Despite losing hundreds of thousands of dollars in wine and equipment to Hurricane Sandy last year, Red Hook Winery reopened last Friday on Pier 41. How? The storm spared stocks of bottled wine stored in an off-site warehouse and, pulling from that inventory, the winery is now pouring and selling all 70 different wines (yes, 70) at their tasting bar — from crisp Long Island Sauvignon Blanc to plush and plummy Macari Vineyard “Black and Blue” red.
I spoke to owner Mark Snyder, who said that after multiple discussions, his team finally decided to pick a date and rip off the Band-Aid: “If we waited until we were done, we would never open. It won’t be perfect, there is still a lot under construction, but we have wine, wine glasses, and water to clean them with. That’s enough.”
In addition to wine, RHW is selling old wine-barrel staves repurposed as candle holders, and other crafts, in an attempt to avoid a total loss and not “throw away everything that Sandy touched.” The team is also coordinating with other Brooklyn-based vendors to provide tasting-room treats: A.L.C. Italian Grocery will supply wine-friendly food for purchase, as will Saxelby Cheese and Cacao Prieto. DIY types will be able to pick up a copy of The Mile End Cookbook and cook their own pairings at home.
RHW may have bottles from past vintages to sell, but when Sandy hit, nearly all of the winery’s harvest was still in barrels or fermentation tanks. The winemakers are waiting to have those batches tested to determine if any of it can be bottled and sold — in the meantime, the crew is going through the wine-making motions, hoping the final product will prove sound. Unfortunately, “testing costs over $20,000, and we still haven’t seen any money from insurance,” says Snyder. “A major quarantine is still going on, and we are basically in a holding pattern.”
Offers to provide RHW with grape juice have continued rolling in from the wine community, so the winery can continue to produce. “Taking wine from someone and somewhere else fundamentally goes against what we are all about,” admits Snyder, “but if we have to do it to remain open for the next few years, maybe that’s better than closing completely.” Snyder is currently debating a plan to use wine from Napa or New York State, adding in a small amount of reserved (and safe!) RHW wine, and offering it for sale as a “Hurricane Sandy” or “Pier 41 Napa” blend.
Meanwhile, the winery is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. for tastings, and offers tours every hour on the hour, starting at 11 a.m. Three tastings are available, culled from a daily rotation of wines ($5-$12).
Red Hook Winery, Pier 41, 325A Van Dyke St., Brooklyn, 347-689-2432