Brooklyn Oenology: City winemaking with splendid sense of place

Several years ago we met and tasted wine made by Alie Shaper, founder and winemaker at Brooklyn Oenology (pronounced "Enology", the art and science of making wine). Some time after that we included her Chardonnay -- the first wine Brooklyn Oenology (BOE) wine ever made -- as the New York entrant in sort of "they make Chardonnay where?" tasting we hosted alongside a Virginia Chard from Zephaniah Farm Vineyard and a Massachusetts offering from Travessia Urban Winery. And so we found ourselves wanting to visit BOE and write about their latest lineup as part of our series on urban winemaking that has now included Travessia as well as the Amigoni Urban Winery in Kansas City and the Nashville City Winery in, well, Nashville.

Located in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York, BOE espouses a profound devotion to the sense of place wrapped up in the wine they produce. While this might confound purists whose concept of "terroir" (that sense of place) hinges on physical characteristics such as the soil and climate in which grapes are grown and wine is made, Alie and her team have really captured the essence of their unique place through exclusive use of grapes grown throughout the state of New York (you'll be hard pressed to find a vineyard in the city), inclusion of New York spirits in their tasting room, and the incredible local artwork that decorates the label of every bottle.

The grapes themselves are sourced from Long Island's North Fork and in the upstate Finger Lakes region, then brought to BOE's Long Island winemaking facility for crushing, fermentation, aging, and bottling before making their way to restaurants and the BOE tasting room and as beautifully labeled bottles of wine. The property value economics of New York City make it impractical to make and age wine at the 209 Wythe Avenue tasting room location. Wine is the undeniable theme here, but it's been set in a quintessentially Brooklyn, and even more so Williamsburg way. Sense of place indeed. It's hard to imagine this not being a neighborhood favorite, and that's before you learn of two for one wine happy hour every Wednesday and $1 oysters from 6pm onward every Friday night. Serial winery visitors should not expect a typical tasting lineup whee exasperated pourers run down a list of samples, rather an extensive menu of BOE and other New York wines available by the taste and the glass. You make your own tasting, though Jose (or whoever is behind the bar at the moment) will happily guide you in a good direction. New York's climate tends to be better at producing white grapes, so you'll notice a bit of a disposition to that in the lineup we picked out.

2014 Shindig FiZZi (Finger Lakes)

We began with a 100% Vidal Blanc sparkling wine that was pale golden in color, offering a nose of apple, candied nuts, and summer salad. The palate is a surprisingly tart grapefruit; pleasing, but we'd perhaps serve it just a touch warmer than the very cold at which we caught it.

2014 Shindig FiZZi Pink (Finger Lakes)

Writing this piece on an 85 degree day with the sun shining, we definitely wish we had this 100% Cabernet Franc sparkling rose from the Finger Lakes right now! It's pink but with an orange tinge. The nose screams strawberry ice cream, preceding a palate of tart strawberry, pomegranate, and Shirley Temple.

2014 Viognier (North Fork)

We rarely turn down the opportunity try one of our favorite white varietals. This Viognier had a strong nose of honey suckle, orange blossom, and pink lady apple. The palate will evoke ever so pre-ripened pineapple and banana runts (yes, the candy... a tasting note we have to give BOE credit for, but it was undeniable once we were turned on to the idea).

2014 Serendipity (North Fork)

This white blend of 50% stainless steal Chardonnay, 25% Viognier, and 25% Sauvignon Blanc has the distincution of being BOE's first ever 90 point wine as awarded by Robert Parker, though it is actually labeled and marketed under Alie's "As If" brand. We disagreed as to the whether the nose reminded us of banana bread, but there are undeniable melon, lychee, lemon zest, and botanical nots jumping from the glass. You'll find notes of gala apple and melon in this very well balanced summer wine.

A style of wine (usually dry wine) made from white wine grape varieties that have spent some maceration time in contact with the grape skins, giving the wine an orange color.
— Wikipedia

2013 "Broken Land" Orange Wine (Finger Lakes)

"Orange" wine is so unique that it can seem gimmicky if not done well. We enjoyed this 50/50 blend of Gewurztraminer and Pinot Gris, though. You'll sniff both honey and honey comb, sweet clementines, and touches of ginger and apricot in the nose before you take your first sip of this super floral and dry wine. There are actually some qualities of a dry sherry wine here, particularly in terms of its viscosity and mouth feel. The after taste is green tea all the way. GREEN TEA. This love it or hate it wine is worth a good try for anyone wishing to expand their horizons.

2014 Cabernet Franc (North Fork)

This wine was quite dark in color by Cab Franc standards. The expressive pepper and spice in the nose jumps from the glass, almost overwhelming whatever else might be in there. Dry, with a "skipping stone" quality in the mouthfeel, the real action comes as you swallow. Vanilla, caramel, and rich coffee make this one of the most interesting finishes I've had in a long time.

2012 Motley Cru (North Fork)

Motley Cru is the headline red here, blended mostly of Cabernet Sauvignon with Malbec, Syrah, Petit Verdot, and Corot Noir along for the ride. It's cool, leathery nose offers up black cherry and dark chocolate. The Malbec adds it's characteristic rusticity to the mix otherwise dominated by pipe smoke and a strong lush finish.