In anticipation of Brooklyn Bounty, BHS’s premier fundraiser at 26 Bridge on October 22nd, we are profiling our participating restaurants and honorees of the Food & Heritage Awards. Below is a profile of Brooklyn Winery, one of the delicious participants in our evening’s tasting menu.
“Our job is to make people happy.”
Co-founders and wine entrepreneurs Brian Leventhal and John Stires have been working with grapes since 2010, when they opened one of the first hybrid winery and event spaces in Brooklyn, NY. Their interest in wine- making bloomed when John and Brian attended workshops in New Jersey, and eventually started making their own wines there. They were determined to bring the fun and detailed process of wine-making to Brooklyn, and have been successfully passing on their passion for wine for 4 years at the Brooklyn Winery. Not only do they make their wine on site, they also serve it at their wine bar, pair it with delicious food on their seasonal menu, and share it at celebrations when guests use their private event venue or take a wine class. Brian and John came into the wine industry from two very different backgrounds far from aged grapes. Who would have thought John and Brian would find their niche in wine after coming from the comic book world, finance industry, and as tech-start up partners?
“We stay as true to the grapes as we can.”
Brian and John get excited when the harvest season begins around September/October. A new shipment of grapes had just arrived the day before, and they were being washed and de-stemmed. A few days in the huge vats, and the grapes will be ready for yeast and more fermented love to transform them into a complex glass of wine.
I spoke with Brian and John about the interesting adjectives that wine tasters often use to describe their sip: “pencil shaving after taste, woody qualities, fruity tones, wet stone notes.” These descriptions are so specific to the taster and say a lot about the journey those little grapes took to become wine.
Brian explained that one element in changing the taste of your wine is the barrels used to age them. Similar to a well-loved cast iron skillet that changes the taste of food, a wooden barrel that has been used for many harvests past won’t give as much oak flavor to the grape as a barrel that is brand new. Brian, John, and their passionate wine maker Conor McCormack want to stay as true to the original identity of the grapes they harvest as they can. They support local NY farmers and want to let the farmers’ grapes shine through in that final bottle of wine.
“I remember when the first grapes arrived…”
Brian and John shared with me that moment during the creation of Brooklyn Winery when they first stepped back and realized that all of their hard work had paid off: they had developed a successful company that was exactly what they wanted it to be. Brian still remembers when they got their first shipment of grapes, “they were Finger Lakes chardonnay grapes,” and he could not wait to make the first batch. John fondly remembers the first bottle of wine they opened that was made from start to finish at Brooklyn Winery, and another favorite moment would have to be the first ever sale they made. Seeing the transaction and actually having a bottle leave the winery and go into the hands of a thirsty and happy customer was such a rewarding experience.
From 2010 to now, Brooklyn Winery has hosted hundreds of heart-warming weddings, gone through four sweet seasons of harvest, and opened thousands of bold bottles of wine. Brooklyn Winery’s small batch wines and big cases of dedication are an inspiration to the rich food culture that is growing in Brooklyn. We are thrilled to have them featured at Brooklyn Historical Society’s Brooklyn Bounty on October 22nd, pouring wine and serving a custom dish inspired by their seasonal menu just for us. They are constantly working to encourage a healthy work environment, to stay true to the original fruit foundation of wine, and to develop a conversation between the wine maker and taster in their open space for lovely events, wine production, and culinary discovery.
– – – Tickets for Brooklyn Bounty are still available! – – –