Rooftop Reds, New York’s First Rooftop Vineyard
Later this month, Rooftop Reds will officially launch New York City’s first commercially viable rooftop vineyard. There are plenty of craft breweries and a few spirits distilleries in NYC, but until recently, the closest we could get to “local” wine came from Long Island or upstate, sometimes several hours away. Devin Shomaker hopes to change that with his 14,000 square foot rooftop vineyard at the Brooklyn Navy Yard.
In 2013, Shomaker recruited winemakers Evan Miles and Chris Papalia along with Thomas Shomaker to develop their Brooklyn-grown wine business, named Rooftop Reds. They planted a 50-vine rooftop vineyard in the Windsor Terrace neighborhood, and in 2014 they launched a Kickstarter to expand the business, which surpassed its $15,000 goal within a month. On June 1, the Public Design Commission of New York City voted to allow the construction of the winemaking facility, and Shomaker signed a lease with the Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corp. to secure a space in their 300-acre waterfront industrial park.
Inspired by the Brooklyn Grange Rooftop Farm, Rooftop Reds has commissioned 50 state-of-the-art, water-efficient planters from Cornell University to allow them to sustainably produce their Brooklyn vintage. The vineyard’s isolation from other plant life nearly eliminates the risk of disease, which means Rooftop Reds won’t need to use harmful pesticides, and they can keep their plants healthy with a light BPA-free fungicide spray. While New York’s hot summers and extreme weather may pose a challenge for Rooftop Reds’ vintage, Shomaker says that air quality is not a concern.
In addition to creating a local, sustainable, pesticide-free product, Rooftop Reds plans to provide educational programing for the community and internships for local high school students. They’ll host other events at the vineyard as well, including happy hours, pop-up dining, wine and cheese tastings, and viticulture tours. Their first event will be their launch party on July 22, in the Kings County Distillery garden space. The $35 admission ticket (available for purchase online) includes a Rooftop Reds wine cocktail, along with barbecue from Smoak BBQ and sides from Project Sara.
Though the vineyard officially opens next month, the first harvest won’t be bottled for release until Autumn of 2017. In the meantime, you can buy bottles of Rooftop Red made from grapes grown in the Finger Lakes region of New York from local stores like Corkscrew Wines, Wino(t), and Brooklyn Pop-Up Market.