I would like to start with a quote from a comment I received from Part II by “moolay”:
“Gotta love the massive convention center vibe though. Nothing says “prestige” to me like a bunch of overweight middle-aged men with paisley ties, holding tiny complimentary glasses and eating cheese cubes with toothpicks.”
As my wife and I descended into the madness the above quote is pretty much what I was thinking. I could tell right away that this was not a nod to craft but a mass production used car lot. The labels screamed overdone marketing. I saw wines from France that were only authentic in the font on the label. I just couldn’t bring myself to stop at any of the tables.
Trattoria glass in hand my wife kept asking me if we were going to stop and taste anything. I looked at her apologetically saying that I really wanted her to see how my world works but this is beyond my world. I was on foreign soil here. I didn’t know what was going on. This event had sponsors like mass produced hummus. I can’t remember the name of the brand but I can get it at my local Bodega on the corner of 2nd Avenue and 9th street.
The reality of this event washed over me like a wave of battery acid, tickling my senses and telling me to flee, I was getting impatient. This was my Sunday with my wife and I felt like I was wasting it. She saw the agitation on my face and told me to just endure a little bit longer and then we would go. In my mind I was back in the East Village having brunch and laughing the whole thing off.
Then just as I was about to give up I saw a wine that I had in the shop. It was a Portuguese wine maker named Esporao. These guys are great. They succeed in finding modern balance in ancient grapes helping thrust their country onto the global market. I have three or four of their wines and they are ridiculously affordable and ridiculously good. Come on into the shop and pick up a couple to have lying around. They will only cost you $9-$11 bucks and if someone pops over spontaneously you have great wine to offer.
There was no need to taste because I have the wines on my shelves and I love them. But my wife had not tasted and I was desperate to show her some good stuff so we went over to say hi to Kelly and had him pour the good stuff for us. As I sipped these excellent wines from Portugal the world quieted and everything went into slow motion as I saw people that obviously cared nothing about the subtleties of wine. There was no appreciation for the artisanal process of this ancient phenomenon. It was all about how much schwag can I fit in my bag and how many NYWE wine glasses can I hide in my bag to steal and take home. It was sad. Just…sad.
As my glass emptied the world came back and the drowning sound of the masses engulfed me once more. It was time to leave. I was done trying to pretend there was something genuine going on here. We crossed the large room and bolted for the door my eyes doing one last glance around in a desperate attempt to find a something anything geeky.
And then it happened.
Like a beam of soft beckoning light on the corner of one of the many rows near the exit was a booth that called to me. It was different than the others. It had an energy about it that reached out. There was a tight crowd around the table and there was an awesome New York City urban sort of Abstract painting on a banner with the letters BOE on it. It looked gritty and hip and the next thing I know we had new glasses in our hand and we were standing in front of what was the best part of this whole experience: Brooklyn Oenology.
Like a diamond in the rough Craig greeted us with a smile and introduced the winery as a Brooklyn based facility that sources grapes from Long Island. I was beside myself. Alie Sharper the wine maker introduced herself and I came to find out she knew about David and I’s little shop on Ave. C. She said she receives our newsletter and was looking to come in and talk to us about their wines. I could not get the smile off my face as we exchanged cards and my wife and I tipped our glasses for the first taste.
We tasted through all the wines and they were great. The ambition required to source grapes from the North Fork and do the good work in BK is pretty intense. And Ali’s confidence shone through.
We tried a un-oaked chardonnay that was crisp and deep and refreshing. A Viognier that was bright and tropical and vibrant. Also we sipped a red blend called Social Club Red that was affordable and balanced and my favorite, a 2005 Merlot that was seriously balanced in structure with good fruit and subtle depth.
It wasn’t only the wine that was great but the packaging as well. They pick a local artist for each of their wine labels to support active NYC art. It doesn’t stop there. The labels are actually stickers that can be removed and put on your Manhattan Portage or fridge or wall or wine fridge (I know one of them is decorating my “wine cellar” in our little one bedroom studio).
This was the reason we came to this event. Thank you Fred Price for talking me into enduring such a spectacle. I wasn’t sure from the beginning of this ordeal why we were pushing through but now I do. I have two of Ali’s wines in our shop and am proud to carry them. I have the Viognier and the red blend. We are actually doing a tasting on them this weekend if anyone is around. Actually, because of Brooklyn Oenology and another awesome winemaker on Long Island called Shinn Estates David and I have decided to dedicate the whole weekend to New York State wine.
So after all that craziness something good came out of the NYWE. I will not go back next year. There was a reason for this visit and I don’t think I need to do this over again. I want to commend Brooklyn Oenology for being at this event and encourage them to endure in the following years because their wine should be known beyond the five boroughs. Thanks Alie for making solid juice and having the passion that sparked a light in the sea craziness. Cheers.