As a New Yorker who loves wine, I know how hard it can be to squeeze an ever-expanding wine collection into a tiny apartment. But I definitely won’t be complaining to Manhattan’s Matt Baldassano. For the past four years, he’s been running a full-on winery out of his 550-square-foot apartment. Plus a little backyard space for grape storage and fermentation. Cheater.
Baldassano’s project is known as the Village Winery Club – a “winery” that for legal reasons is actually a subscription-only wine club, allowing him to operate under New York’s home wine-making laws. According to Thrillist, though the grapes (as much as two tons worth) get shipped in from all over the world, every other part of the process – even the crushing – takes place on site at his apartment.
It’s a pretty serious commitment for the third generation urban winemaker. He currently makes ten different varieties of wine which need to be temperature controlled during barreling, meaning not only is his apartment flush with wine storage, but the place is temperature controlled at 66 degrees.
The wine club boasts over 100 members who cover all of Baldassano’s expenses – even rent on that tiny East Village apartment. It’s been so successful that he’s been looking to expand. About three weeks ago, Baldassano rented what he called an “urban wine lab” space nearby in the East Village where he plans to move his winemaking. Good news for the tiny winery purists, though: The new space is still not much bigger than his apartment.
His next project is making his wines available commercially. “It’s the natural next step in the evolution of the club,” said Baldassano. “It would be a big step.” He’s currently exploring what it would take to get the proper licensing necessary. “There’s no timeline,” he told me, “but it’s a priority for us.”
As for those thinking they might want to emulate Baldassano, you’ll have your work cut out for you. I asked if he had any advice for budding home winemakers, “oh boy,” he said, sounding a bit exasperated. “It helps if you have an elevator.”