The Brooklyn Navy Yard might not be exactly what comes to mind when envisioning a terroir that is suitable for winemaking, but Rooftop Reds begged to differ and established the world’s first commercially viable urban rooftop vineyard in the spring of 2015. Two years later, the micro-vineyard’s first harvest is expected in October 2017.
The masterminds behind Rooftop Reds are founder and managing partner Devin Shomaker, and co-founders Thomas Shomaker and Chris Papalia. Devin, whose professional history focused on sales, events and business development, decided to take his career in a completely different direction when he enrolled in Finger Lakes Community College’s Viticulture and Wine Technology program in 2012. The program inspired him to explore the possibilities of growing wines in urban settings – and to create Rooftop Reds.
Yet, to test his idea, Devin initially planted trial vines on the roof of his brother’s apartment in Brooklyn as part of a pilot project. When the vines survived two cold winters, he believed that his idea could work. Devin teamed up with trained viticulturist and winemaker Chris, who also is experienced in vineyard installment and maintenance techniques, and they moved their operation to the Brooklyn Navy Yard.
With the help of wine industry leaders of Finger Lakes and Cornell University, they developed a custom-made urban planter system, consisting of 50 state-of-the-art planters to fill the 14,800 square-foot rooftop at the Yard.
Since officially opening to the public in 2016, the Rooftop Red team has not only been busy with tending to the vines while they mature, they have also hosted a series of events including rooftop vineyard happy hours, pop-up dining experiences, wine and cheese tastings, and educational viticulture tours.
With fall approaching, Devin and Chris are getting ready for their first harvest in October, which will produce Brooklyn’s first original vintage, a blend of five traditional Bordeaux red varietals, and which will be available fall 2018.
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