It was a beautiful, sunny Tuesday in May as I sat at a sidewalk table outside Prime Meats on Court Street in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn. All around me—the crush of people up and down the avenue, the wine and food pairing event I was about to participate in at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, the unbelievably delicious burger and Six Points Pilsner I was enjoying—were indications of just how hot and happening Brooklyn is these days.
High-quality eateries, costermongers, sausage makers, pickle people, farm to table restos, head-to-tail butchers, coffee roasters and almost anything else Edible you can think of is being celebrated in Brooklyn in a big way. For imbibing, there are breweries like Six Points and Brooklyn Brewery, and wineries have operations and tasting rooms in the borough now, including Brooklyn Winery, the Red Hook Winery and Brooklyn Oenology. Unique, quality-driven wine shops abound and sell and sing the praises of New York and Long Island wine like Blanc et Rouge, Brooklyn Wine Exchange, Uva, Fermented Grapes, Gnarly Vines, Smith & Vine and Red, White and Bubbly (they even make their own New York wine under the Brooklyn Wine Company label).
Now with the urging and organization of this magazine (as well as its sister publications Edible Brooklyn and Edible Manhattan), Brooklyn has its own annual grand wine and food celebration. Brooklyn Uncorked has at least in my eyes become a wonderful and important event. It is valuable for the local wine industry, the consumers, the press and the retail and restaurant trade. Not only do consumers have a great time and get to sample delicious wine from the East End and food from the likes of places as tasty as Dumont and Dressler, Buttermilk Channel and Palo Santo (where I had just done a fabulous wine dinner the week before with chef Jacques Gautier’s inspired mix of South American and local), but they get to meet the producers of these products as well.
There is a trade and press hour where opportunities exist and business is always done. In fact I bumped into Jacques tasting at the Sparkling Pointe table and overheard them discussing pricing and which sparkler to serve at the restaurant. I asked a couple of colleagues if they felt the same way. Trent Preszler from Bedell Cellars had this to say: “Brooklyn Uncorked is the kind of event where we always make connections with both old and new customers, both general consumers and restaurateurs. The event was sold out, and that’s a testament to the growth of the Long Island wine industry in recent years.” Preszler said the event featured a wide range of experience when it comes to people’s first inclinations and impressions toward Long Island wine. “Some people came up to the table and mentioned they visited the winery last summer. Others said they often buy our wines from the local shop but haven’t visited yet. And there are others who had only heard about LI wines by reading publications such as Edible, and wanted to come taste for themselves.”
Lisa Donneson who is based in Brooklyn and launched her wine brand Bouké at Brooklyn Uncorked in May 2008 also agrees and stated, “It is a great opportunity for both trade and consumers…always a positive experience, and I have gotten a number of customers from the event in the past.” She cites her relationship with Therapy Wine Bar in Bed Stuy as an example of a relationship being forged at the event.
Brooklyn Uncorked has gone a long way in filling the hole of the defunct Windows on Long Island event held in Manhattan for many years. It is refreshing that this event is in Brooklyn as well. I love Manhattan, indeed the entire city and all her boroughs, but there is something so down-to-earth about Brooklyn, and she and her brood celebrate the authentic, the American and by extension the local food and drink scene in a powerful way.
The sense of excitement in the BAM Opera House lobby has been palpable now for the last several years at Brooklyn Uncorked. The intoxicating mix of aromas from the wine and food and the intermingling of people and flavors seem to cast a spell of pleasure and happiness over the crowd. Producers have the opportunity to socialize with their costumers and colleagues just as the vines have begun to grow. We get to celebrate spring, new wines, delicious food, a new growing season and welcome opportunities in Brooklyn and beyond.
James Christopher Tracy is the winemaker and partner at Channing Daughters Winery in Bridgehampton, as well as a student candidate for the Institute of Masters of Wine.
Photograph: Max Flatow