At most wineries, the winemaker isn’t likely to get run over by a bus. But not long ago at Brooklyn’s new Red Hook Winery, Robert Foley was forklifting a bin of grapes down the street when a city bus appeared from around the corner and came straight at him.
Party guests. Photo © Earl Carter.
“I see the driver, and he’s looking at me like, what are you doing?” Foley recalls. “But he stopped. And I say, ‘Hey! I’m forking here!’ ” Located in Brooklyn’s rough-and-tumble Red Hook area—in a ramshackle factory that was a turn-of-the-century bordello—Red Hook Winery is the most unexpected example yet of the urban winemaking trend. Its stated goal is to make world-class wines with grapes from Long Island. A recent party celebrating its first vintage, hosted by another Long Island advocate—cookbook author Katie Lee—was a chance to judge its quality. From a minerally Chardonnay to a smoky red Bordeaux-style blend, the wines were terrific. And Katie’s food—a pimento–goat cheese spread, grilled duck breasts with blackberries—showed them off well.
Red Hook Winery is the brainchild of Mark Snyder, a native Brooklynite who sells top California wines through his company, Angels’ Share Wines (and who, in his previous life, was a guitar tech for Katie’s former husband, Billy Joel). Snyder has long worked with top winemakers, which is how he was able to bring two of the biggest talents from the Napa Valley region to Brooklyn. One is Abe Schoener of Scholium Project, an avant-garde thinker, whose wines have been described as anything from “exotic and compelling” to “just too weird.” “I mentioned my Brooklyn plan to Abe in passing, and he said, ‘You know, that sounds like a good idea,’ ” Snyder says.