In four months, Brooklynites can make their own wine — and, of course, drink it, too.
A new do-it-yourself winery is opening in a former art gallery on N. Eighth Street in Williamsburg this fall, enabling Brooklyn foodies to do everything from squeezing grapes to bottling wine for as little as $20.
The wine-making center is the brainchild of Brian Leventhal and John Stires, who want to create a destination in the heart of Williamsburg for foodies and vinophiles eager to learn the secrets of an intimidating industry.
“We want wine-making to feel comfortable and accessible,” said Leventhal. “We want people to ask questions. There are no stupid questions.”
A week after signing the lease on the space, the urban vintners are already retrofitting the former Supreme Trading building as a winery. The bar space is being converted into a tasting room with space for private parties and a kitchen which can be used by outside caterers to make food pairings for the wine.
In September, grapes from upstate New York, Long Island and California will be shipped to the winery, where they will be stored in the former gallery space. Outside, the building’s courtyard will be used for crushing and filtering grapes. Its largest room will house as many as 300 wooden cask barrels, where wine will ferment for months before it is bottled. Guests sitting in the tasting room can look out on the bottling operation through large windows; Leventhal and Stires are designing the place to make guests feel like they’re in a working factory, not a bar.
It takes about eight to 10 months to make a bottle of wine, but customers will be integrally involved in every step of the process. Amateur vintners can choose among Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Petit Syrah, and Chardonnay grapes to crush in a large crushing machine, in the first step of the process.
“We would let you stomp on the grapes in the side, but there are 1,000 pounds to crush [for each order], and it would hurt your feet to do that,” said Leventhal.
Two weeks after crushing, the fermented grape bits are run through a large press that filters the juice from the seeds and skin. That juice is then put into wooden casks and aged for three months, when it is cleaned of sediment and refilled.
When the wine has finally aged properly — and an on-site sommelier has signed off on it — customers fill their bottles, cork them, and affix their personal label.
“We will walk you through everything,” said Leventhal. “When your wine is aging, you can come taste it to see how it is developing, see what flavors are coming in. At no point will there be a surprise where the wine won’t be good.”
Leventhal consulted with Tom Potter of the soon-to-open New York Distilling Company, a rye and gin mill, and Brooklyn Brewery legend Steve Hindy, and thinks that his business offers an experience that is completely unique, even in Williamsburg’s do-it-yourself foodie culture.
It’s certainly cheap at $19 a bottle. Of course, if you want to make more, Leventhal will offer group rates of 24 bottles for $500 — though you and your partners need to agree on the blend.
As journalists who love a good glass of Shiraz, here’s our recommendation: A musky blend of pinot noir, chardonnay, and freeze-dried coffee, with salty hints of human sweat and day-old bagel. Delicious.
Brooklyn Winery [213 N. Eighth Street in Williamsburg (347) 763-1506]. For info, visit www.bkwinery.com.