew this was going to be something that I would like. And I was not disappointed when I tasted it. The wine had hints of orange zest, ginger root, lychee, apricot, rose and jasmine tea. Not only was this a great wine, but for me it was one of the highlights of the show. The third wine was the 2013 Cabernet Franc Rosé, a classic Loire Valley style dry rosé. This wine was a 100% single vineyard Cabernet Franc from the Finger Lakes and was clean and refreshing. The high acidity of the wine indicated that it would pair well with a variety of foods.
We moved to the reds with the 2010 Merlot. The grapes were all from the North Fork of Long Island, with 4% of Petit Verdot blended in. The wine had overtones of blackberry and currant, with hints of allspice, nutmeg and black pepper. Drinkable now, but I could see this wine mellowing and would get better with age. (I don’t often drink Merlot, but when I do I like them well aged.) Finally we had their Bordeaux blend, the 2008 Motley Cru, a medium bodied Rhone-like wine. The wine was mostly Petit Verdot and Cabernet Sauvignon, with some Syrah and Merlot blended in, with all the grapes coming from the North Fork of Long Island. As the website states, “Truly a New York cult wine, Brooklyn Oenology’s Motley Cru is inspired by the face of Brooklyn – complex, with fantastic variety!” This could be said about the entire line of BOE wines.
After Brooklyn, I continued my plan of navigating uncharted territory and traveled up the Hudson to the Niagara Escarpment and then to Lake Erie, and by the end of the event I had discovered many new and exciting wines. When I started out on my adventure I had no idea that one of the most surprising stops on my expedition was going to be in Brooklyn. Just goes to show you, sometimes there are great discoveries to be made in your own backyard.
Artists featured on the current labels at BOE:
- 2012 Social Club White – James Lipovac, “True Cross”
- 2010 Riesling – Jen Furguson, “Friends”,
- 2010 Chardonnay – Sonomi Kobayashi, “Synchronicity #11′
- 2011 Social Club Red – P.C. Turczyn, “Resonance”
- 2006 Merlot – David Goldin, “View From Brooklyn”
- 2010 Merlot – Julie Combal, “QuakeyShakes”
- 2012 Cabernet Franc Rosé – Robert Franca, “Lawnchair”
- 2012 Gewurztraminer – Madeline von Foerster, “Carnival Insectivora (Cabinet for Cornell and Haeckel)”
- 2008 Motley Cru – Jeremy Wagner, “These Colors Don”t Run…But They Can Fade”